President Trump is attempting to overhaul the State Department and leave his “America First” stamp on the cumbersome bureaucracy — a move that is reportedly making former officials very nervous.
The Hill, citing former officials from prior administrations, reports that while past Republican presidents have sought to trim the unwieldy department, Trump’s remake is unprecedented.
Stewart Patrick, who served on the policy planning staff at the State Department under the George W. Bush administration, told the Hill:
My suspicion is that within the White House, particularly amongst the nationalist faction … that this seems to actually be a concerted effort to diminish the role of the State Department in U.S. foreign policy and hamper its abilities to pursue policies that would be considered overly globalist.
The administration told the outlet that it is taking a tough line on North Korea, and has pushed NATO members to live up to their promised defense contributions. The administration also launched airstrikes in Syria after a chemical weapons attack by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.
Trump has also secured a number of significant foreign policy victories, including a ceasefire in southern Syria negotiated with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Hamburg at the G20 summit last week. He also pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate change agreement, an enormous victory for nationalists and a significant blow for more globalist-minded officials.
But many on Trump’s nationalist flank have feared the globalist-minded bureaucrats and diplomats will stymie the President’s agenda, and so they will be hoping for significant changes. There is also concern that a number of top State Department posts are yet to be filled, preventing the department from efficiently promoting Trump’s agenda.
Trump’s budget proposal would gut the State Department budget by as much as 30 percent. One of the areas hardest hit could be foreign aid, which has long been decried as a source of wasteful spending by nationalists — money that could be spent on rebuilding infrastructure at home rather than in faraway countries.
The Hill reports that the 30 percent number, which could be cut as much as half by budget negotiations in the House, has even former Republican administration officials spooked.
“We have never before seen a third of their budget potentially being eliminated,” Anita McBride, who worked in the Bush and Reagan administrations, told the outlet. “If we pull back too much and it affects the good work on the ground, those countries will see it as a reason to not invest as much as they should.”
The Hill also reports that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has lost influence to other administration officials, such as Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.
However, Tillerson embarked on a tour of the Persian Gulf region this week in an attempt to end the blockade of Qatar by Saudi Arabia and its allies in the region. He signed an anti-terror funding pact with Qatar earlier this week, the latest in a number of high-profile trips by the former Exxon CEO.
But despite the business-as-usual appearance of much of the State Department, those officials speaking to The Hill paint a picture of great concern to globalists — yet likely to be met with glee by those keen on an “America First” foreign policy.
“It is top-to-bottom a dismissing of the State Department,” Gordon Adams, a senior Clinton White House official, told The Hill. “This is about the most systematic dismantling of a federal department that I’ve witnessed.”