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From Diplomacy To Desk-Job: What's Happening At The State Department?

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets with Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018, at the State Department in Washington
Jacquelyn Martin/AP
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All eyes are on the president’s State of the Union address Tuesday, but the state of the State Department is getting some attention as well.

“It’s a meltdown,” said news analyst Charlie Sennott on BPR today. “It really is a meltdown.”

A report released Friday says a number of state department employees are being assigned grunt work as punishment for their connections to the Obama administration — and some of them are lawyering up.

“We have innumerable numbers of real senior diplomats and career diplomats who are not partisan, who are up and arms and who are walking out the door,” Sennott said. “Some of the top diplomats in the world are being assigned to handle a backlog of [Freedom of Information Act] requests.”

Sennott went on to call the assignments “demeaning.”

“[Employees] feel like they’re being pushed out the door or pushed down into the basement to handle the cardboard boxes full of FOIA requests,” said Sennott.

He cited Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s failure to confirm an ambassador to South Korea as further evidence of the department's disarray.

“We are in a crisis in the Korean peninsula that’s on a hair trigger, and we don’t have an ambassador,” said Sennott. “[Tillerson] is poorly managing the diplomatic core that is there to support him, and it’s becoming a real crisis.”

Charlie Sennott is a news analyst here at WGBH, where he also heads up The GroundTruth Project. To hear his interview in its entirety, click on the audio player above.

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