Oh, The Top State Department Management Just Resigned. Did We Need Them?

We dunno, the image just came to mind

All the senior managers in the State Department suddenly resigned Wednesday, which seems like it might be a bit of a concern, maybe. There's some disagreement at the moment exactly what happened; the Washington Post reports the most senior official to leave, undersecretary for management Patrick Kennedy, had been hoping to stay on under the new administration, but an AP story in the New York Times Wednesday says Kennedy planned to retire effective Friday, according to the State Department. The others who resigned Wednesday were Joyce Anne Barr, Assistant Secretary of State for Administration; Michele Bond, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs; and Gentry O. Smith, director of the Office of Foreign Missions. To add to the fun, CNN's national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, reports Trump administration officials are saying the four were fired by the incoming administration as part of an effort to "clean house." That information came an hour after the Washington Post story saying the four resigned, so our inclination is to assume the Trumpers are fibbing, like when NBC cancelled its contract with Trump and he announced he'd fired them. Eventually the real story will come out, but for now, the default assumption that Trump is lying seems the prudent course.

WaPo's Josh Rogin reports Kennedy will retire at the end of the month, while the other three may remain with the foreign service but receive other assignments. Two other senior management officials left the State Department January 20, resulting in a nearly complete departure of "all the senior officials that deal with managing the State Department, its overseas posts and its people." Huh. And we have a president with no governing experience, plus a Secretary of State designee who's never worked anywhere but Exxon. Could this be a problem?

It’s the single biggest simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can remember, and that’s incredibly difficult to replicate,” said David Wade, who served as State Department chief of staff under Secretary of State John Kerry. “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.”

So maybe a problem, then.

Rogin notes that top staff in positions requiring Senate confirmation routinely submit their resignations at the start of a new administration, but that it's unusual for everyone to leave at once -- the more usual model is for the senior officials to work with the new people to help ensure a smooth handover of responsibilities. Rogin also points out it's unclear whether Kennedy and his associates left of their own volition or were urged to move along by the new guys, although

Just days before he resigned, Kennedy was taking on more responsibility inside the department and working closely with the transition. His departure was a surprise to other State Department officials who were working with him.

Ambassador Richard Boucher, a former State Department spokesman during the G.W. Bush administration, said the sudden departure of the entire management team was not typical of previous changes in administrations:

The officials who manage the building and thousands of overseas diplomatic posts are charged with taking care of Americans overseas and protecting U.S. diplomats risking their lives abroad. The career foreign service officers are crucial to those functions as well as to implementing the new president’s agenda, whatever it may be, Boucher said.

“You don’t run foreign policy by making statements, you run it with thousands of people working to implement programs every day,” Boucher said. “To undercut that is to undercut the institution.”

We can't imagine how that could possibly lead to any difficulties. After all, as one genius Twitter comment on Jim Sciutto's tweet astutely pointed out, the outgoing team was responsible for four brave Americans dying in Benghazi, so maybe losing all those years of experience and institutional knowledge is a good thing. Trump can probably hire some temps, or maybe pick the management staff's replacements in a reality TV show where candidates have to manage an ongoing foreign crisis in real time. Don't worry, we're sure to have a few of those any day now. Interested talent should send their resumes and glossy photos to the White House ASAP, and remember, actual experience isn't necessary: Trump just wants people who look like diplomats. Maybe the guy who bitched about Benghazi on Twitter should apply, if he has an appropriately square jaw.

[WaPo / NYT / Jim Sciutto on Twitter]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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