Dems demand Tillerson end State hiring freeze, consult with Congress

Dems demand Tillerson end State hiring freeze, consult with Congress
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The 10 Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent a lengthy letter Wednesday to Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonDecline in US travel spurs business push for visitors Overnight Defense: GOP chair blames Dems for defense budget holdup | FDA, Pentagon to speed approval of battlefield drugs | Mattis calls North Korea situation 'sobering' Mattis: North Korea situation 'sobering' MORE demanding that he end a hiring freeze at the State Department and explain his plan to restructure the agency to Congress.

In a lengthy letter to Tillerson, the group of senators, led by ranking member Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinCongress should take the lead on reworking a successful Iran deal 'Fix' the Iran deal, but don't move the goalposts North Korea tensions ease ahead of Winter Olympics MORE (Md.) blasted Tillerson for making the changes to the department "largely behind closed doors."

"The department’s redesign, spending, and personnel moves are taking place largely behind closed doors and without the level of transparency we would expect," the letter reads. "Moreover, proposals that have come to light lead us to question whether the intended result is in fact a more efficient department that continues to serve the interests of the American people and promote our foreign policy objectives abroad."


The State Department has seen drastic departure numbers since Tillerson took office under President Trump earlier this year, and has left multiple key positions unfilled.

Career diplomats have left State in droves, and those who remain have reported terrible morale and the lack of a clear mission.

On Wednesday, senators pressed Tillerson over the vacancies and reports of senior staff being relegated to clerical duties due to staff shortages.

"It is unclear whether these posts are unfilled by design or dysfunction; either way it is deeply troubling," the senators write. "We cannot confirm nominees who have not been nominated."

The hiring freeze, which Tillerson decided to institute in April, should be ended, according to the senators, "given the uncertain timeline of the reorganization and the ongoing detrimental effects the freeze is having" on agency morale.

"We think that attrition as a strategy for managing a workforce is problematic because it does not allow management to control for the skills, experience, and workforces that it actually needs. When dealing with national security, the potential costs of such a mismatch can be fatal," the senators said.

The letter concludes by warning Tillerson that the lawmakers are exploring "legislative options to address these concerns."

The Democrats' letter Wednesday echoes complaints from Republican Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMcCain rips Trump for attacks on press NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Meghan McCain says her father regrets opposition to MLK Day MORE (Ariz.) who called on Tillerson to end the hiring freeze last month.

"We know from experience that shutting off the intake of entry-level Foreign Service officers will inevitably result in shortages of appropriately experienced personnel at specific grades in future years," McCain wrote alongside Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenSupreme Court to hear online sales tax case State official indicates US military role in Syria post-ISIS centered on Iran Overnight Health Care: Dems press HHS pick on drug prices | Alexander, Trump discuss ObamaCare fix | Senate Dems seek B to fight opioids | Maryland eyes ObamaCare mandate replacement MORE (D-N.H.) last month.