USAID temporarily suspends involvement with Tillerson's overhaul of State Dept

USAID temporarily suspends involvement with Tillerson's overhaul of State Dept
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The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is temporarily suspending its involvement with Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonPompeo planning to meet with Pat Roberts amid 2020 Senate speculation Trump concealed details of meetings with Putin from senior officials: report Forget the border wall, a coup in Guatemala is the real emergency MORE's much-touted overhaul of the State Department. 

The suspension was announced in a Friday email to USAID staff assigned to work on the redesign. The email was sent by Jim Richardson, a senior adviser assigned to head up the redesign at the independent government agency, which works under the direction of State. Bloomberg obtained a copy of that email. 

"Per direction from the Front Office, we are suspending all USAID involvement in the Joint Redesign as of Monday, January 22nd," the email reads. "You should not work on any Joint Redesign activities."

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Clayton McCleskey, a spokesman for USAID, pushed back on the notion that the agency was disengaging from the redesign process, saying that the agency is simply awaiting clarification of the roles and responsibilities of its personnel assigned to work on the overhaul.

"USAID remains committed to supporting the Secretary's vision for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of State and USAID through the joint Redesign,” McCleskey said in a statement.

“The Agency is currently clarifying the roles and responsibilities of USAID staff who will be working with State on the Redesign, and the exact outcomes and timelines for each project,” he added.

He said USAID intends to continue working with the State Department on Tillerson’s redesign.

The State Department referred questions about the matter to USAID.

The suspension comes as Tillerson's massive overhaul enters what he has called the "execution" phase, when Foggy Bottom will begin implementing changes and strategies developed in earlier phases. 

A USAID official told The Hill that the email was only sent to a handful of personnel at the agency, who are assigned to work on the redesign effort, and that it was only meant to signal a brief hold while details of the employees’ roles are hammered out, though it was not immediately clear when that might be.

Since his earliest days in office, Tillerson has pushed the State redesign as a way to reorganize and prepare the agency for the 21st century, arguing that it has long been relying on aging practices and technology.

In stops at U.S. diplomatic outposts around the world, Tillerson has sought to pitch the effort to U.S. personnel, particularly amid media reports of dwindling morale and wariness among the ranks of the State Department.

Updated: 4:10 p.m.