Tillerson stresses ‘difference between policy and values’ for State Dept.

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sought to reconcile on Wednesday the Trump administration’s “America first” approach to foreign policy with his agency’s missions of global outreach.

“I think I approach it really that it’s America first for national security and economic prosperity, and that doesn’t mean it comes at the expense of others,” Tillerson told State Department employees in a rare and sweeping address, offering a broad oversight of the national security concerns facing the U.S.

“America first” policies would help bring the country’s trade agreements and military alliances “back into balance,” Tillerson said.

But he acknowledged that the country’s national security and economic interests may, at times, outweigh the desire to enforce certain values, like human dignity and “the way people are treated,” saying the U.S. will no longer demand other nations conduct themselves according to American values.


“I think it’s really important that all of us understand the difference between policy and values, and in some circumstances, we should and do condition our policy engagements on people adopting certain actions as to how they treat people,” he said. “We should demand that. But that doesn’t mean that’s the case in every situation.”

Noticeably absent from Tillerson’s remarks was any mention of Trump’s proposal to slash the State Department’s budget — or the massive personnel cuts that Tillerson is said to be considering. 

In his first budget proposal released in March, Trump touted deep cuts to most government agencies, with the State Department and Environmental Protection Agency taking particularly big hits. Under that plan, State would undergo a 28 percent reduction in funding, a cut that has been widely opposed by both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill. 

The department could also face a 3 percent reduction in its workforce if Tillerson follows through with a reported plan to cut 2,700 of his agency’s roughly 75,000 employees. 

Tags Donald Trump Rex Tillerson State Department

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