Rex Tillerson’s changes to the State Department are hollowing out the diplomatic ranks and putting the United States in grave danger, two foreign affairs said on Tuesday’s On Point.
“This is not reform,” R. Nicholas Burns, a former high-level department official who also served as ambassador to Greece and NATO, told host Tom Ashbrook on our show Tuesday. “This is dismantlement.”
Added Nancy McEldowney, former ambassador to Bulgaria: “Our diplomats are the people who champion U.S. interests around the world, and help prevent war, or when war breaks out, bring it to a close.”
Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, has promised to improve the way the department works and help diplomats do their jobs better.
But the reality, said Burns, is an ideological purge: starving government of resources with draconian budget cuts. Numerous ambassador and envoy positions have gone unfilled, including in key areas like the Korean peninsula, where the U.S. is facing its most critical foreign policy problems.
“It comes out of the Steve Bannon agenda that the government is the problem or the government is the enemy and we have to forcibly downsize it,” Burns said, referring to the Trump adviser and Breitbart editor.
Meanwhile, fewer people are interested in getting involved in diplomacy at all. Tillerson's redesign chief, Maliz Beams, quit after just three months.
Burns co-wrote an op-ed in the New York Times this week calling into question Tillerson's decision to cull the Foreign Service ranks by as much as 8 percent.
According to the Associated Press, Tillerson said Tuesday that he was “offended” by reports that he was “hollowing out” the diplomatic corps.
This segment aired on November 28, 2017.