Moral Low Ground

Civil Liberties

Entire State Department Senior Management Team Resigns En Masse

Calling it quits (from L to R): Patrick Kennedy, Joyce Anne Barr, Michele Bond and Gentry O. Smith. (State Dep’t photos)

The entire senior management team at the U.S. State Department took the unprecedented step of resigning en masse on Wednesday, fueling speculation they were either forced to quit or did so in an extraordinary rebuke of the Donald Trump administration.

The Washington Post reports Patrick Kennedy, undersecretary for management, along with Assistant Secretary of State for Administration Joyce Anne Barr, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Michele Bond and Office of Foreign Missions Director Gentry O. Smith all announced their resignation. The four are career foreign service officers who have served under both Democratic and Republican administrations.

Former State Department insiders said the sudden departures will make Rex Tillerson’s job considerably more difficult, if he is confirmed as secretary of state. “It’s the single biggest simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can remember, and that’s incredibly difficult to replicate,” David Wade, former State Department chief of staff under Secretary of State John Kerry, told the Post. “Department expertise in security, management, administrative and consular positions in particular are very difficult to replicate and particularly difficult to find in the private sector.”

“Diplomatic security, consular affairs, there’s just not a corollary that exists outside the department, and you can least afford a learning curve in these areas where issues can quickly become matters of life and death,” added Wade. “The muscle memory is critical. These retirements are a big loss. They leave a void. These are very difficult people to replace.”

Tillerson still faces challenges to his confirmation. Many Democrats — and even Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) — have lined up against the former ExxonMobil CEO, accusing him of being too close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and for ignoring human rights violations in nations around the world in pursuit of profit (Rubio now says he will support Tillerson’s nomination with “reservations”). Tillerson has also come under fire for ExxonMobil’s funding of pseudoscientific climate change denial, the company’s alleged participation in horrific human rights abuses, its alleged cover-up of its own internal scientific findings that climate change is real and is caused by human activity, chiefly including fossil fuel use.

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