Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Tuesday that changes to the State Department have created what should be seen as a national security emergency.
She cited an exodus of staff and multiple ongoing vacancies in high-level positions as indicating a “disdain for diplomacy" by the Trump administration.
"If the U.S. military were facing a recruitment and retention crisis of this magnitude, few would hesitate to call it a national security emergency," Albright wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post published Wednesday night. "Well, that is what we are facing. And while it saddens me to criticize one of my successors, I have to speak out because the stakes are so high."
Multiple exiting officials expressed concern about staffing issues at the State Department to The New York Times over the weekend, and the issues have also prompted bipartisan concern in Congress.
“Change within the Foreign Service and the State Department’s civil service is not unusual. In fact, the system is designed to bring in fresh blood on a regular basis,” Albright wrote.
“There is, however, a big difference between a transfusion and an open wound. There is nothing normal about the current exodus,” she continued.
Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Supreme Court lets Texas abortion law stand Trump-era ban on travel to North Korea extended Want to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump MORE has been criticized since taking over the department for low morale among foreign service staff, as well as staffing changes critics say have caused the department to lose experienced employees.
Tillerson on Tuesday argued his efforts to change the department are meant to help career diplomats who have chosen to “spend their life” in the foreign service.
Albright charged that Tillerson is intentionally hurting America’s “diplomatic readiness,” noting that the department maintained its hiring freeze after most other cabinet officials had stopped theirs.
The reduction in staffing limits the influx of new talent, Albright said, and makes potential hires less likely to want to get into public service.
The New York Times reported Thursday that Trump is planning to oust Tillerson and replace him with CIA Director Mike PompeoMike PompeoRepublican lawmakers raise security, privacy concerns over Huawei cloud services WashPost fact-checker gives Pompeo four 'Pinocchios' for 'zombie' claim about Obama Iran deal Poll: Biden, Trump statistically tied in favorability MORE, although the move is not necessarily related to staffing issues. Trump has proposed slashing the State Department budget.
Tillerson will likely leave his position in the next several weeks, the newspaper reported, citing senior administration officials.