State spokesman: Why nominate people for jobs that may be eliminated?

State spokesman: Why nominate people for jobs that may be eliminated?
© Greg Nash

The State Department is defending its array of unfilled positions, saying it would be pointless to fill top jobs before leadership is done deciding how to restructure the agency.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to go on a listening tour of the department before deciding how to move forward, The New York Times reported Thursday.

After that process, agency spokesman R.C. Hammond said, Tillerson will start to nominate people to his leadership team.

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Hammond said it wouldn't be logical to fill positions that the department may get rid of through its restructuring. In President Trump's budget outline last month, he proposed a 31 percent cut in the state Department's budget.

“The first step was to find out where the Titanic was, and then it was to map out where everything else is,” Hammond said.

“I think we’re still in the process of mapping out the entire ocean floor so that we understand the full picture.”

Hammond said over the next few months, Tillerson will "start to ask the question, ask people to contribute their vision of what they think the big mission is. Not until that part is accomplished can we even begin to think about how to restructure anything."

Until that time, Hammond said, career foreign service officers "are operating very much at the varsity level."

"It's a distinction between politics and management and between political motivation and motivating people," Hammond said.

Hammond said Tillerson has been "helping the president develop his foreign policy" and working on "touching gloves with our allies and our partners around the world."

Tillerson will also help the administration to deal with various issues, including North Korea and the NATO alliance and focus on the department's budget.