- REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Senior officials are fleeing the State Department in the first days of President Donald Trump’s administration, according to The Washington Post.
Patrick Kennedy, the State Department’s undersecretary for management, and three of his top officials resigned abruptly recently, The Post reported. All are career diplomats who have served under presidents from both parties.
Two other senior leaders in the State Department left earlier this month. Post columnist Josh Rogin characterized it as an “ongoing mass exodus of senior foreign service officers who don’t want to stick around for the Trump era.”
David Wade, who was the State Department’s chief of staff under Secretary of State John Kerry, told The Post that it’s “the single biggest simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can remember.”
“Department expertise in security, management, administrative and consular positions in particular are very difficult to replicate and particularly difficult to find in the private sector,” Wade said.
Trump, however, built his presidential campaign around an antiestablishment mind-set. The Post said he had planned to find a replacement for Kennedy, who initially hoped to stay in his job under Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for secretary of state.
Still, Rogin said that “the emptying of leadership in the management bureaus” is “disruptive because those offices need to be led by people who know the department and have experience running its complicated bureaucracies.”
“These retirements are a big loss,” Wade told The Post. “They leave a void. These are very difficult people to replace.”
State Department spokesman Mark Toner responded to the Post story with a statement characterizing resignations during a transition in administration as normal.
“As is standard with every transition, the outgoing administration, in coordination with the incoming one, requested all politically appointed officers submit letters of resignation,” he said in the statement.
“The Department encourages and advocates for senior officers to compete for high level offices in the Department. These positions are political appointments, and require the President to nominate and the Senate to confirm them in these roles. They are not career appointments but of limited term.”
Ambassador Richard Boucher, a former State Department spokesman, told the Post that senior officials usually work with new incoming administrations to determine who should stay on, but that hasn’t happened this time.
Meanwhile, CNN reports that the State Department officials were actually fired.
According to CNN, Patrick Kennedy, the State Department’s undersecretary for management, Joyce Anne Barr, the Assistant Secretary of State for Administration, Michele Bond, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, and Ambassador Gentry O. Smith, director of the Office of Foreign Missions were all sent letters by the White House accepting their resignations and informing them that their service was no longer required.
And the American Foreign Service Association released a statement later in the day refuting the idea that the State Department departures are unusual.
“While this appears to be a large turnover in a short period of time, a change of administration always brings personnel changes, and there is nothing unusual about rotations or retirements in the Foreign Service,” the statement said. “Indeed, both are essential to the development of a steady stream of experienced leaders ready to assume critical roles at State.”