Rex Tillerson Is in No Rush to Fill Vacant State Department Positions

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Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported that some of Trump’s cabinet secretaries are becoming frustrated by how slowly the administration is moving to fill positions in their agencies. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson does not share their complaint.

The New York Times reported on Thursday that the former Exxon Mobil CEO has “done almost nothing” to fill the nearly 200 State Department jobs that require Senate approval. Since the confirmation process takes months, that could mean the department will be understaffed well into next year.

And in a move that will do nothing to tamp down the paranoia that’s reportedly spreading throughout the department, R.C. Hammond, Tillerson’s spokesman, told the paper that he sees no sense in finding people to fill jobs that may be eliminated if Congress grants Trump’s request to cut the State Department’s funding by a third.

Several senators from the president’s own party, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have said that such drastic cuts to the State Department won’t pass the Senate. But Tillerson is still preparing to scale back. Hammond said that Tillerson will launch a listening tour among State Department employees in the coming days, then form a plan to restructure operations. Per the Times:

“The first step was to find out where the Titanic was, and then it was to map out where everything else is,” Mr. Hammond said, likening the department’s organizational structure to a sunken ocean liner and its seabed surroundings. “I think we’re still in the process of mapping out the entire ocean floor so that we understand the full picture.”

The listening tour will enable Mr. Tillerson to hear from diplomats on how to reorganize and refocus, Mr. Hammond said.

“What you’ll see us do over the next several months is start to ask the question, ask people to contribute their vision of what they think the big mission is,” he said. “Not until that part is accomplished can we even begin to think about how to restructure anything.”

And to think, last month State Department employees were said to be worried that Tillerson “had plans to tear up an attractive office next to his own to install cubicles.” As it turns out, that’s a bit like rearranging the deck chairs on the, uh …

Tillerson in No Rush to Fill Vacant State Department Jobs