State Department’s Reorganization Guru Quits

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at the Wilson Center in Washington on Nov. 28. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at the Wilson Center in Washington on Nov. 28. Sait Serkan Gurbuz/AP

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s handpicked leader of the ongoing “redesign” of the State Department announced her departure on Monday, as reported by multiple news outlets and confirmed by Government Executive.

Maliz Beams, who joined State in August as counselor having previously been CEO of Voya Financial Retirement Services, “is stepping away from her role here at the Department of State and is returning to her home in Boston,” a spokesperson said. “Effective immediately, Christine Ciccone will step in to lead the redesign effort and manage its daily activities. The secretary will be making a request of Congress to expedite the approval of the administration’s nominees for both undersecretary for management and legal advisor,” the statement said.

Those Trump nominees are former Republican congressional aide Eric Ueland and former George W. Bush administration attorney Jennifer Newstead, respectively.

Beams’ State Department bio says she has “led highly successful organizational transformations in a variety of financial services industry sectors. She was named one of the nation’s Most Powerful Women in Finance—including six years in the top 10—by American Banker.”

The new head of the controversial reorganization, Ciccone, is currently deputy chief of staff to Tillerson. She is a longtime Senate staff member who served in President George W. Bush’s White House and on the unsuccessful 2016 presidential campaign of Jeb Bush.

Beams’ departure comes as two former highly-regarded diplomats warn that State is potentially facing its “greatest crisis” due to mismanagement and neglect. Writing in today’s New York Times, former ambassadors Nicholas Burns and Ryan Crocker argue, “President Trump’s draconian budget cuts for the State Department and his dismissive attitude toward our diplomats and diplomacy itself threaten to dismantle a great foreign service just when we need it most.”

There’s also growing concern about State’s future among Senate lawmakers. “I don’t think they’re anywhere close to having a plan to present relative to the reforms they want to make there,” said Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., at a Nov. 14 hearing.

The department has long defended the still unfolding redesign plan as a useful efficiency effort using private-sector techniques in line with the Trump administration’s demands that most departments shrink their budget and workforces.

But retired diplomats remain skeptical. “Tillerson is no fool,” tweeted Michael McFaul, former ambassador to Russia, after Monday’s news broke. “Does he really want to be remembered as the worst Secretary of State in U.S. history? Not too late to stop this reorg nonsense, hire some people, and get on with the job of foreign policymaking and diplomacy.”

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