Congress and Cabinet Watch III: Secretary of State Tillerson is Emptying State Department

Tycoon Rex Tillerson could be the poster-child for oil barons. He held the post of Exxon Mobile’s Chairman and CEO since 2006 until earlier this year, when President Trump nominated him to a high-ranking cabinet member position in the Administration—Secretary of State.

Rex Tillerson was not in the public spotlight prior, except presumably among oil executive circles. He likely knows his way around boardrooms but has no previous experience in governmental roles. But the newly appointed Secretary of State does have some experience in world matters, as he clearly knows how to make business deals with foreign governments around the world.

Tillerson has become controversial as U.S. Secretary of State. Under the direction of President Trump, he is emptying out (some would say destroying) the State Department. He began to fire people immediately, some with no notice, and many that had decades of State Department diplomatic experience and knowledge.

Tillerson is not rehiring for most of those positions, and he has not backed off the vaguely defined agenda of “remaking” the State Department. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson claims he is simply “un-bloating unproductive bureaucracy.”

From a lay perspective, Tillerson appears to be trying to run the State Department like a business. It might make sense, except for the logical reasons a business owner would lay off all the employees of a newly acquired, fully functioning and profitable company—to dissolve the company or go out of business while saving as much profit as possible by firing people and canceling contracts.

It is general knowledge that the purpose of the State Department is all about foreign relations and diplomacy. Republicans even held hearings for years when 3 diplomats were killed in the Benghazi attack, purportedly because of the lack of personnel—i.e. the staffing of the State Department. Are Republican leaders concerned now?

According to the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), American diplomacy is “the backbone of US global influence”. AFSA is charging that the State Department is near collapse under Tillerson. Some define it as “kneecapping foreign policy.”

How will Tillerson accomplish the duties of his office without a functioning State Department? How will he enhance US interests and do all that negotiating through diplomacy without diplomats and experienced people in the State Department?

Experts say the historically low number of people at the State Department is not sustainable or defensible. Tillerson and others say it doesn’t even matter.

The United States needs a Secretary of State and a State Department, and people clearly prefer diplomatic relationships in the world. Will Rex Tillerson serve the public interests first according to his job description and put his personal interests aside?