Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is apparently so hung up on the details of running the State Department that he's not actually running it. In a searing story published Sunday, The New York Times painted a portrait of a micromanager who has largely avoided making any big decisions.
While nominations to "most of the department's 38 highest-ranking jobs" have yet to be made, Tillerson now has his top assistants reviewing routine messages to foreign countries that have historically been written by low-level employees and easily approved. Tillerson's diplomatic achievements are "mixed" thus far as he strives to reorganize the department's structure — but even that isn't going so smoothly:
Moreover, his reorganization effort has contributed to the paralysis. He has not wanted to appoint under secretaries and assistant secretaries until he understands the new structure. But the career officials sitting in those posts have little authority, and they fear making a career-ending move. His hiring freeze has meant few young people — those with a better sense of how to reach the younger populations around the world — are entering the department. Senior diplomats have left in droves, depleting the building of historical memory. [The New York Times]
While there's "a broad acceptance of the need for reorganization," Ronald E. Neumann, president of the American Academy of Diplomacy, noted there's also "the need for decisions to deal with ongoing issues." "The number of necessary but unmade decisions is steadily growing," Neumann said.
Other career diplomats warned that Tillerson's penchant for micromanagement will only exacerbate the problems of an understaffed department. "The secretary of state has to focus on the president, his policies, and the other heads of government that he deals with, which means he cannot possibly run the department operationally himself," R. Nicholas Burns, a retired career diplomat, told The New York Times. "He has to delegate, and that's what's missing now."
Read more about Tillerson's tendencies at The New York Times.