“The State Department and USAID, I would offer, are every bit as vital and critical an element of our national security as the Department of Defense, the intelligence community, our law enforcement, or the myriad others in the federal government who work tirelessly every day to protect our security, extend our prosperity, and promote our values.”
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made the following statement as prepared for delivery Tuesday before a Committee business meeting, regarding the Administration’s destructive approach to the State Department and its personnel:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
“Before we move to the bill and nominations on the agenda, I want to comment on some very concerning information and statistics regarding the Foreign Service that have been made public over the last week.
“Ambassador Barbara Stephenson of the American Foreign Service Association stated last week that: ‘There is no denying that our leadership ranks are being depleted at a dizzying speed, due in part to the decision to slash promotion numbers by more than half. The Foreign Service officer corps at State has lost 60 percent of its Career Ambassadors since January. Ranks of Career Ministers, our three-star equivalents, are down from 33 to 19. The ranks of our two-star Minister Counselors have fallen from 431 right after Labor Day to 369 today—and are still falling.’
“Ambassador Stephenson, who is the President of the Governing Board of AFSA, is imploring us to ask, ‘why’?
“Well I feel like I have been asking ‘why’ of the Administration and the State Department on a lot of issues lately, including on myriad personnel, budget, and reorganization matters. And I’m not getting a lot of answers.
“Just as one small example, although the Trump Administration lifted the federal hiring freeze in April 2017, the State Department and USAID have elected to keep its own hiring freeze in place. Why?
“My impression is that morale is at an all-time low at the State Department and USAID, causing a massive exodus of diplomatic and development expertise. Why is this happening, and what is the Department’s leadership doing about it?
“Our President said recently that we do not need to worry about the fact that many of the senior level positions at the State Department remain unfilled because when it comes to foreign policy his opinion is the only one that matters. Why on earth would he say that? For the thousands of FSOs around the world working to advance the ideals of United States, this was a horrible message.
“If this sort of high-level decapitation of leadership were going on at the Defense Department – with three and four star officers resigning and younger officers and enlisted personnel suffering low morale and leaving as well – or not even signing up – I can guarantee you that the Congress would be up in arms.
“Yet here there is silence. Why?
“The State Department and USAID, I would offer, are every bit as vital and critical an element of our national security as the Department of Defense, the intelligence community, our law enforcement, or the myriad others in the federal government who work tirelessly every day to protect our security, extend our prosperity, and promote our values.
“Folks, this situation is alarming. We put our country in danger when we do not give adequate voice and resources to our all country’s national security tools. Secretary Madeline Albright once said, ‘[i]n a turbulent and perilous world, the men and women of the Foreign Service are on the front lines every day, on every continent for us.’ This committee needs to continue to step up and fight for them.”