WASHINGTON (CN) – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reversed course on a plan from his predecessor Rex Tillerson on Tuesday lifting a hiring freeze at the State Department and aiming to fill scores of vacancies at the department.
There are 161 positions at the State Department that require Senate confirmation and as of this month, 61 of the slots remain empty and without a nominee.
In 2017, the department also hemorrhaged 435 employees who either resigned or retired according to research conducted by the nonprofit and nonpartisan organization Partnership for Public Service.
The decision to lift the hiring freeze on the Foreign Service and Civil Service and begin hiring to current funding levels will satisfy the core mission of the department, Pompeo said Tuesday.
“The Department’s workforce is our most valuable asset. We need our men and women on the ground, executing American diplomacy with great vigor and energy and representing our great nation. By resuming hiring of the most gifted and qualified individuals, we will ensure that we have the right people and the right skills in an increasingly complicated and challenging world,” Pompeo said.
The sentiment echoes testimony he gave in April to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when telling lawmakers that shaky staffing levels at the department were contributing to low morale.
Plans from his ousted predecessor Rex Tillerson to streamline the department and overhaul its organizational structure weren’t working as hoped, Pompeo said last month. He also promised lawmakers he would bring the State Department’s diplomatic “swagger” back once confirmed.
Last month Pompeo also lifted a hiring freeze for State Department personnel family members. Family members often live overseas with state officials and seek work wherever they are posted.
Obtaining a State Department job is often an easier prospect than finding work elsewhere abroad.
A spokesperson from the department told Courthouse News Tuesday that the largest benefit to come from the lift of the freeze is the department’s renewed ability to be flexible again as they appoint staff to various diplomatic positions throughout the world.