Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

State Department dysfunction reaches new highs

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Jennifer Rubin writes in the Washington Post:

We’ve written recently about widespread concerns in the foreign policy community — both within and outside the State Department — over the management, direction and role of the State Department under former oil company chief executive Rex Tillerson. The combination of unfilled political slots, insular leadership, failure to defend the department’s budget, and a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of democracy and values in our foreign relations have made this the worst-run and least-effective State Department in recent memory — yes, worse than the Obama years, my conservative friends.

Now the amateurism and arrogance has reached constitutional dimensions. On the day President Trump grudgingly and without public ceremony signs Russia sanctions legislation, State has managed to undermine the impression we are serious about curbing Russian behavior.

Politico reports:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is resisting the pleas of State Department officials to spend nearly $80 million allocated by Congress for fighting terrorist propaganda and Russian disinformation.

It is highly unusual for a Cabinet secretary to turn down money for his department. But more than five months into his tenure, Tillerson has not issued a simple request for the money earmarked for the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, $60 million of which is now parked at the Pentagon. Another $19.8 million sits untouched at the State Department as Tillerson’s aides reject calls from career diplomats and members of Congress to put the money to work against America’s adversaries.

This is money already appropriated by Congress that Tillerson is legally obligated to spend. The notion that money to combat Russian espionage and subversion of Western democracies should not be spent merely underscores the sickening suspicion that Trump puts Russian interests above America’s. (A former State Department official is quoted in the Politico article saying, “The Global Engagement Center is one of the few, if only, areas in the U.S. government that could be tasked with countering and rebutting disinformation against America.”)

Moreover, there is a display of executive-suite bickering in which R.C. Hammond, a top communications person at State and former Newt Gingrich spokesman with no particular foreign policy expertise and zero State Department experience, typifies the secretary’s stubborn refusal to enlist people in the building who know what they are doing:

Hammond threw up objections to the request on multiple fronts, the former senior State official said. Hammond indicated to officials involved with the Global Engagement Center that with the department facing potential budget and staffing cuts, it didn’t make sense to take an infusion of new funds, the former senior State official said. Hammond also questioned why the U.S. doesn’t ask other governments, particularly in Muslim countries, to play a larger role in the information battle.

Hammond further expressed hesitation about needling the Russians at a time when Tillerson was trying to find common ground with the Kremlin on sensitive matters such as the war in Syria.

The reaction to this may dwarf blowback to any other single episode because Tillerson and his gang are defying Congress, Republicans in particular who pushed for the legislation. Moreover, as one former State Department hand put it to me, “This is so obviously, ridiculously stupid in so many ways — it’s like being asked to explain why it might not be such a good idea to chop off one’s own fingers one by one.”) One State Department official not authorized to speak on the record suggested to me that Hammond would not be likely to play an active policy role.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who co-authored the legislation, are appropriately irate. In a written statement, they declared: . . .

Continue reading.

What the hell is going on? Is no one in charge?

Written by LeisureGuy

2 August 2017 at 8:56 pm

Posted in GOP

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