WASHINGTON вЂ” Long called the Super Cup of diplomacy, the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly attracts diplomats from one hundred ninety three nations and dozens of goes of state. And every September, hundreds of State Department specialists in regional politics or subjects such as nuclear nonproliferation use the gathering to meet their counterparts from other nations without having to trek to the far corners of the world.
Not this year.
Under orders from Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, the departmentвЂ™s overall diplomatic delegation to the meetings that commence Tuesday is expected to include about one hundred forty officials, down from twice that number last year. Two weeks ago, the number was hovering around 80. But fierce internal complaints and questions from The Fresh York Times led officials to make dozens of last-minute additions.
Even so, the diminished delegation means that scores of meetings traditionally held by American officials will not occur.
The Africa bureau, for example, was originally told to slash its delegation of thirty top diplomats to ten and then to reduce that number to just three, according to an Aug. Twenty three roster. The South and Central Asia bureau spotted its delegation go from thirty to ten to seven, the roster showcased. A host of bureaus had their delegations eliminated entirely, including those for democracy and human rights, human trafficking, oceans and the environment, cyberissues, military issues and foreign assistance, the Aug. Twenty three roster displayed.
The switches are part of a wholesale rethinking by Mr. Tillerson of how the State Departments conducts diplomacy. That rethinking has led Mr. Tillerson, a former chief executive of Exxon Mobil, to leave many jobs unfilled and preside over a restructuring scheduled to begin next year that will shrink the departmentвЂ™s work force and recast its duties.
For the State DepartmentвЂ™s diplomats вЂ” already deeply skeptical of Mr. TillersonвЂ™s lack of foreign policy practice, his inability to make timely decisions, put a leadership team in place or express a global strategy вЂ” the cuts are further evidence of his lack of understanding of what the department does.
Former officials are more outspoken вЂ” and more willing to be quoted.
вЂњThese cuts are needlessly stupid,вЂќ said Eliot A. Cohen, a top department official during the administration of President George W. Pubic hair. вЂњSo much of what diplomacy is about is building and maintaining relationships.вЂќ
Congressional critics have sounded much the same theme, and have not reacted positively to Mr. TillersonвЂ™s plans for cuts or restructuring. Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina who leads the subcommittee that controls the State DepartmentвЂ™s budget, issued a spending plan last week that largely rejected Mr. TillersonвЂ™s proposed cuts, telling, вЂњNow is not the time for retreat.вЂќ
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