The bottleneck in Rex Tillerson’s State Department

Five months after Tillerson’s confirmation, Hook has told associates that his boss is in no rush to fill the several hundred senior-level posts that require political appointments. Trump has yet to nominate a single assistant secretary, leaving the department’s top posts for regions like Europe, Asia and the Middle East vacant. Instead, Obama administration holdovers– “acting” assistant secretaries – are filling the jobs until their replacements are nominated, a move that is eliciting criticism from department veterans.

“Under what theory of management is there not an assistant secretary for Europe or Asia?” said Dan Fried, a career Foreign Service officer who served as ambassador to Poland under President Bill Clinton, on the National Security Council under President George W. Bush, and was coordinator of sanctions policy until he retired in February. “How do you make an administration effective when your institutions are weak?”

Tillerson tapped Peterlin as his top aide after she guided him through the confirmation process, where Tillerson testified for nine hours without notes. He has even brought her along, occasionally, to his informal private dinners with the president at the White House. “Tillerson seems to have a lot of confidence in her and her judgment,” said Brian Gunderson, who served as chief of staff to Rice when she ran State.