Politics

Foreign Service Official Says It Will Take a ‘Generation to Rebuild’ the State Department After Trump

It’s no secret that Donald Trump isn’t a huge fan of Washington’s more traditional foreign diplomatic institutions, and the United States Foreign Service is no exception.

He believes it’s the “Deep State” and all that.

The Trump administration has done extensive damage to the State Department, several people told GQ, and it might be a long time before it can recover.

Per GQ, previously unpublished data from the American Foreign Service Association shows the foreign service losing people at an alarming clip — in the first two years of Trump’s presidency nearly half of the State Department’s Career Ministers retired or were pushed out during the transition, while about 20 percent of its Minister Counselors (the next level down) also walked out the door. There aren’t numbers for this year yet, but one ex-foreign service officer mentioned a rapidly-growing Facebook page geared toward helping diplomats transition to the private sector.

And it’s not just veterans who left.

A lot of earlier-career officers slated to take over leadership positions have headed elsewhere, as well, and they can’t be replaced at the rate they’re leaving. “What’s striking is both the decapitation of the State Department and the loss of people who should have been the next leadership of the department,” said a foreign service officer who was reportedly forced out. “It’s a hollowing out of the foreign service. You can’t replace those mid-level people easily at the numbers at which they’re losing them. That will take a generation to rebuild.”

The writer of the GQ piece, Julia Ioffe, also detailed how one 30-year diplomat was fired…simply for mentioning former President Barack Obama in a speech.

Lewis Lukens was the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in London until November 2018 when he was fired by the U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. Woody Johnson, seven months before he was scheduled to depart for a new assignment.

According to GQ, Lukens asserts the reason he was fired was because he had told an anecdote about Obama in a speech he gave to a pair of British universities right before Halloween.

In the speech, Lukens briefly depicted Obama’s 2013 trip to Senegal, in which he was met with large cheering crowds with shirts that read “WE LOVE OBAMA.” But what impressed him the most, Lukens said, was disagreement Obama and Senegalese President Macky Sall had “as friends.”

Regarding Trump’s relationship with his diplomats, Lukens told GQ: “There’s a higher level of mistrust from political ambassadors of career FSOs than I’ve ever seen in my life.

“Many of Trump’s political ambassadors have an unfounded belief that government bureaucrats are overwhelmingly Democrats and liberals and working against Trump’s agenda, and that’s just not the case.”

Lukens’s career in the State Department spanned nearly 30 years and featured presidents from both parties.

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