How Rex Tillerson wrecked the State Department

In only ten months, Tillerson, the former C.E.O. of ExxonMobil, has presided over the near-dismantling of America’s diplomatic corps, chasing out hundreds of State Department employees and scaling back the country’s engagement with the world. Most alarming has been the departure of dozens of the foreign service’s most senior officials—men and women who had spent their careers living and working abroad, who speak several languages, and who are experts in their fields. As I detailed in my recent Profile of Tillerson, he came into the job proposing to cut the State Department’s budget by a third, with plans to eliminate more than a thousand jobs and dramatically scale back the already measly sums America spends on refugees, democracy promotion, women’s rights, and the prevention of H.I.V. At the same time, the Trump Administration was proposing to dramatically increase spending on defense—by fifty-eight billion dollars, an amount that is larger than the State Department’s entire budget.

Tillerson’s proposed cuts were so galling that even some Republicans—Senators John McCain and Bob Corker, for instance—publicly protested. At a Senate hearing earlier this year, Corker told Tillerson that reading his proposed budget “was a total waste of time.” (In fact, the current Congress, so far, has been not been able to pass Trump’s budget.) In sum, Tillerson’s vision was of a vastly diminished role for America in the world, and a more militarized one.