State Department staffers -- at least, the ones who haven't quit or been fired -- are left with little to do and plenty of time to ponder their existential dread.
The neglect and purposeful destruction under President Donald Trump have left career foreign service officers feeling "adrift and listless," according to a new report by The Atlantic.
Trump's budget will reportedly slash the State Department's funding, and both the president and his chief strategist have suggested federal agencies would remain understaffed and underfunded as part of an effort to destroy them.
“They really want to blow this place up,” said one mid-level State Department officer. “I don’t think this administration thinks the State Department needs to exist. They think Jared [Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law] can do everything. It’s reminiscent of the developing countries where I’ve served. The family rules everything, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs knows nothing.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has alienated some staffers, who rely on the news to find out what's going on in their agency instead of the daily press briefings that had set the agenda for both domestic officers and the diplomatic corps.
“The guidance from Tillerson has been, the less paper the better,” one State Department staffer told The Atlantic. “Voluntary papers are not exactly encouraged, so not much information is coming up to him -- and nothing is flowing down from him to us. That, plus the absence of undersecretaries and assistant secretaries means there’s no guidance to the troops so we’re just marking time and responding.”
Staffers report working eight-hour days instead of the 15-hour days they'd grown accustomed to, and employees told the magazine their meeting-free schedules still leave time for wandering the streets of the historic Foggy Bottom neighborhood and long lunches.
One staffer reported that her inter-department email had trickled to about two dozen a day, down from more than 200.
“I used to love my job,” said one staffer, who said she stays up at night worrying about America's place in the world. “Now, it feels like coming to the hospital to take care of a terminally ill family member. You come in every day, you bring flowers, you brush their hair, paint their nails, even though you know there’s no point. But you do it out of love.”