Donald Trump's Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, appears to be taking deliberate steps to hollow out the cabinet agency he leads for reasons that have not been fully explored. That includes, of course, an endorsement of the White House's proposed deep budget cuts to the State Department.
Yesterday, however, Tillerson insisted there's nothing to worry about. Foreign Policy reported:
The U.S. secretary of state also defended the Trump administration's proposed budget cuts of about 30 percent, calling the State Department's recent annual budgets of about $55 billion a "historic outlier," and describing the planned cuts as "just a reality check." He said the administration is cutting the State Department budget in part because it expects to resolve some global conflicts that presently take up department resources."Part of this bringing the budget numbers back down is reflective of an expectation that we're going to have success in some of these conflict areas, of getting these conflicts resolved and moving to a different place in terms of the kind of support that we have to give them," he said, without specifying the conflicts he expected to resolve.
If this sounds familiar, there's a good reason for that: Tillerson made a similar pitch in March. In fact, Rachel noted on the show at the time that the Secretary of State made the case that Trump could dramatically cut the State Department's funding because "there will be fewer military conflicts that the U.S. will be directly engaged in."
This is bizarre for all kinds of reasons.
First, Tillerson hasn't been able to identify any "conflict areas" that will suddenly be "resolved" in the very near future. Second, if the goal of the State Department is to diplomatically prevent future crises, slashing the department's budget is the opposite of what the Trump administration should be doing.
Third, if Tillerson's pitch were true, and ongoing international crises were poised to effectively disappear, the White House could take steps to reduce defense spending, too. Instead, Trump World is doing the opposite, demanding vastly larger military budgets.
But even if one were inclined to put all of this aside, Tillerson's argument is burdened by bad timing. Around the time he shared his vision of resolved global conflicts, North Korea successfully launched a highly dangerous ballistic missile.
The secretary's bosses at the White House, meanwhile, also appear determined to escalate tensions with Iran.
All of which leaves us with a straightforward question: what in the world is Rex Tillerson talking about?