Tillerson Denies ‘Hollowing Out’ State Department, Claims Redesign Is Staff-Led

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson set off on Thursday for Beijing for talks with senior Chinese leaders
GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP

When appointed Secretary of State by President Donald Trump, Rex Tillerson promised to redesign his agency to make it more modern and efficient.

That mission remains undone, and, this week, Maliz Beams, the woman he named to help him achieve it is gone and Tillerson is defending charges that he is actually trying to “hollow out” the diplomatic arm of the federal government.

Breitbart News asked State about Beams and her departure from her post after just three months.

A State Department spokesperson said:

Maliz Beams is stepping away from her role here at the Department of State and is returning to her home in Boston. We appreciate Maliz sharing her expertise with us over the past few months. We wish her the best of luck in her next venture.

Effective immediately, Christine Ciccone will step in to lead the Redesign effort and manage its daily activities. The Secretary will be making a request of Congress to expedite the approval of the Administration’s nominees for both Undersecretary for Management and Legal Advisor.

In her State Department bio — which has since been removed from the website — Beams was said to have successfully made an organizational transformation in the financial sector.

At an event at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, Tillerson was asked about the claims that he was “hollowing out” the agency by slashing staff and funding.

“The issue of the hollowing out – I think all of you appreciate that every time you have a change of government you have a lot of senior Foreign Service officers and others who decide they want to move on and do other things,” Tillerson said. “We’ve had a – our numbers of retirements are almost exactly what they were in 2016 at this point.”

“We have the exact same number of Foreign Service officers today – we’re off by 10 – that we had at this time in 2016,” Tillerson said. “There is a hiring freeze that I’ve kept in place because as we redesign the organization we’re probably going to have people that need to be redeployed to other assignments.”

“I don’t want to have a layoff; I don’t want to have to fire a bunch of people,” Tillerson said. “So I said, ‘Let’s manage some of our staffing targets with just normal attrition.’”

“Having said that, I have signed over 2,300 hiring exceptions, because I’ve told every post if you have a critical position and you really need that filled, just send it in,” Tillerson said. “And I think I have out of 2,300 requests, I think I’ve denied eight positions that I decided we really didn’t need.”

“So we’re keeping the organization fully staffed,” Tillerson said. “We’ve had over – we’re still running our Foreign Service officer school; we’ve hired over 300 this year.”

“So there is no hollowing out,” Tillerson said. “These numbers that people are throwing around are just false; they’re wrong.”

Tillerson said the redesign is a staff-led effort that including a “listening exercise.”

“We had 35,000 people respond and we had over 300 face-to-face interviews, and we continue an active dialogue with people today about what is it – if I could do one thing for you that would make you more effective and make you – make your work more satisfying, what would that be,” Tillerson said. “And we got hundreds of ideas. We’ve actually selected about 170 of those ideas that we are now perfecting.”

“The reason we call it a redesign is most of these have to do with work processes internally and work processes with inter-agencies that we should be able to improve the way people get their work done,” Tillerson said.

Bloomberg Politics reported that when Tillerson spoke to the U.S. embassy staff in London in September, he said of the redesign: “If I accomplish that, that will go on forever, and you will create the State Department of the future.”

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