from the October 7th edition of The Economist, page 32:
Crawling back to you
Mr Tillerson deserves only slight sympathy. He has shown little interest in representing American ideals, such as the promotion of human rights, while carrying out a botched reorganisation of the State Department that has left it hollowed out and dysfunctional. Many important posts remain unfilled—including those of assistant secretary of state for East Asia and ambassador to Seoul. He would not be much missed if he decided to quit. But on October 4th, Mr Tillerson declared that he would soldier on in his thankless job. That may not be a bad thing. Such is the damage being done to the effectiveness of American diplomacy at Mr Trump’s hands, it is doubtful whether anyone of stature would be willing to take his place.
WHAT IS going on at the State Department? Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has begun a “redesign” and has spent much of this year working on it. There is not an agency in government that could not benefit from a fresh look, but the importance of the State Department’s mission should not be in doubt. Does Mr. Tillerson really intend to strengthen diplomacy as a tool for dealing with persistent global problems, or is this an exercise in slashing at the people and offices necessary to represent the United States abroad, defend its interests and keep a watch on the future?
In a forthcoming issue of the Foreign Service Journal, the monthly magazine of the American Foreign Service Association (which is the professional association and union of the Foreign Service), the group’s president, former ambassador Barbara Stephenson, raises a fresh alarm about the future of the U.S. diplomatic corps. This refrain has been heard all year, as many outside experts and foreign-service veterans criticize Mr. Tillerson’s proposals to slash the department’s budget by about 30 percent. Congress rejected the most draconian cuts of Mr. Tillerson’s reorganization process, which Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has called a “pre-cooked and ideologically driven exercise.”
Ms. Stephenson reports that the department has decided “to slash promotion numbers by more than half.” Usually, the number of promotions is aimed at matching available jobs at various grade levels. A multiyear smoothing algorithm is used to avoid big fluctuations from year to year. But now, she says, the number of officers at the rank of career minister has fallen from 33 to 19; the number of minister counselors from 431 to 369. Because of a hiring freeze, intake into the Foreign Service will drop from 366 last year to 100 this year, she says. “The rapid loss of so many senior officers has a serious, immediate, and tangible effect on the capacity of the United States to shape world events,” she wrote.