Top U.S. Diplomats Slam Administration for Depleting State Department Leadership

Two former ambassadors have criticized the White House for its “efforts to sideline the State Department”, Foreign Policy reports. U.S. diplomats Barbara Stephenson and Wendy Sherman have both blamed the current administration for depleting key staff within the State Department.

“Our leadership ranks are being depleted at a dizzying speed,” Barbara Stephenson, a former U.S. ambassador to Panama and current president of the American Foreign Service Association, the union for foreign service officers, wrote in a letter for the December 2017 issue of the Foreign Service Journal.

A number of senior diplomats, including 60 percent of career ambassadors, have left the department since the beginning of the year, when President Donald Trump took office, according to the letter, while there are 74 top posts at State that remain vacant with no announced nominee, Foreign Policy adds. According to Stephenson, were the U.S. military to face such a decapitation of its leadership ranks, there would be much harsher response from the public. She wasn’t the only top diplomat with harsh words for the White House this week.

“Quite frankly, this administration is categorically destroying the Department of State and devaluing diplomacy as something important in this world,” said Wendy Sherman, former undersecretary of state for political affairs under President Barack Obama. The State Department denied the allegations, noting that “suggestions that drastic cuts to our foreign service ranks are taking place are simply not accurate.”

“As has been said many times before, the freezes on hiring and promotions are only temporary while we study how to refine our organization,” State Department spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

According to Reuters, at a meeting last week, White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster appeared to justify the assault on State Department staffing by saying that some officials there did not support the Trump’s agenda. In a November 2 interview, Trump responded to a question about unfilled positions at the State Department by stating, that he’s “the only one that matters.” FP notes.

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