Gage Skidmore / Flickr Mike Pompeo...
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

More than 200 former U.S. diplomats have signed a letter asking the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to query new would-be Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on what his plans might be to stop the State Department’s slide into unmanaged obsolescence under Trump’s rule. It will be interesting to see which senators take them up on that.

The former diplomats said the State Department “needs to be more efficient and effective” and criticized the reforms that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and President Donald Trump put in place to cut the department’s budget. The letter did not name the two men, but said the cuts lacked “strategic focus and have crippled capacity” at the State Department. They urged Congress to restore the nearly $20 billion in funding that was cut from the department’s budget this year.

Also explicitly noted in the letter: The Trump administration’s unwillingness to even staff the department.

Of the nine senior leadership positions reporting to the Secretary of State, eight are now vacant. Over 50 ambassadorial posts are unfilled, as are 16 of the State Department’s 22 Assistant Secretary positions. These vacancies in the highest ranks of our diplomatic corps are a crisis that demands your attention and that of the Secretary-designate.

It does not matter who the new secretary of State might be if Trump is going to continue to simply ignore them and refuse to so much as grant them a staff. Rex Tillerson was humiliated in the role; Mike Pompeo can expect similar treatment.

Before joining the Trump team, Pompeo was a fire-breathing House tea partier who rode Benghazi conspiracies and Obama contempt to his share of Republican fame. He may be more successful with Trump personally due to those, ahem, shared views, but he’s still going to be plunked down into an empty department with little to no power to conduct actual diplomacy and a boss who reflexively discounts the mere premise of such things.

If he has a plan to be successful in such a position, he should probably pipe up with that during his confirmation hearing. Surely at least some senators would love to hear it.

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