The State Department Deserves Better

In Budget, Governing and the Cabinet, New York Times Editorial On
- Updated

Three months into his tenure, Mr. Tillerson has done almost nothing to select nominees for the White House to consider for nearly 200 State Department jobs that require Senate confirmation, The Times’s Gardiner Harris reported. No other federal department is as dependent on political appointees, meaning State is uniquely affected by such foot-dragging. And even if Mr. Tillerson named all his choices tomorrow, the confirmation process usually takes months and months.

Mr. Tillerson has no plans to start selecting his choices for top jobs anytime soon. He told NPR that he first wants to embark on a departmentwide listening mission to hear what his diplomats and civil servants have to say. That effort will start Wednesday morning, when he has scheduled a general meeting with department employees.

Many State Department employees will relish the chance to finally hear from the secretary on how he plans to restructure the department in light of Mr. Trump’s demand for draconian budget cuts, and to tell him what they think. His delay in waiting until now to engage them has cost him credibility and trust among his troops and fueled anxiety amid hints of an institutional upheaval.

Many State Department officials believe that he has been inaccessible for far too long, cocooning himself with a small group of aides in a process that deprived him of hearing a broader range of views and policy options. Mr. Tillerson’s stumbles have been many, including statements that conflicted with other administration comments on Syria and Iran and initially failing to meet.

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