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 TillersonSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Pompeo working to rebuild ties with US diplomats: report NYT says it was unfair on Haley curtain story 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 CardinOvernight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan group wants to lift Medicaid restriction on substance abuse treatment More Dems come out in public opposition to Kavanaugh 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."

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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 McCainTrump hits McCain on ObamaCare vote GOP, White House start playing midterm blame game Arizona race becomes Senate GOP’s ‘firewall’ 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 ShaheenSome employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report Dems seek ways to block Trump support for Saudi-led coalition in Yemen Hillicon Valley: Trump signs off on sanctions for election meddlers | Russian hacker pleads guilty over botnet | Reddit bans QAnon forum | FCC delays review of T-Mobile, Sprint merger | EU approves controversial copyright law MORE (D-N.H.) last month.