The US State Department this week witnessed what has been called the largest simultaneous staff exodus in recent memory, as high-ranking department officials retire or resign from their posts.
As many as seven diplomats, some of them appointed during the George W. Bush presidency and who have played a vital role in safekeeping the government’s institutional memory and continuity, have left the Department.
Patrick Kennedy, the undersecretary for management, Joyce Anne Barr, the Assistant Secretary of State for Administration, Michele Bond, the Assistant Secretary of state for Consular Affairs, Gentry O. Smith, the Director of the Office of Foreign Missions, Victoria Nuland, the Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, as well as Gregory Starr, the Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security and Lydia Muniz, the Director for the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations, had by Friday each vacated their offices.
Starr retired on Inauguration Day.
“It’s the single biggest simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can remember,” said David Wade, the State Department’s former chief of staff under John Kerry, speaking to the Washington Post.
Several senior career officials who help manage massive State Department bureaucracy have resigned in recent days https://t.co/80vdXyeZAZ— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) January 27, 2017
The resignations come one week into Donald Trump’s Presidency and even before Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson is confirmed by the US Senate. Combined the departing staff have more than 150 years of institutional knowledge and experience.
The US State Department effectively runs the machinery of the United States’ foreign policy and the resignations, including that of Kennedy, the most senior diplomat among the seven who oversaw the department’s budget, finances, global facilities and consular services, compounds the Trump administration’s task of building a functioning government.
Many low-level staffers including the deputy secretary, undersecretary for policy, and assistant secretaries from many of the department’s regional offices had already resigned when the Obama-era administration came to an end.
It means what while President Trump receives his first foreign dignitary, UK Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday Jan. 27, its proceedings will take place without a fully formed, or functional, government.
All senior level State Department managers resign— Jeb Boone (@JebBoone) January 26, 2017
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Although none has linked their resignation directly to President Trump, some have reportedly expressed concern about Trump’s policy ideals and feel uncomfortable working within his presidency.
It is usually customary for an incoming president in the United States to ask for top senior management to stay at their posts until the President manages to find their replacements.
But on December 23, nearly a month before Trump was to take his oath of office, his transition team ordered all of former President Obama’s politically appointed ambassadors to leave their posts by Inauguration Day.