More than 200 retired diplomats have signed a letter urging the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to press Mike Pompeo on how he plans to “restore the power and influence of American diplomacy” during his upcoming secretary of state confirmation hearing.
The former diplomats said the State Department “needs to be more efficient and effective” and criticized the reforms that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and President Donald Trump put in place to cut the department’s budget. The letter did not name the two men, but said the cuts lacked “strategic focus and have crippled capacity” at the State Department. They urged Congress to restore the nearly $20 billion in funding that was cut from the department’s budget this year.
“We ask that you explore with Secretary-designate Pompeo his plans to lead and manage the department and his vision for adequately funding the diplomacy required to promote and protect America’s sovereignty and prosperity,” the letter said.
The former ambassadors also urged Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) — chair and ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, respectively, to whom the letter was addressed — to push Pompeo to fill the eight vacant leadership positions within the department. They said it was a “crisis” that more than 50 diplomat positions are currently unfilled and criticized the department’s hiring freeze.
During his year as secretary of state, Tillerson was widely criticized for vacancies in high-level official positions within the department and his decision to restructure the agency caused a deep dip in morale, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Former ambassadors told the Post that they hope Pompeo’s close relationship with the President will give him leverage in securing more funding for the State Department. Tillerson’s pushback against many of Trump’s position eroded the pair’s relationship and eventually led to Trump firing Tillerson in a tweet.