Senators involved in foreign affairs matters have sent several letters to the State Department expressing concerns about the ongoing reorganization there and its impact on the department’s capacity, as well as questioning the continued hiring restrictions there.
Separate letters by all the Democratic members of the Foreign Relations Committee and one from Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Todd Young, R-Ind., questioned the assumptions underlying the reorganization effort, which also includes buyout and early retirement offers designed to induce more than 600 employees to separate voluntarily.
The senators agreed that improvements to the department’s IT, HR and procurement operations are needed but raised concerns about the potential impact of the reorganization on both foreign service and civil service workforces there. They questioned an underlying assumption that successes in conflict areas will bring a reduction in the need for diplomatic involvement.
For example, the letter from Cardin and Young said that “on the contrary, in virtually every region of the world we see the need for capable and effective American leadership and diplomacy increasing. If history teaches us anything, it should humble us in our confidence to predict what new challenges or crises will lie ahead for our nation. However, we can say with confidence that these challenges and crises will require America to employ optimized and well-resourced defense, development, and diplomacy tools.”
They added that the hiring freeze also has had a spillover effect on the number of transfers, promotions and moves that advance employees’ careers, while requiring employees to take on additional work.
“In light of all this, it is no wonder there are frequent media reports about the understandable morale crisis among the professional men and women of the State Department,” said the letter from only Democrats.