Tillerson Presents Round One of State Department Reform Plans

State Secretary Rex Tillerson submitted Thursday the first stage of his reform plan for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, noting it was “the most important thing” he will do as the agency’s head, CNN reports.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert informed that the White House Office of Management and Budget had Tillerson present the plan on Thursday.

The secretary of state said in an e-mail to his employees on Wednesday, that the reforms would save up to $10 billion in five years time, seeking to “align” with USAID and State Department resources, a goal which suggests he could merge the two agencies.

Tillerson’s efforts are being watched closely by many in Washington, who have chafed at the many top leadership positions left vacant during the restructuring process. They are also anxious over the Trump administration’s budget proposal to cut the State Department and USAID’s annual budget by roughly a third. But last week, a Senate panel kept State’s funding levels on par with recent years and folded management amendments that could limit Trump’s budget restriction efforts into the spending bill.

Tillerson has called the restructuring “employee-led” and wrote in the email that the input he received from an agency-wide survey and a listening tour of the State Department and USAID would govern the redesign. The online questionnaire, sent in May to all staff at the State Department and USAID, asked for their help in building a “word cloud” to characterize the department’s current mission and what it should be over the next 20 years.

The focus was on how to streamline the country’s oldest Cabinet agency, clarify its mission and make it more efficient.

More than 35,000 employees responded to the survey, Tillerson told employees at the US embassy in London on Thursday during a visit there. He said that 200 people have been working on redesign teams and he has met with some of them.

“I just can’t tell you how excited I am,” he told them.

“You know where you’re having problems, where you’re struggling, where things get in the way of you being effective. That’s what we want to get at. And that’s why we call it a process redesign. A reorganization is taking boxes on a chart and cramming them together and moving them around, but nothing really changes. We want to get down to how do you get your work done and how can we help you get your work done more efficiently, more effectively.”

In the email, Tillerson said the survey revealed that modernizing the bureau’s antiquated technology and improving workplace flexibility were identified as priorities. He said he would also seek to increase the ability for spouses of US diplomats serving in overseas posts to be hired to fill administrative jobs at embassies and consulates.

“Our working groups have also identified areas where we can improve our human resource functions, empower leadership at all levels, and improve management support services to reduce redundancies while ensuring our employees have the tools they need to do their jobs,” Tillerson said, adding that he would continue to implement other recommendations on a “rolling basis.”

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