Secretary State Rex Tillerson: Take Your Time to Develop a New, Improved Foreign Policy and Reduce the Staff in State Department!
The media should pipe down regarding Tillerson and stop questioning the skills of the appropriately reticent new Sec. State. Mainstream Media complains that he is too quiet and aloof. I say, so what!?!
Over the past fifty years, new administrations have taken their respective time to assess what they have to do and who has to do it. It takes careful planning to properly staff the State Dept.
The past Sec States, with whom I had worked, assessed their personal and professional needs regarding the people and positions required in their ‘new’ state department. Each Sec State brought a particular style of management and policy formulations. No two Sec States were alike which for me was both exciting and invigorating.
Dr. Henry Kissinger brought his extremely talented team from the NSC to the State Dept. He positioned his loyal friend and career FSO, Lawrence Eagleburger, as the Under Secretary of Management [my boss]. He placed the indomitable [now infamous] Pat Kennedy in charge of administrative functions.
Next, Kissinger assigned the intelligent/humorous China expert, Winston Lloyd, as Director of Policy Planning. Helmut Sonnenfeldt [another German Jewish exile] was placed in the important position of Counselor. This position was the critical resource for a reality check. Harold Saunders became Director of Intelligence and Research [INR]. Henry’s merciless, brutal working schedule allowed him to fly over 565,000 miles and visit over 213 foreign countries. His greatest contribution was negotiating the disengagement between Syria and Israel.
As time went by, Henry depended more on the Foreign Service Officers [FSOs] as well as the civil servants in the Dept. of State. Morale was extremely high in the State Dept. because everyone realized that Henry had placed that institution in the center of the Nixon/Ford power structure.
Subsequently, the Carter Administration placed several of the most decent, elegant individuals I have ever had the pleasure to work with in senior positions at State.
Sec State Cyrus Vance and Deputy Sec State Warren Christopher were quiet, effective high-powered lawyers who went out of their way to utilize some of the more talented FSOs. Despite the mainstream media’s serious case of amnesia regarding the Carter administration, Vance and his cadre of FSO’s were the backbone of the Camp David Peace Accords [for which POTUS Carter deserves the most credit]. Those unusual FSOs included the following names:
- Charles “Chas” Freeman [Chinese/Arab expert]
- Hermann Eilts [Ambassador to Egypt]
- Frank G. Wisner [later ambassador to Egypt, Zambia, Philippines, and India]
- Benjamin Reed [management]
- David Newsom [Ambassador to Libya, Indonesia, and Philippines]
- Ambassador Nicholas Platt [fluent in French, Chinese, German, Japanese, father of actor Oliver Platt].
Sec. State George P. Shultz was a graduate of MIT [PhD]. He was an impressive economist and businessman [CEO Bechtel] before being appointed to State. Shultz already had extensive USG experience as Director of the Office of Management and Budget as well as Secretary of Labor. In many ways, Shultz was way ahead of the intellectual curve, focusing on a then new concept called: the internet and global interdependence. Shultz relied heavily on the FSOs and the State Dept. These professionals reciprocated by electing him one of the most popular Sec State since Dean Acheson.
Its worth mentioning that I had the pleasure of meeting the brightest, most unique FSO’s who guarded the access to the Sec State. His name was Charles Hill [Lecturer at Yale University]. I remember that he would sit at his table translating Ancient Greek manuscripts while explaining the merits of motorcycle riding, never bothering to look up at me. His riding helmet rested alongside the Greek tomes on his desk. He was strange but brilliant!!
When G.H. Bush Sr. became POTUS, he appointed James A. Baker III as Sec State. Baker accomplished amazing feats as White House Chief of Staff under POTUS Ronald Reagan. He was a soft-spoken, no-nonsense Texan who understood that being laconic was an effective tool to motivate individuals. His right hand man was Robert Zoellick, a banker/intellectual. Baker did not use the FSOs very much. However, he allowed Dr. Richard Solomon [MIT] and me to initiate and implement the 1991 Paris Peace Accords on Cambodia. This treaty marked the end of the end of the Cambodian-Vietnamese war. It was the finest piece of work which Baker/Bush Sr. accomplished during their tenure. Yet, they never wanted to take credit for it.
The most important advice I can offer Rex Tillerson is to cement his personal relationship with Donald Trump. Next, pick out one or two major objectives which he would accomplish within the next four years. Hopefully, Tillerson will spend several weeks walking around the offices of the State Dept. and select those individuals who can best serve him and this country.
Currently, there are 20,000 employees at State. there are at least a handful of FSOs who would be able to serve him effectively. It takes time and expert management effort. Considering that Tillerson has already run a $500B company [Exxon/Mobil], I doubt he will have problems finding the necessary talent he needs.
Lawrence Eagleburger [Ambassador, Career FSO] said the following:
“Now there is a cultural change under way in the Foreign Service.”
I follow that quote with this one from Evan G. Galbraith [CIA, Ambassador to France]:
“There’s something about the Foreign Service that takes the guts out of people”.
Good Luck, Mr. Secretary of State !