Foreign Policy

Cleaning House? 4 Senior State Department Officials Leave

Four career Foreign Service members reportedly left their high-level management offices this week.

Cleaning House? 4 Senior State Department Officials Leave
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The State Department is now short not only a secretary of state, but also four high-level management officials. 

News broke Thursday afternoon that Undersecretary for Management Patrick F. Kennedy and three other career Foreign Service members in leadership positions under him had resigned Wednesday.

The three other officials are Assistant Secretary of State for Administration Joyce A. Barr, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Michele T. Bond and Director of the Office of Foreign Missions Gentry O. Smith

But there were questions as to whether the four really resigned or were fired. Here's what we know.

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The officials all held positions appointed by the president. That means if they stayed on under President Trump, they'd have to be nominated by him and confirmed by the Senate. 

It's pretty standard for people in those appointed positions to offer their resignation to the new president, according to CNN.

However, it's not uncommon for administrations to keep the previous appointees in their positions — or at least hold them over for the first few months into the new administration.

Several outlets have referred to the departure as a housecleaning of sorts.

According to The Washington Post, Kennedy "was taking on more responsibility inside the department" in recent days and was hoping stay in the position. Kennedy served as undersecretary for management under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

That might be due to what Trump's secretary of state pick, Rex Tillerson, said during his confirmation hearing Jan. 11.

"It's just in my nature to look for inefficiencies and to streamline. And that will start, if confirmed, it will start in the State Department itself," Tillerson said.

Tillerson continued, "I've looked at organization charts from a few years ago to organization charts today, and there I've noticed there are a few more boxes. Now, some of those may be for very good and valid reasons, but also it appears to me that new issues which have been added may rightfully need to be placed back into the mission and integrated into the mission itself because it appears to me that we've got some duplication."

Tillerson reportedly visited the State Department on Wednesday — the same day the four officials left their posts.

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On Thursday, the department's acting spokesperson reiterated the positions are "political appointments" and that they aren't "career appointments but of limited term." 

Questions also arose Thursday as to whether U.S. Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan had resigned or was forced out. 

His departure came one day after Trump signed an executive order to begin the process of building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.