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'Staffing Crisis': US DoS Reportedly Lost 60% of Career Ambassadors in 2017

'Staffing Crisis': US DoS Reportedly Lost 60% of Career Ambassadors in 2017”

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson testifies about authorizations for the use of military force before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. October 30, 2017.

In an essay entitled "Time to Ask Why" in the monthly newsletter of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), Ambassador Barbara Stephenson wrote, "There is simply no denying the warning signs that point to mounting threats to our institution-and to the global leadership that depends on us".

"These numbers are hard to square with the stated agenda of making State and the Foreign Service stronger", Stephenson wrote in a public letter to union members on Wednesday.

In addition to the decline in the number of ambassadors, Stephenson pointed to the reduction in the number of Career Ministers from 33 to 19 and of Minister Counselors from 431 just after Labor Day to 369 today-numbers she said were still falling.

The overall number of diplomats serving the State Department is similar to past year when individuals pending congressional confirmation are included, the official noted, and there has been a decline in prospective new foreign officers taking the entrance exam. Were the US military to face such a decapitation of its leadership ranks, I would expect a public outcry.

Two former ambassadors have rebuked the White House in an increasingly vocal backlash against its efforts to sideline the State Department.

"As the shape and extent of the staffing cuts to the Foreign Service at State become clearer, I believe we must shine a light on these disturbing trends and ask 'why?' and 'to what end?'" wrote Stephenson.

The spokesperson also said that Tillerson plans to nominate individuals to fill roles within the ranks.

I begin with a reminder that we, the members of the career Foreign Service, have an obligation as stewards of our institution to be effective advocates for why diplomacy matters. While more than 17,000 Americans applied for the Foreign Service in 2016, that number has dropped by more than half this year.

According to Stephenson's letter, the US diplomatic corps is also shrinking at the bottom rung.

According to her, the self-imposed hiring freeze will result in only 100 new specialists being employed in 2018 compared to 366 new employees in 2016. Applications to its competitive entry exam are projected to fall by more than half since two years ago.

The State Department spokesman said 9,519 took the exam in fiscal 2017, which ended on September 30, down from 11,886 in fiscal 2016 and 14,480 in fiscal 2015.

Congress rejected drastic cuts to State and USAID funding.

"Where then, does the impetus come from to weaken the American Foreign Service?"

"The goal of the redesign has always been to find new ways to best leverage our team's brains, ingenuity and commitment to serving our nation's interests", a State Department official told CNN in a statement.



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