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State Dept. saw 12 percent drop in foreign affairs workers in first 8 months of 2017

State Dept. saw 12 percent drop in foreign affairs workers in first 8 months of 2017

The number of foreign affairs employees at the State Department dropped by nearly 12 percent during President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I don't trust everybody in the White House' JPMorgan CEO withdraws from Saudi conference Trump defends family separations at border MORE's first eight months in office, according to data published by the Office of Personnel Management.

Between December 2016 and September 2017, the number of State Department employees under the foreign affairs series dropped from 2,580 to 2,273. The decrease was reported by the federal news website "Government Executive."

Overall, the State Department's workforce fell by about 6.3 percent between September 2016 and September 2017, the most recent data available.

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Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonTrump administration rigging the game, and your retirement fund could be the loser Haley’s exit sends shockwaves through Washington Turkey-Russia Idlib agreement: A lesson for the US MORE has said that he wants to cut the department's nearly 76,000-person workforce by 8 percent as part of his effort to "redesign" the agency. 

To do that beyond normal attrition rates, the Trump administration has offered buyouts and incentives for early retirement.

Still, Tillerson and the Trump administration more broadly have faced staunch criticism for what some in the U.S. foreign policy community have described as a hollowing out of the State Department, especially its most senior career employees.

The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), the union representing the country's diplomats, has been particularly vocal in its criticism of Tillerson's self-imposed hiring freeze at the State Department, as well as proposed cuts to its budget.

In a column published in the December edition of the AFSA's Foreign Service Journal, the group's president, Ambassador Barbara Stephenson, decried what she described as the State Department's senior ranks "being depleted at a dizzying speed."

"The talent being shown the door now is not only our top talent, but also talent that cannot be replicated overnight," she wrote. "The rapid loss of so many senior officers has a serious, immediate and tangible effect on the capacity of the United States to shape world events."

Tillerson has pushed back on the claims that the Trump administration has sought to decimate the State Department's workforce and that the agency has suffered from low morale.

"This department is performing extraordinarily well, and I take exception to anyone who characterizes otherwise," Tillerson said in November during an appearance with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheik Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al Thani. "It’s just not true."