Media reports on the condition of the US State Department under Rex Tillerson make for a horrifying reading. The workforce strength has been pared down. Applications for new roles are now few and far between. Personnel morale in existing employees is cripplingly low. It is clear that Tillerson cannot manage the State Department. His dismal performance belied all hopes that his management experience at Exxon will bring an international flavor to the department.
Too much work, not many personnel
The State Department administration has latched on to the idea that foreign relations could be managed via bilateral deals conducted at arm's length. The Department, in addition to its usual work, could also meddle in the regional and domestic policies of foreign countries. Such an orientation would be acceptable if the administration had earlier exhibited any inclination to reduce the State workload. However, the Trump administration has not reduced any burden falling on State Department. The workload demands that information must be linked with effective bilateral diplomacy and its conduct. Reports say the opposite. It is losing experts which make such work impossible.
All optimism is now a thing of the past. It is apparent that Tillerson has approached his government job like the way he approached his job in Exxon. He is trying to run the public department from a distinct commercial perspective. He is trying to run a government department like a profit-making company despite substantial differences in terms of the core mission and work culture. All things considered, many people expected this. Conservatives generally do not see the State Department in a good light. They view the department as a disjointed voice within the American government for international and also foreign interests. They also look with suspicion the multiple State aims like women's rights, development, and democratization with suspicion.
The administration under President Donald J. Trump has exceeded what previous GOP Presidents were afraid to do. Tillerson has clearly rejected any idea which will represent him as the state's bureaucratic advocate. This role has been welcomed by previous secretaries like Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. No wonder the new head has received a significant push-back from both GOP and Democrat Senators. The problem is that Trump has provided the State Department head with more than advised degrees of latitude. There is nothing much Congress can compel the administration to do. The US needs more experienced diplomats to keep the country at the top in Indo-Pacific politics.