Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told State Department staff at the U.S. Embassy in Malaysia on Wednesday that he did not know the future of the agency given President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to its budget and possible restructuring of the diplomatic arm of the federal government.
“We’re prepared to undertake the hard work to do that and to support the hard work that your colleagues are doing back at the State Department in Washington,” Tillerson said in his remarks. “And we really welcome and want people to bring your questions forward, your concerns forward. We will address those.”
“At every step along the way, we’re going to try to do as much communication, as this thing is progressing as possible so that you have some understanding of where it’s going,” Tillerson said.
“I’m kind of with you,” Tillerson said. “I don’t know where it’s going.”
“We’ll see it together and then we’ll make some decisions about what we think is actually achievable, what we think we do need to go to the Congress to get some help on, and we’ll work this thing together,” Tillerson said. “I’m willing to take the time it takes up front to allow us to get to that answer.”
Breitbart News reported in February that President Donald Trump’s proposed fiscal year 2018 budget called for a 37 percent cut of the State Department’s $50 billion-plus current budget.
“People familiar with the deliberations said the Trump administration is examining the growth in spending by the State Department during the Obama administration, including that caused by the addition of special envoys, though they said that would not cover the proposed cuts,” the Wall Street Journal reported at the time.
“One U.S. official said that the State Department is looking at development assistance to other countries as a significant source for the cuts,” the Journal reported.
The Associated Press quoted officials as saying that there would be “deep cuts in spending for diplomacy and foreign aid programs,” while “development assistance would take the biggest hit.”
“Staff reductions would be required, ‘including security contractors at diplomatic missions abroad,'” according to these sources.
Tillerson concluded by calling the State Department “patriotic” and committed to “doing the right thing.”
“So the most important thing for me to leave you with, though, is again, what I learned out of that listening exercise is what a dedicated, patriotic organization I have the extreme honor to lead,” Tillerson said. “And it is really an honor for me to be in this position leading you, because your commitment, your dedication to what you’re doing came through loud and clear.”
“And that is the most important thing to me is that we have an organization that is committed to doing the right thing, so we want to help you do that during my time that I’m here,” Tillerson said.