“I don’t feel targeted as an African American. I feel targeted as a professional,” said Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a career diplomat who served as ambassador to Liberia and as director general of the Foreign Service, as well as assistant secretary for African affairs. She retired in September after Tillerson’s staff marked her for dismissal.
Tillerson, the former CEO for ExxonMobile, who comes to the post without experience, has placed a freeze on most hiring and is offering a $25,000 buyout to diplomats already serving. Meanwhile, his aides have fired some career Foreign Service officers and pressured others to resign. His goal is to reduce the State Department’s senior diplomatic core by about 2,000 and remove lower-ranking staff by October 2018. These deep reductions alarm lawmakers and former department officials who warn that Tillerson is making the nation vulnerable in world affairs at a time of increasingly “complex global crises,” the newspaper reported.
The State Department, which has long lacked diversity, has also reduced its number of high-level Latino and female diplomats. This move reverses progress toward diversity. About 82 percent of the department’s Foreign Service officers are White, Edward Joseph Perkins, a former U.S. Ambassador to Liberia and South Africa, stated in a 2015 Washington Post op-ed co-authored with former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Thomas R. Pickering. At that time, the former diplomats noted that African Americans represented just 5.4 percent of the department’s top level Foreign Service officers but were making progress. They said diversity brings a wider range of experiences that improves and informs U.S. foreign policy.