Tillerson Says State Department Is ‘Fully Staffed’

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday said that the State Department is “fully staffed,” addressing criticism over reported budget cuts and staff departures, Foreign Policy writes.

“We’re keeping the organization fully staffed. There is no hollowing out.” Tillerson said at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, while giving a speech on U.S. alliances ahead of a trip to Europe next week.

Tillerson also defended the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts of about 30 percent, calling the State Department’s recent annual budgets of about $55 billion a “historic outlier,” and describing the planned cuts as “just a reality check.”

The State Secretary added that the administration is cutting the State Department budget in part because it expects to resolve some global conflicts that presently take up department resources.

“Part of this bringing the budget numbers back down is reflective of an expectation that we’re going to have success in some of these conflict areas, of getting these conflicts resolved and moving to a different place in terms of the kind of support that we have to give them,” he said, without specifying the conflicts he expected to resolve, FP adds.

Tillerson’s response comes amid a wave of criticism from lawmakers and current and former diplomats over his management of the State Department, as scores of seasoned diplomats have been fired or quit, and the planned budget cuts only add to uncertainty over the role of diplomacy in the Trump administration, FP notes.

During his speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center, he reiterated the United States “ironclad” defense to NATO allies, branding Russia as an “active threat” to the transatlantic community, in large part because of its ongoing war in Ukraine. Tillerson also scolded European allies for not spending enough on defense, an issue that President Trump repeatedly addressed since taking office, FP writes.

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