Tillerson surveys State Department workers ahead of overhaul

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sought to show Monday that he is taking the views of his workforce seriously as he prepares a major State Department overhaul involving significant job and budget cuts.

In an email to State Department employees, Tillerson said he was “asking for your participation” in the discussion about the agency’s future and told them to expect a confidential survey shortly. He said the results would be used “as input to efficiency improvements” as he implements President Donald Trump’s executive order on trimming the federal bureaucracy.

“We need your help to identify how you are going about completing the Department of State’s mission,” Tillerson wrote. A copy of the email was obtained by The Associated Press.

Tillerson plans to address State Department staff on Wednesday — in his first agency-wide comments to employees since he began in February — about how he will proceed. The online survey will be open from Wednesday until May 15, he said.

In addition to the survey, 300 workers will be personally interviewed at the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development. Tillerson said he had “no pre-conceived notions” about how the two agencies should be organized for the future, although officials have said Tillerson is proposing consolidating them.

The White House’s call for sweeping cuts to the State Department and to foreign aid has prompted a bipartisan outcry, including from lawmakers who will ultimately set the agency’s funding level. Tillerson’s survey reflected an attempt to build buy-in from the agency’s workforce ahead of negotiations with Congress and show he was listening to input from all sides.

“My commitment on that first day was to deploy the talent and resources of the State Department in the most efficient way possible,” Tillerson said. “In order to do that, we need your help in identifying processes that we all need improved.”

Tillerson is proposing eliminating about 2,300 jobs in the overhaul, roughly 3 percent of the agency’s 75,000 workers. The plan entails a 26 percent reduction to a budget of $50.1 billion.