The entire State Department senior management team unexpectedly resigned on Jan. 25.
“It’s the single biggest simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can remember, and that’s incredibly difficult to replicate,” said David Wade, a former State Department chief of staff who worked under Secretary of State John Kerry, reports The Washington Post. “Department expertise in security, management, administrative and consular positions in particular are very difficult to replicate and particularly difficult to find in the private sector.”
On Jan. 25, those who resigned include the State Department’s long-serving undersecretary for management, Patrick Kennedy; Assistant Secretary of State for Administration Joyce Anne Barr; Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Michele Bond; Ambassador Gentry O. Smith, Director of the Office of Foreign Missions; and Thomas Countryman, the acting undersecretary of state for arms control, The Associated Press reports.
Five days earlier, on Jan. 20, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Gregory Starr and Director of the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations Lydia Muniz, also retired.
Victoria Nuland, the former assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, also left after President Donald Trump was elected.
“By itself, the sudden departure of the State Department’s entire senior management team is disruptive enough,” says Josh Rogin in an opinion article in The Washington Post. “But in the context of a president who railed against the U.S. foreign policy establishment during his campaign and secretary of state with no government experience, the vacancies are much more concerning.”
It’s not certain why these staff left. Some speculate the officials simply did not want to work under the new president. Many had worked under both Democratic and Republican administrations in the past.
Others wonder if Trump himself was behind these resignations.
Many were surprised as Patrick Kennedy had been taking on more responsibility, seemingly adamant on keeping his position under new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Whatever the reason, the abrupt resignations have worried many as these positions — crucial to the safety of U.S. citizens and diplomats abroad — are difficult to fill.
“Diplomatic security, consular affairs, there’s just not a corollary that exists outside the department, and you can least afford a learning curve in these areas where issues can quickly become matters of life and death,” Wade said. “The muscle memory is critical. These retirements are a big loss. They leave a void. These are very difficult people to replace.”
Sources: The Washington Post, AP via Chicago Tribune / Photo credit: U.S. Department of State/Wikimedia Commons