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State Dept. Denies Report Top Envoys Being Depleted

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Department tells Anadolu Agency reports of gutting nearly two-thirds of career diplomats ‘misleading’.

The State Department struck back Thursday against a report that alleged it has lost 60 percent of its career diplomats since January and its senior ranks are being "depleted at a dizzying speed".

A spokesperson for the agency told Anadolu Agency the suggested gutting of nearly two-thirds of the U.S.'s career envoys "is a misleading description".

Of five career diplomats who were serving at the start of the year, three have retired, leaving only two, the spokesperson said, noting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans on nominating replacements soon.

The role is subject to congressional confirmation.

The spokesperson provided comment on condition he not be named but acknowledged Tillerson has said on more than one occasion he is seeking to redesign the department.

In an article in the forthcoming issue of the Foreign Service Journal, ambassador Barbara Stephenson said there has been a "decapitation" of senior leaders at the State Department.

In addition to the loss of career diplomats, Stephenson said career ministers at the State Department have declined from 33 to 19 this year and minister counselors have fallen from 431 to 369 since early September.

"The rapid loss of so many senior officers has a serious, immediate, and tangible effect on the capacity of the United States to shape world events," Stephenson, who heads the foreign service labor union, wrote. "There is simply no denying the warning signs that point to mounting threats to our institution—and to the global leadership that depends on us."

The comments come as the Trump administration seeks a one-third reduction of the State Department and foreign aid budgets -- a goal steadfastly rejected by congressional leaders.

"Given this clear congressional intent, we have to ask: Why such a focus on slashing staffing at State? Why such a focus on decapitating leadership? How do these actions serve the stated agenda of making the State Department stronger?" Stephenson said.

 

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