State of Diplomacy

A Survey of 50 former Ambassadors & Senior National Security Officials

Where will the next major global crisis break out?
Do you approve of the job Mike Pompeo is doing as Secretary of State?
Are staffing shortages having an impact on the national security of the United States?
Have Democratic candidates spent enough time discussing their national security plans?
How would you characterize the security situation at embassies & consulates in the last two years?

Coverage of the

Situation Report

Which Country has Benefited Most From the Trump Administration?
Has America Lost Significant Influence Under President Trump?
Will British Diplomacy be Stronger Weaker After Brexit?
Have America's adversaries grown stronger & more influential under President Trump?

By Former Ambassadors & Senior National Security Officials

- Lots. Leadership turmoil, poor morale, inattention to many issues.

- Serious morale issues are continuing under Pompeo. No one believes he really cares about the institution or its people

- Morale; lack of strategies direction

- Morale continues to worsen as this administration continues and replacing career civil servants and career foreign service officers is difficult in an environment without empowered ad appropriately financed political leadership

- Morale at catastrophic lows. Loss of experienced officials. No coherent strategy. No influence in the interagency.


- The problem with staffing at State is not the number of unfilled jobs but the overwhelming number of non-career appointees. Also the problem of action officials not Senate confirmed.


- Low morale, embarrassment over the policies (and tweets) they cannot explain, loss of professionalism, retaliation for prior loyal service


- Senior appointments to non-career officials and vacancies leaving many "acting" officials

- The recent OIG report on IO [International Organization Bureau] was telling and in fact, that type of behavior is far more pervasive. More and more good officers being forced out or leaving.


- State Department has lost some of its top talent. The biggest gap is in the mid-level, which is the hardest to replace. Those who had 15 to 20 years of diplomatic experience and could pursue promising prospects have for the most part already gotten out or are actively looking to leave. After four or eight years, you will need to find a way to recover and rehabilitate these depleted ranks.

- Being used by Trump and Giuliani for political / opposition research purposes. Having Pompeo and his wife injecting evangelical political objectives into the Dept and its policy process, as well as doing internal religious recruiting as they did at the prior agency.


- The reign of horrible unseemly politically-based internal attack by Trump-appointed devotees reportedly undermines the function of the Department. Flagrant Hatch act violations undermine our standards and the perception of rule of law.


- The creation of short- and long-term personnel issues with disruption of future foreign service officer recruitment, along with mass retirements.

- President makes foreign policy decisions without full staffing of those decisions by the State Department & Pentagon. This means the President doesn’t have the benefit of expert advice & a full list of options & likely consequences, not to mention adequate diplomacy with allies.


- Morale is low. Experienced diplomats have departed in droves. Politics and religious ideology, instead of US national interests, are driving Pompeo's approach to foreign policy.

-Problem is not shortage of people but shortage of career people in senior posts plus problem of President paying any attention.

-Poor attention paid to awarding grants due to both a lack of staff & a lack of enthusiasm for administration policy. Result is that ineffective programs are funded. Lack of bench depth means sometimes 1 specific opinion defines the Dept's entire stance toward a country. Result is biased or uninformed recommendations going to the top. Sample size of only one, but notable. A DAS placed in a political appointee slot (though not a political player) has been the target of a smear campaign by careers that began her 1st day. Fabricated accusations about her conduct in the office were filed with leadership in what appeared to be a coordinated effort to have her fired immediately upon joining.

- Lack of commitment to adequate funding. Politicization of appointments (e.g. the removal of DCMs in many key European Embassies headed by political appointments), lack of recruitment, large numbers of resignations among top and mid level FSOs

- Lack of support for LGBT families at State


- Too many [problems] to count...


- Unfair treatment of career officials by political appointees. Lack of qualified career personnel in seventh floor positions. Decline overall in the role of the State Department and expertise in national security decision making.

- Security precautions are cramping the ability of US diplomats to meet people from all walks of life and all political and religious persuasions face-to-face. State Department public diplomacy is too slow for the social media and disinformation age. There are too many unfilled senior policy positions, and many of the few that have been appointed are lightweights. Presidential smashmouth tweets are eroding trust and goodwill.


- At best, professional foreign service officers are being ignored. At worst, they continue to be fired/hassled by political appointees in the building.


- Lack or morale, not decision-making process, abusive behavior

- Pompeo has essentially continued the embrace of this administration's effort to diminish diplomacy, the State Dept, and the Foreign Service. Career officers are not put in senior positions, the non-career appointees are generally not nice and not competent, and Pompeo hasn't pursued an original idea put forward by professionals since he joined State. Morale remains in the sewer. Africa is entirely ignored, which might be better than being abused like the rest of the world. We have no overarching policy or strategy for Great Power Competition.

-Poor morale, departures of experienced professionals, politicized appointments, fear of speaking out in policy debates.

- Too many former military people entering the foreign service changing the culture of the FS. Discussion and debate have given way to blindly following orders or being suspected of disloyalty. Too much Diplomatic Security influence - hindering ability of FS officers to do their job.

- Political appointees asking people to do illegal things and when they say no, they are demoted or forced to retire. Also so many career ambassadors have been forced to retire and younger FSO’s say they won’t stay if the President is re-elected.


- Unpredictability of Presidential Policies & need to align/put political loyalty above national security

Other Concerns



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