Pompeo lifts hiring freeze at State Department

Pompeo lifts hiring freeze at State Department
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Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump privately frustrated over lack of progress with North Korea: report Russian diplomat calls on Pompeo to free accused Russian agent Pelosi: 'Thug' Putin not welcome in Congress MORE is lifting the hiring freeze on the Foreign and Civil services imposed by his predecessor, Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonThe Memo: Putin furor sparks new questions on Kelly’s future US steps up its game in Africa, a continent open for business Matt Drudge shares mock ‘Survivor’ cover suggesting more White House officials will leave this summer MORE. In a memo, Pompeo announced he was authorizing the State Department to "hire to current funding levels."

"Earlier this month I directed that our employed family members would be treated fairly in seeking to use their skills to deliver our mission," Pompeo said in a memo obtained by The Hill.

"Today I am lifting the Department's hiring freeze on Foreign Service and Civil Service and authorizing the Department of State to hire to current funding level."

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The move came just more than two weeks after Pompeo lifted a hiring freeze on family members of State Department personnel posted overseas — another policy put in place by Tillerson that had deeply frustrated U.S. diplomats.

A State Department official said the decision would give domestic bureaus and missions overseas the flexibility to fill positions that are essential to promoting the Department's mission and the United States' foreign policy goals.

"The Department's workforce is our most valuable asset," Pompeo said. "We need our men and women on the ground, executing American diplomacy with great vigor and energy, and representing our great nation. By resuming hiring of the most gifted and qualified individuals, we will ensure that we have the right people with the right skills working to advance our U.S. national interests and executing the Department's mission in an increasingly complicated and challenging world.”

A State Department spokesperson confirmed the move on Tuesday. 

"The Secretary stated in his message to employees that the lifting will give our domestic bureaus and missions overseas the flexibility to fill positions that are essential to promoting the Department’s mission and the United States’ foreign policy goals worldwide on behalf of the American people," the spokesperson said.

Tillerson put in place a partial hiring freeze shortly after arriving in Foggy Bottom last year, part of a "redesign" of the State Department that he said would modernize and streamline the agency.

That hiring freeze drove down morale among the department's career officials, many of whom felt sidelined by Tillerson and the White House.

Pompeo's decision to lift the hiring freeze on family members signaled an effort to mitigate some of that frustration. Many spouses of diplomats accompany them on overseas postings and often have difficulty finding work abroad, making employment through the State Department desirable to many.

Pompeo, the former CIA director who was confirmed as the nation's top diplomat last month, vowed to build morale at the State Department upon taking office. In an address to department employees earlier this month, the new secretary talked about getting the agency's "swagger back."

During his confirmation hearing last month, Pompeo acknowledged to lawmakers that vacancies within the State Department had contributed to its employees' low morale, and vowed to help fill open positions.

The State Department has seen an unusually high number of departures of career officials since Trump took office. In the first nine months of 2017, 435 employees at State either quit or retired, according to a tally by the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service and The Washington Post.

Morgan Chalfant contributed.