Rex Tillerson

New Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Asks Staff to Apply Lessons of Changing World Conditions to Domestic Change Too

No other nomination for high-level department positions requiring Senate confirmation has been made yet.

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Yin Bogu/Xinhua/Newscom

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson talked about reforming the State Department to make it more efficient, accountability, honesty, and mutual respect as core principles, and safety a core value for the department, in welcoming remarks on his first day on the job.

Tillerson called State Department staff "among the finest public servants in the world," saying that "when people see you they see America." Tillerson said the safety of State Department personnel is the first thing he thinks of when he wakes up in the morning.

"The safety of every single member of our State Dept family, regardless of where he or she is posted, is not just a priority for me, it's a core value," Tillerson said, saying that included foreign and civil service, other support staff, contractors, "implementing partners," and families of staff. "And it'll become a core value for this department."

Tillerson asked staffers to put their talents to use dealing with the transition. "One of the great challenges and thrills for the State Department staff is deciding how to confront changing conditions in every corner of the world, and I encourage all of you to use your natural and well-developed skills to adapt to changes here at home as well," he told them.

"I know this was a hotly-contested election, and we do not all feel the same way about the outcome," Tillerson continued. "Each of us is entitled to the expression of our political beliefs, but we cannot let our personal convictions overwhelm our ability to work as one team."

Tillerson said he was interested in deploying "the talent and the resources of the State Department in the most efficient ways possible," which "may entail making some changes to how things are traditionally done in this department." He promised not to implement "change for the sake of change," which he described as counterproductive, but warned that the department could not "sustain ineffective traditions over optimal outcomes." Tillerson told staffers he'd "gather information on what processes should be reformed and do my part to make sure we are functioning in the most productive and efficient way possible."

Tillerson described department employees' duties as "to faithfully represent our nation in the arena of foreign affairs," and told them they should stay focused on that mission "regardless of the circumstances shaping our country or our department."

"If we stay focused on the work before us, I promise I will work to ensure you achieve your own personal success and your professional satisfaction in what you are doing," Tillerson told staffers, continuing with an outline of three "core principles" he expected everyone to abide by—accountability, honesty, and respect.

"I ask that everyone strive for excellence and assume responsibility for their actions and their decisions," Tillerson said, insisting that organizations run best "when all of its members embrace accountability," and using the New England Patriots' "do your job" motto as an example.

"I want us to be honest with one other," Tillerson told staffers. "Honesty will undergird our foreign policy, and we'll start by making it the basis of how we interact with each other." It's unclear what that means policy-wise—the president's approach to foreign policy thus far has been marked largely by ambiguity.

Tillerson's last point about department principles was about respect. "We're going to treat each other with respect," Tillerson told staffers. "No one will tolerate disrespect of anyone. Before we are employees of the State Department, we are human beings first."

Tillerson noted that there were more than 75,000 members of the State Department workforce with an average of more than 11 years of department service. "I have 25 minutes," Tillerson continued. "Your wisdom, your work ethic and patriotism is as important as ever and as your secretary I will be proud to draw upon all these qualities in my decision-making."

Tillerson warned that while there would "undoubtedly be times of victory," there'd "also be many times of difficulty," and asked staffers to "go forward as a team through all of it."

The State Department has not yet held a briefing under the new administration, and only the ambassadors to China, Israel, and the United Kingdom have been nominated so far. None of the dozen or so positions of representatives to various international organizations, with the exception of Nikki Haley's nomination to the United Nations, have been filled either. Other than Tillerson, no nomination has been made for any of the other high-level State Department positions requiring Senate confirmation. While reporting before inauguration day said the incoming administration was dismissing all ambassadors, more than 100 ambassadors from the Obama administration remain at embassies around the world although, unsurprisingly all but one political (as opposed to career) appointment from the previous administration remains.

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  1. Wow. What a racist monster Trump put up for SoS.

    1. Okay, I thought Sessions was the racist monster. I thought Tillerson was the anti-science, climate-change-denier, Russian ass-kisser. Man, I get so confused.

      1. Dammit. I got my talking points mixed up. Hold on…

  2. The DOS will have someone in charge who knows how to run an organization. I imagine that will be a shocking change.

    1. ‘Ah, shit, the new boss is competent. C’mon everyone, we have to actually do our jobs now.’

