Tillerson eyes cutting 2,300 jobs at State Department
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is proposing to eliminate 2,300 jobs as part of a plan to cut more than a quarter of the State Department's budget for the next fiscal year, officials said Friday. The plan will almost certainly meet resistance from lawmakers opposing President Donald Trump's proposal to shrink the size of the federal government.
Tillerson's proposal reduces the number of new diplomats being hired and includes the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development's possible consolidation, according to officials briefed on the proposal. The staff cuts would amount to about 3 percent of the department's roughly 75,000-strong workforce.
The proposal is a response to the Office of Management and Budget's call to slash the State Department and USAID budgets by 31 percent through deep cuts to foreign aid and other programs, said the officials, who weren't authorized to speak publicly about the as-yet unreleased plan and requested anonymity.
Tillerson's plan would entail a 26 percent budget reduction, they said.
In an interview with NPR that aired on Friday, Tillerson said he intended to reorganize the department to make it more efficient and focused.
"What we really want to do is examine the process by which the men and women — the career foreign service people, the civil servants, our embassies — how they deliver on that mission," he said.
"We want to hear from them, we're just about to embark on a departmentwide listening mission," he said, adding later: "I look forward to hearing their ideas. Because I know there's going to be opportunities to allow them to be more effective. Now, out of that we'll determine what the State Department looks like."
Cutting more than a quarter of State Department's current $50.1 billion budget would require dramatic reductions in programs and staffing, cuts that many in Congress and elsewhere oppose.
Tillerson's proposal includes 700 job cuts through buyouts and 1,600 from attrition.
The buyouts would be offered first to staffers over the age of 50 with at least two decades of government service, the officials said.
The State Department declined to comment on the job reductions, and officials cautioned that plans are tentative until the budget is submitted to Congress next month.
But Tillerson has spoken publicly of the need to streamline the agency. He will outline plans to State Department staffers next week, officials said. Tillerson hasn't addressed State Department workers since his first day on the job in February.
As part of the plan, a high-level panel will explore the consolidation of USAID into the State Department this summer, officials said. An outside consultant will be brought in to survey staffers about additional areas where savings might be found.
The officials briefed on Tillerson's proposal this week said the plan also calls for cutting back on hiring new diplomats, from as many as five classes of incoming foreign service officers per year to one or two.
It also envisions less hiring of civil service employees, who comprise about 15 percent of the department's workforce.
Numerous members of Congress as well as current and former senior military officers have said they are opposed to massive cuts to the diplomatic budget, which accounts for just over 1 percent of the total federal budget.
On Thursday, a bipartisan group of 43 senators urged "robust funding" for the State Department and USAID.
"At a time when we face multiple national security challenges around the world, deep cuts in this area would be shortsighted, counterproductive and even dangerous," they said in a letter to Senate appropriators.