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Secretary Pompeo’s Leadership Has Improved the State Department and Employee Morale

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

State Department news ripped from the headlines: “morale is lower than whale (obscenity) around this building.”

Must be from this week, right? No, that quote was from a veteran Middle East expert at the State Department in an international publication back in 1996.

The media narrative that the State Department has low morale is not a new one. Back in 1979 an Associated Press story stated that “State Department and its embassies abroad is in ‘disarray’ because of low pay and low morale.” Such conjecture about Foggy Bottom has filled media publications since the time of Thomas Jefferson.

As likely then as now, that selective grumbling does not tell the whole story about what is happening at the State Department. Despite what the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry would have you believe, Secretary Mike Pompeo has provided the type of strong leadership that was desperately needed at the State Department to restore its role in the foreign policy making process of the United States.

Just ask some of the witnesses in the impeachment inquiry themselves.

In Michael McKinley’s official testimony, he stated: “Over the subsequent months, there were positive changes. Personnel cuts to the Department workforce ended, and the hiring freeze was lifted, to include for family members overseas.”  He went on to state that “…under Pompeo, while awaiting Senate confirmations of assistant secretaries that were being nominated, full authority was being given to front offices of bureaus to go ahead and do the business of the diplomacy in the regions and issues they were responsible for. So, I wasn't out there, you know, checking on bureaus, seeing what they were doing. There was a natural empowerment taking place over months.”

Accomplished former United States Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testified that she understood Pompeo defended her. As for the policy on the Ukraine issue at question, she stated: “And I actually felt that in the three years that I was there, partly because of my efforts, but also the interagency team, and President Trump’s decision to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine, that our policy actually got stronger over the last three years.” 

Ambassador Bill Taylor, selected by Secretary Pompeo to serve in Ukraine, wrote in an OpEd in a Ukrainian newspaper: “The United States continues to provide weapons, training, and equipment to Ukraine’s armed forces. And we continue to impose sanctions on Russia for its illegal actions in Ukraine. As Secretary Pompeo has said, the United States will maintain sanctions against Russia until the Russian government returns control of Crimea to Ukraine and leaves Donbas.”

While the Trump administration has given Ukraine lethal weapons to defend themselves, the Obama administration was sending them blankets. In fact, during remarks to a joint session of Congress, then-President Petro Poroshenko called out the Obama administration, saying “one cannot win the war with blankets.”

And as for the broader performance of the State Department under Secretary Pompeo’s leadership: key leadership positions have been filled in spite of Senate Democrats stalling the confirmation process; the work of the Department and its’ professionals is being represented at the highest levels of the foreign policy making process; career foreign service officers have been empowered including with the selection of Under Secretary for Political Affairs David Hale; and the Secretary and Mrs. Pompeo have been staunch advocates for quality of life improvements for all State Department employees, as they were previously at the Central Intelligence Agency.

The United States Department of State is filled with smart, strong, opinionated professionals willing to sacrifice their own personal gain for the good of the nation. Secretary Pompeo has empowered them to do their jobs effectively on behalf of the country they love – as it should be.

The selective grumbling of a few should not diminish the successes of the Department, including strengthening the U.S. policy in Ukraine.

Andy Keiser is a former Senior Adviser to the House Intelligence Committee and Deputy National Security Senior Advisor to the Trump transition team. He is currently a Principal at Navigators Global and a Senior Advisor to the Center of Study of the Presidency and Congress. Follow him on Twitter @AndyKeiser


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