Rex Tillerson

We’ve written recently about widespread concerns in the foreign policy community — both within and outside the State Department — over the management, direction and role of the State Department under former oil company chief executive Rex Tillerson. [...] Now the amateurism and arrogance has reached constitutional dimensions. On the day President Trump grudgingly and without public ceremony signs Russia sanctions legislation, State has managed to undermine the impression we are serious about curbing Russian behavior.

Rex Tillerson is clamping down further on hiring as part of his push to overhaul the U.S. State Department, in a move likely to exacerbate concerns that a large number of unfilled jobs is diminishing his agency’s role in shaping foreign policy. In a memo sent June 26 and obtained by Bloomberg News, bureaus are ordered to temporarily stop all transfers and reassignments and are barred from appointing new envoys. Any other request to “increase, expand or proliferate organization structures in the Department” must also be stopped.

The State Department and USAID are often conflated as parts of America’s “soft power” apparatus. And it’s true that in the broadest sense they seek to, as a joint mission statement puts it, “shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world, and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere.” But beyond that they are dissimilar in every important way: The tasks they perform, what they value, their operating principles and how they carry out their work are profoundly different.

When President Trump nominated Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, to be his secretary of state, reactions were mixed. Some saw Tillerson as an accomplished businessman, savvy in world affairs, who was perhaps the only sane person well-positioned to lead a rapprochement with Vladimir Putin. Others saw him as a dangerous neophyte unaccustomed to the constant give-and-take of diplomacy. It turns out that he is neither. Under Tillerson’s watch, and indeed under his direct purview, the State Department’s core is being gutted.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has declined a request to host an event to mark Islam's holy month of Ramadan, two U.S. officials said, apparently breaking with a bipartisan tradition in place with few exceptions for nearly 20 years. Members of Congress, Muslim civil society and community leaders, diplomats from Muslim countries and senior U.S. officials usually attend the State Department Ramadan event, a symbol of the U.S. government's diplomatic efforts with Muslim countries and people.

This week’s PD News focused on President Trump’s trip overseas, from the importance of Saudi Arabia to Melania Trump’s international debut as First Lady. 

Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson finally met with the State Department’s workforce to outline how President Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda applies to foreign policy. In his remarks, Tillerson focused on the core mission of national security. He insisted that American values still matter, but was clear that the U.S. is no longer in the business of promoting those values as universal aspirations. It’s a big loss for American influence in the world.

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