Out of the loop: Rex Tillerson finds State Department sidelined by White House

The Guardian reports: Given the time vetting and congressional confirmation takes, Tillerson is now facing many months of working with a severely depleted team of senior staff.

“What concerns me is that in the absence of any confirmed officials other than the secretary, they will not have the weight to make those educated voices heard as the White House makes policy,” said Thomas Countryman, former assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation and one of the senior staff who was suddenly sacked before Tillerson’s arrival.

“My nagging suspicion is that the White House is very happy to have a vacuum in the under-secretary and assistant secretary levels, not only at state but across government agencies, because it relieves them of even feeling an obligation to consult with experts before they take a new direction.”

In normal times, the state department is a constant part of an inter-agency policymaking process coordinated by the national security council. But the NSC is in crisis and not just because its leader, Michael Flynn, was forced to resign after details of his discussions with the Russian ambassador were revealed.

The NSC itself is being bypassed on key decisions by a small group of highly ideological advisers around Trump led by his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, a former Breitbart News executive with ties to the far right. Bannon has presented his role as one of a deliberate disruptor of the Washington establishment and its normal ways of functioning. [Continue reading…]

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