News & Politics

'Mass Exodus': Entire Senior State Department Management Team 'Resigns'

Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy testifies on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)

UPDATE: CNN is also reporting that Kennedy et. al. were asked to leave: “Two senior administration officials said Thursday that the Trump administration told four top State Department management officials that their services were no longer needed as part of an effort to ‘clean house’ at Foggy Bottom. Patrick Kennedy, who served for nine years as the undersecretary for management, Assistant Secretaries for Administration and Consular Affairs Michele Bond and Joyce Anne Barr, and Ambassador Gentry Smith, director of the Office for Foreign Missions, were sent letters by the White House that their service was no longer required, the sources told CNN.”

____________

That gurgling sound you hear emanating out of Washington today is the sound of the swamp draining at the State Department, where all senior-level management officials have just resigned.

As part of what Josh Rogin of the Washington Post calls “an ongoing mass exodus” of senior foreign service officers, the State Department’s long-serving undersecretary for management, Patrick Kennedy, and three of his top officials resigned “unexpectedly” on Wednesday.

This after Rogin reported yesterday that Kennedy “was actively involved in the transition” and was angling to keep his job under Rex Tillerson, according to his sources.

Kennedy and his staff abruptly left in what a former State Department official called “the single biggest simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can remember, and that’s incredibly difficult to replicate.”

Assistant Secretary of State for Administration Joyce Anne Barr, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Michele Bond and Ambassador Gentry O. Smith, director of the Office of Foreign Missions, followed him out the door. All are career foreign service officers who have served under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Kennedy will retire from the foreign service at the end of the month, officials said. The other officials could be given assignments elsewhere in the foreign service.

In addition, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Gregory Starr retired Jan. 20, and the director of the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations, Lydia Muniz, departed the same day. That amounts to a near-complete housecleaning of all the senior officials that deal with managing the State Department, its overseas posts and its people.

Rogin says that “whether Kennedy left on his own volition or was pushed out by the incoming Trump team is a matter of dispute inside the department.”

Just days before he resigned, Kennedy was taking on more responsibility inside the department and working closely with the transition. His departure was a surprise to other State Department officials who were working with him.

On the John Batchelor Show Wednesday night, Rogin was a bit more candid, saying Kennedy was planning to stay and only found out Wednesday morning that Team Trump was planning on getting rid of him.

“Patrick Kennedy has been undersecretary for management for nine years and that’s a hugely influential and powerful position,” Rogin told Batchelor.

“Over those nine years, he’s amassed more power and authority and control over what goes on in the building than any of his predecessors. And what happened was, during the transition, he wanted to put himself in a position to stay on,” Rogin continued, saying that Kennedy was hoping to be “in the catbird seat when all the dust settles.”

“Unfortunately for him — he didn’t know this until this morning — the Trump team was planning on getting rid of him the entire time,” Rogin said.

A senior State Department official, however, told Rogin that all the officials “had previously submitted their letters of resignation, as was required for all positions that are appointed by the president and that require confirmation by the Senate, known as PAS positions.”

“No officer accepts a PAS position with the expectation that it is unlimited. And all officers understand that the President may choose to replace them at any time,” this official said. “These officers have served admirably and well. Their departure offers a moment to consider their accomplishments and thank them for their service. These are the patterns and rhythms of the career service.”

Patrick Kennedy has been at the center of many of the Obama era’s biggest scandals at the State Department, including Benghazi, the Iran deception,  whistleblower retaliation, and EmailGate.

Whether he left on his own accord or was forced out, as Rogin told Bachelor, “eventually, Pat Kennedy’s chickens came home to roost.”