Tillerson to trim Obama-era State Department positions

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, arrives in the prime minister's official residence to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in Tokyo, Japan, Thursday, March 16, 2017. Tillerson called on North Korea Thursday to abandon its nuclear ... and ballistic missile programs, saying the isolated nation "need not fear" the United States. (Franck Robichon/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is trimming State Department staff, with an eye on positions added under former President Barack Obama.

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Of the 38 positions created under the former administration, 23 will be either removed or reassigned, a senior Trump administration official told Fox News on Tuesday. The staffers whose positions will be eliminated are those who worked on projects such as closing Guantanamo Bay, implementing the Iran Deal and the transparency coordinator position created in response to Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

The reorganization is broader than just those 38 staffers. A senior State Department official said Tillerson informed Congress on Monday of his plans to eliminate and reorganize his staff of special envoys and special representatives. Of the 66 titles discussed with lawmakers, only 30 envoys and representatives with title will remain on board. Twenty-one other staffers will be integrated into other bureaus, while nine will be eliminated entirely. The remaining spots will be “folded into existing positions” or transferred to USAID.

The move to eliminate special envoys is widely supported by bureaucrats in the building, a former State Department official who served in the Bush administration told FOX Business. Democratic administrations tend to expand the amount of special envoys while Republican leaders trim them down, the official said.

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Former Secretary of State Colin Powell made similar cuts in 2001, eliminating nearly half of all special envoys, representative and advisor positions carried over from the Clinton administration.

Integration is intended to streamline processes within Foggy Bottom, in order to clear the way for the agency to deliver on its main priorities, the official said.

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As previously reported by FOX Business, rumors of a restructuring within the State Department have caused speculation among staffers in the building, though civil service jobs are not typically easy to eliminate. Shortly after Tillerson began in his role as Secretary of State, he was struck by the enormous amount of waste in the building. Experts told FOX Business there’s a lot of duplication and offices that perform tasks dating back to the Cold War.

The Trump administration has not shied away from attacking bloated federal agencies and, like President Donald Trump, Tillerson is a businessman, having led oil and gas giant Exxon Mobil (XOM) for 10 years after a lifelong career with the company. During that tenure, he gained a reputation for being a savvy negotiator when it came to dealing with difficult foreign leaders, including the Russians, as detailed by The Wall Street Journal.

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