According to two senior officials on Thursday, the Trump administration told four top State Department management officials that their services were no longer needed as part of an effort to “clean house” at the White House.
Sources reported that Patrick Kennedy, who served for nine years as the undersecretary for management, Assistant Secretaries for Administration and Consular Affairs Joyce Anne Barr and Michele Bond, and Ambassador Gentry Smith, director of the Office for Foreign Missions, were sent letters by the White House that their service was no longer required. All four career officers, who were serving in positions appointed by the President, submitted letters of resignation per tradition at the beginning of a new administration.
The letters from the White House said that their resignations were accepted and they were thanked for their service. However, the White House usually asks career officials in such positions to remain for a few months until their successors are confirmed.
“Any implication that that these four people quit is wrong,” one senior State Department official said. “These people are loyal to the secretary, the President and to the State Department. There is just not any attempt here to dis the President. People are not quitting and running away in disgust. This is the White House cleaning house.”
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“These positions are political appointments, and require the President to nominate and the Senate to confirm them in these roles. They are not career appointments but of limited term,” said the State Department’s acting spokesman, Mark Toner.
He continued, “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.”
There is now a huge management hole at the State Department, with a combined 150 years of institutional experience among all of the named officials. Victoria Nuland, the State Department’s assistant secretary for Europe, left on her own.
“The department will not collapse,” said one official. “Everyone has good deputies. It’s a huge institutional loss, but the department has excellent subordinates and the career people will step up. They will take up the responsibility.”
In her parting letter, Bond told her colleagues, “It has been an honor to serve with you as the Assistant Secretary for the past 17 months, and to have represented the United States as a Foreign Service officer for 40 years. What a privilege it has been.”