Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright believes the US is facing a “national security emergency” because of the vacancies and staffing issues at the State Department.
“If the US 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 published in The Washington Post on Wednesday night. “Well, that is what we are facing (in the State Department). And while it saddens me to criticize one of my successors, I have to speak out because the stakes are so high.”
She said turnover at the State Department is normal, but once people leave, the positions need to be filled, and the Trump administration has left many positions vacant.
“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,” she wrote. “There is, however, a big difference between a transfusion and an open wound. There is nothing normal about the current exodus.”
Albright, a strong critic of President Donald Trump and his administration, wrote that diplomacy is the “first line of defense.”
“When we must use force, as in the fight against the Islamic State, our diplomats ensure that we can do so effectively and with the cooperation of other countries,” Albright, who served as secretary of state from 1997 to 2001 under then-President Bill Clinton, wrote in the op-ed.
She blamed Trump for not prioritizing the hiring of officials for the agency, citing an interview the President gave Fox News earlier this month when he said “I’m the only one that matters” when it came to diplomacy and filling positions at the State Department.
She also argued that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — “for reasons that only make sense to him” — has delayed filling important diplomatic posts in Washington and abroad.
Earlier this month, Senators John McCain, the Arizona Republican who chairs the Armed Services committee, and Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat, said low morale and a perceived flood of career diplomats leaving Foggy Bottom “paint a disturbing picture.”
In a letter to Tillerson, the senators expressed “deep reservations” about his staffing decisions, which, they said, “threaten to undermine the long-term health and effectiveness of American diplomacy.”
Asked about the letter, as well as recent reports about high-level resignations, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert conceded that some staff are feeling frustrated.
“I know that times may seem tough right now,” she told reporters at the agency’s regular news briefing last week. “I know that the headlines coming out of the State Department do not look good, do not look promising. We have a lot of work to do here at the State Department.”