Ronald Neumann, former ambassador to Afghanistan and president of the American Academy of Diplomacy, discusses the high-level staffing issues at the Department of State, and what is keeping diplomats from being appointed.
Since the start of the Trump Administration, the State Department has been operating with half of its top-level positions unfilled. Ronald Neumann, former ambassador to Afghanistan and president of the American Academy of Diplomacy, says that while the career officials are handling things well, the agency needs more diplomats. “In any job and any function, it’s important to have competent people. Rushing to incompetence can’t be a byword for anybody, but this is a big country with a lot of people. They can find the competent people,” Neumann told Government Matters. “They have picked up the pace a lot in the last few months. We have seen new ambassadors nominated and a number of others… It is still way behind, but it is way behind because it started slow.” Neumann said that multiple factors caused the slow start and the lack of progress in nominations, but the Senate is a key player in the issue. “For instance, there’s [a nomination for] under secretary for management… which is a key lieutenant that Secretary Pompeo needs to help run the bureau, and he has been taken hostage by Sen. Menendez for other reasons,” Neumann said. “Some of these things that aren’t filled are because of congressional actions. There are ambassadorships that are waiting to be cleared out by the Senate as well.”