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Foreign Affairs Democrats to Tillerson: Personnel Cuts Threaten American Security & Leadership

Nov 16, 2017
Press Release
Lawmakers Seek Explanation for Baffling Reduction in Diplomatic Ranks

WASHINGTON—Led by Ranking Member Eliot L. Engel, all Democratic Members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs today voiced serious concerns to Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson about the Department’s personnel cuts and hemorrhaging of diplomatic talent. In a letter to the Secretary, the lawmakers underscored that slashing the number of American diplomats jeopardizes American security and undermines American leadership on the global stage.

The Members wrote, “Congress has already rejected the Administration’s draconian proposed cuts to the international-affairs budget.  But we remain profoundly concerned about what appears to be the intentional hollowing-out of our senior diplomatic ranks and the entire State Department with no apparent goal.  We therefore, urgently request a briefing immediately to explain how these cuts serve United States national security interests and make the State Department more effective.”

Full text of the letter follows and can be found here.

November 16, 2017

The Honorable Rex W. Tillerson
Secretary
United States Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Mr. Secretary:

We are deeply concerned by the exodus of more than 100 senior Foreign Service Officers from the State Department since January.  The number of minister counselors in the State Department has decreased by 15 percent, career ministers by 42 percent, and career ambassadors by an astounding 60 percent.  The amount of talent leaving the State Department endangers the institution and undermines American leadership, security and interests around the world.

While we understand that attrition of senior officials will ebb and flow in any administration, the departures at the senior levels should sound the alarm bells for you as Secretary of State and the Administration.  Those alarm bells are already ringing for us, the Committee with responsibility for oversight of the State Department, as we imagine they would for any board-of-directors overseeing a private company. 

Even more troubling, the Department is reportedly planning to offer buyouts to reduce State’s numbers even further, seemingly for no other goal than to decrease the size of the Department’s personnel.  With the range of crises, war, and humanitarian disaster around the world, slashing our diplomatic corps is downright dangerous.

Congress has already rejected the Administration’s draconian proposed cuts to the international-affairs budget.  But we remain profoundly concerned about what appears to be the intentional hollowing-out of our senior diplomatic ranks and the entire State Department with no apparent goal.  We therefore, urgently request a briefing immediately to explain how these cuts serve United States national security interests and make the State Department more effective.  

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