Top officials exit State Department as Tillerson prepares to take over

With former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson on the cusp becoming America’s next top diplomat, four high-ranking officials at the State Department have tendered their resignations in what appears to be an exodus signaling a dramatic shift in U.S. foreign policy.

Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy, Assistant Secretary of State for Administration Joyce Barr, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Michele Bond, and Director of the Office of Foreign Missions Gentry Smith all submitted resignations on Wednesday.

Kennedy and Smith are both career foreign service officers; Barr and Bond previously served in ambassador posts during the Obama administration.

Describing the departures as “standard practice,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said:

“Of the officers whose resignations were accepted, some will continue in the Foreign Service in other positions and others will retire by choice or because they have exceeded the time limits of their grade in service.”

Although Mr. Toner’s remarks were underpinned by a statement released by American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), which represents retired diplomats and foreign service employees, the AFSA did note the mass of departures were significant and called on the posts to be immediately filled by Trump appointees.

“While this appears to be a large turnover in a short period of time, a change of administration always brings personnel changes, and there is nothing unusual about rotations or retirements in the Foreign Service,” read an AFSA statement.

Although there is no indication Trump’s specific policies led to Wednesday’s resignations, the retirements or resignations of Kennedy, Barr, Bond and Smith follow the resignations or imminent departures of Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary for diplomatic security Gregory Starr, and Director of the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations Lydia Muniz, all of whom declined to remain at the State Department.

 

[Reuters] [BBC] [Photo courtesy Getty Images via ABC News]