Podcast

Morale Takes a Nosedive at State Department

And you don’t need an employee-wide survey to understand why.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel greets US President Donald Trump  prior to the start of the first working session of the G20 meeting in Hamburg, northern Germany, on July 7.
Leaders of the world's top economies will gather from July 7 to 8, 2017 in Germany for likely the stormiest G20 summit in years, with disagreements ranging from wars to climate change and global trade. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / IAN LANGSDON        (Photo credit should read IAN LANGSDON/AFP/Getty Images)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel greets US President Donald Trump prior to the start of the first working session of the G20 meeting in Hamburg, northern Germany, on July 7. Leaders of the world's top economies will gather from July 7 to 8, 2017 in Germany for likely the stormiest G20 summit in years, with disagreements ranging from wars to climate change and global trade. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / IAN LANGSDON (Photo credit should read IAN LANGSDON/AFP/Getty Images)

On this week’s first episode of The E.R., FP’s executive editor for news Sharon Weinberger is joined by State Department alums Tom Countryman, Jon Finer, and Kori Schake, and FP’s Robbie Gramer and Dan De Luce to discuss the current situation at the State Department. As Robbie, Dan, and Colum Lynch outline in their feature “How the Trump Administration Broke the State Department,” dozens of career civil and foreign service officers describe a department in disarray as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson surrounds himself with an expanding cadre of loyalists.

Department employees report low morale as they struggle with a broken internal chain of command, and a White House that seems hell-bent on undermining relationships with longtime allies.

Are these complaints anything new or a rehashing of common diplomat gripes? The panel agrees that tensions between career employees and political appointees are common, but have we ever seen anything quite like this? Should we worry more about employee satisfaction or the potential long-term impacts to American standing abroad?

Thomas M. Countryman is a career diplomat who most recently served as acting under secretary for arms control and international security until January 2017. He previously served as principal deputy assistant secretary for political-military affairs, deputy assistant secretary for european affairs, and as the foreign policy advisor to the Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps. Follow him on Twitter: @TMCountryman.

Jon Finer was the chief of staff to Secretary of State John Kerry and director of policy planning at the State Department. He also spent four years in the Obama White House serving as a senior advisor in the offices of the national security advisor and the Middle East advisor. He was previously a reporter for the Washington Post where he covered conflicts in Iraq, Lebanon, Georgia, and Gaza.

Kori Schake is columnist at FP and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution where she focuses on military history. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Safe Passage: The Transition from British to American Hegemony, which will be released in November. Follow her on Twitter: @KoriSchake.

Robbie Gramer is a staff writer at FP focusing on the State Department. Follow him on Twitter: @RobbieGramer.

Dan De Luce is FP’s chief national security correspondent.. Follow him on Twitter: @dandeluce.

Sharon Weinberger is FP’s executive editor for news. She is the author of The Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency That Changed the WorldFollow her on Twitter: @weinbergersa.

Tune in, now three times a week, to FP’s The E.R.

Subscribe to The E.R. and Global Thinkers podcasts on iTunes.

Sharon Weinberger is the executive editor for news at Foreign Policy. @weinbergersa

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