For much of 2017, much of the world has watched Secretary of State Rex Tillerson slowly hollow out the U.S. State Department, but even for those who've followed the developments closely, the New York Times' latest report on this was striking.
It began by noting that Bill Miller, the cabinet agency's chief of security, seemed to be the kind of official Tillerson would want to keep around -- at least in theory.
But in his first nine months in office, Mr. Tillerson turned down repeated and sometimes urgent requests from the department's security staff to brief him, according to several former top officials in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Finally, Mr. Miller, the acting assistant secretary for diplomatic security, was forced to cite the law's requirement that he be allowed to speak to Mr. Tillerson.
Mr. Miller got just five minutes with the secretary of state, the former officials said. Afterward, Mr. Miller, a career Foreign Service officer, was pushed out, joining a parade of dismissals and early retirements that has decimated the State Department's senior ranks.
The picture painted by the Times is alarmingly bleak. Senior Foreign Service officers are leaving in droves; career diplomats and civil servants are being bought out; and Tillerson and his team have forced many to resign "by refusing them the assignments they wanted or taking away their duties altogether."
In some cases, some diplomats returning from high-level assignments, have been ordered to "spend months performing mind-numbing clerical functions beside unpaid interns."
For most observers, all of this is simply baffling. The secretary of state's principal responsibility is to oversee the nation's diplomatic efforts, and yet, Donald Trump's chief diplomat appears determined to undermine his own department's capacity. In a rather literal sense, it defies explanation.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, recently wrote, "The purposeful gutting of American power abroad is mystifying. If you didn't know better, you'd think some rival government was running our foreign policy."
But this isn't a situation in which the political world should be satisfied with the ambiguity. If it's now painfully obvious Trump World is deliberately hollowing out the State Department, and it seems more than fair to say it is, the time has come for a discussion about why.