The U.S. State Department's third-ranking official, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Tom Shannon, is stepping down from his post, the State Department said on February 1.
Tillerson has faced criticism over his leadership of the State Department, with some officials being quoted as saying he has weakened USA diplomacy by removing or pushing out senior career officials while failing to nominate or to win Senate confirmation for officials to fill key agency roles. He has served under six presidents of both parties since 1984 and 10 secretaries of state and was seen as a symbol of diplomatic continuity and professionalism during last year's tumultuous transition. It was often Mr. Shannon who delivered the news to senior diplomats that they were being pushed out of their jobs or would not get the postings they had been promised. Of five "career ambassadors" on the job when Tillerson arrived at the State Department, only one remains and that diplomat is now on sabbatical. Of six undersecretary positions, only two, including Shannon's, are now occupied.
In a letter to department staff, Shannon, 60, said he was resigning for personal reasons. "I decided it was an important moment to take a step back and to determine what next I can do in my life", Shannon said.
But Shannon told the AP that his decision was largely driven by the fact that he recently turned 60, as well as by the death of his mother late a year ago.
Tillerson in November said he was offended by claims that the State Department was being hollowed out under Trump, saying it was functioning well in spite of scathing criticism from former American diplomats including Nicholas Burns and Ryan Crocker. He said that he stayed on to help the department navigate the transition between administrations.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shakes hands with Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Tom Shannon (l.).
Tillerson praised the undersecretary as the "senior statesman", and told the AP that Shannon would be welcome to return to the State Department if he ever wanted to. "Thirty-five years of experience is not something you replace overnight", he said. Tillerson made an appearance in the interview and echoed those sentiments, noting that Shannon had been thinking of the move "for some time" and expressed how much he would be "really missed". "There will always be a place for Tom Shannon at the State Department", Tillerson said.
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen.
"I've served well across 35 years", Shannon said.
"Events in my own life have taught me that while I was blessed in many ways, one thing I don't have enough of right now is time", he told students. He's a patriot, a diplomat and a great American.
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