Senior management team of US State Department resigns

New York: The entire senior level of management officials at the US State Department has resigned – rather than serve under President Donald Trump. 

In the latest display of disquiet among civil servants in Washington over the arrival of the new commander-in-chief, the four top senior officials at the equivalent of America’s foreign ministry, announced that they were standing down.

Trump’s selection for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, was present at the department’s offices in the Foggy Bottom neighbourhood of Washington DC, when the officials quit on Wednesday, The Washington Post reported.

The officials were Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management, Assistant Secretary of State for Administration Joyce Anne Barr, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Michele Bond and Ambassador Gentry Smith, director of the Office of Foreign Missions. All four of the officials served under both Democratic and Republican administrations.

The State Department officials join a growing number of civil servants who have left since Mr Trump took office last week.

Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Gregory Starr and director of the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations Lydia Muniz left last Friday.

The Associated Press said that while none of the officials has linked his or her departure explicitly to Mr Trump’s arrival in the White House, many diplomats have privately expressed concern about serving in his administration, given the unorthodox positions he has taken on many foreign-policy issues.

Mr Trump has yet to fill many top diplomatic jobs, including the deputy secretary roles. Mr Tillerson, is expected to be confirmed by the Senate next week.

Mr Kennedy was appointed to the Under Secretary post in 2007 by President George W Bush. Mr Kennedy stayed on throughout President Barack Obama’s two terms. His position oversees the department’s budget and finances, security, global facilities and consular services, the AP said.

Mr Kennedy, a diplomat since 1973, was criticised for the department’s insufficient security at the diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans were killed in 2012.

In heated congressional hearings, he defended then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s handling of the situation and insisted there was no “stand down” order to the US military during the attack.

Records also showed that Mr Kennedy asked for the FBI’s help in 2015 to change the classification level of an email from Ms Clinton’s private server. The FBI ultimately rejected the request.

Mr Trump has sparked controversy since he has taken over the White House, signing executive orders to build a wall along the Mexican border – a move that led Mexico’s president to cancel a visit to DC – pass a temporary ban on visas for people from seven overwhelmingly Muslim countries, and pulled the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership global trade deal.

The US State Department said on Thursday that the outgoing administration in co-ordination with the incoming one had requested “all politically appointed officers submit letters of resignation” as is standard practice.

“Of the officers whose resignations were accepted, some will continue in the Foreign Service in other positions and others will retire by choice or because they have exceeded the time limits of their grade in service,” a statement by acting State Department spokesman, Mark Toner, said.

 

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