      1. I have a friend in State. I’m going to have to find out what the mood is like there. Should be entertaining.

      2. I don’t think we actually want the government to be more efficient.

        1. Foreign Affairs. They’ll be working with people outside the country.

          1. “Look, we can round up a bunch of Ivy Leaguers and get them OUT of the US. WIN!”

  3. “One of the great challenges and thrills for the State Department staff is deciding how to confront changing conditions in every corner of the world, and I encourage all of you to use your natural and well-developed skills to adapt to changes here at home as well,” he told them.

    I don’t see how writing a bunch of checks to various governments can be translated to dealing with the transition of administrations.

    1. Well, they gotta hand them out, too.

    2. Well, they gotta hand them out, too.

  4. He’s just saying all those nice things so that State employees will help him further his international oil business.

    1. That reminds me…Which pipeline was that we supposedly invaded Afghanistan over? Trans…Caucus? Trans…Himalayan?!

      1. I thought it was the rare earth minerals.

        1. Whoa….what if it was both.

          TONIO?! FOIL, STAT!

    2. This guy gets it.

  5. Exactly what you’d expect from a Russian agent

  6. I can’t decide if Tillerson or Pruitt are the finest nominations that Trump has put forward, but certainly Tillerson is well suited to be at the helm of a large institution like State, considering his background and aptitudes. The same could never have been said about Clinton’s appointment as SoS.

      1. Secretary of State Botox Kerry was in no way uniquely qualified to fill that position when compared to any other number of political/career hacks. They way he fellated the PRC autocrats in response to the “controversy” of Trump not following the stupid “One China Policy,” and further kowtowing on commitment to that bullshit, shows me that either (a) he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about or (b) loves autocrats. It’s over the top hypocritical to have a problem with Tillerson’s practical relationship in dealing with Russia and its leaders at a private multinational petroleum company, while at the same time having zero concerns with almost every political hack blowing the PRC’s dong.

        1. I would liken Kerry’s “qualifications” for being SoS being similar to the “worldly” nature of some generic cookie-cutter trust fund babies that loves to travel to foreign countries for the sake of traveling and bragging rights: they often are just in it for a vapid bucket list type of experience.

        2. Not to harp on this, but the PRC is known within recent memory to be harvesting organs from gulag prisoners in a state-operated enterprise….shady shit that I doubt very much has really been disbanded. Just a higher level of awful than Putin’s autocracy if you ask me. And Kerry shamelessly blew the PRC’s dick. Fuck these political hack appointments.

    1. Once upon a time the DoS was actually run by professionals whose first concern was the department. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t that long ago.

  7. There are 75 thousand DoS employees?!?!?!

    1. Does that include contractors?

      1. I think that number includes all embassy staff.

      2. And all the CIA “State” employees?

    2. It came out during Tillerson’s confirmation hearing that ExxonMobil has a very similar scope, in the 70k range of employees, 60% of which are foreign nationals. Tillerson’s up to this task.

      1. But does he know how to install a private server in his bathroom at home?

        1. By all accounts ExxonMobil was in horrid shape under his chiefdom.

  8. My former (and now retired) boss thought the speech was great and made her contemplate coming out of retirement (not seriously, but she was inspired).

    1. Is that good or bad?

  9. How can this guy be qualified for the job, he was never First Lady.

  10. WHAT?!?! No mention of immigration policy impact on State?!?!

    Seriously though, thanks again for your continued good work here at Reason, Ed.

    1. I’m not ready to abandon Reason, but I’m getting closer to just reading Ed’s posts.

  11. Tillerson said he was interested in deploying “the talent and the resources of the State Department in the most efficient ways possible,” which “may entail making some changes to how things are traditionally done in this department.” He promised not to implement “change for the sake of change,” which he described as counterproductive, but warned that the department could not “sustain ineffective traditions over optimal outcomes.” Tillerson told staffers he’d “gather information on what processes should be reformed and do my part to make sure we are functioning in the most productive and efficient way possible.”

    I really like the idea of imposing some industry savvy management style on the state dept.

    First he should fire half of them.

    Then tell the remainder to word smarter not harder.

    Then to tell them to work harder also.

    Then cut their pay.

    Welcome to the real world assholes.

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