Top State Department Officials Step Down in “Black Friday” Exodus


The State Department brain drain continues:

The top State Department envoy responsible for overseeing U.S. policy at the United Nations and other international organizations stepped down from her post Friday, continuing an exodus that is thinning the ranks of America’s most experienced career diplomats, according to a U.S. official.

Tracey Ann Jacobson, 52, a career foreign service officer who served as acting director of the Bureau for International Organization Affairs, announced her plans to take early retirement to her staff on Friday, just three weeks before President Donald Trump is scheduled to deliver his maiden address before world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly’s annual debate. Jacobson — the recipient of several diplomatic honors, including the Presidential Meritorious Service Award — is expected to continue in her post until early October.

Jacobson’s announcement came on the same day that William Rivington Brownfield, who has been serving as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs since January 10, 2011, told his department that he would also step down by the end of September. It comes about four months after his wife, Kristie Kenney, on of the most senior foreign service officers in the State Department, announced her resignation.

It remained unlikely that Brownfield, a career foreign service officer who has served as George W. Bush’s ambassador to Colombia, Venezuela — where he was repeatedly threatened with expulsion by the country’s late president, Hugo Chavez — and Chile, would be taking on any other top posts in the administration, said one senior official. Foreign Policy reported earlier this month that Tillerson was considering making Brownfield the administration’s top envoy for Latin America. Brownfield — a recipient of the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award and the Presidential Performance Award three times — did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A spokesperson for the State Department’s drug and law enforcement bureau insisted that Brownfield has “made no announcement that he is retiring.” But the official would not say whether Brownfield intended to step down or not.

Early last week, FP reported that the State Department’s top official for European affairs, John Heffern, was driven from his job. Together, the departures add to concerns of a growing wave of resignations by foreign policy professionals who are either being pushed out or resigning over frustration with an administration that has downgraded the importance of Washington’s diplomatic corps. Former and current officials said Jacobson and Brownfield, who at 65 has reached retirement age but is not required to step down, have left of their own volition. But one former U.S. official said that Jacobson in particular “would not have left if the situation was different.”

“Dissatisfaction is a big factor” for a surge in early retirements, said one State Department official who has decided to take early retirement. “Certainly a big one for me.”

Jacobson confirmed that she was seeking early retirement, ending a 30-year career during which she served presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama as U.S. ambassador to Kosovo, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. She did not say why she had decided to leave.

In remarks emailed to FP late Sunday, State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said Jacobson “announced to her staff on Friday her plan to retire. We are very grateful to Ambassador Jacobson for her 30 years of service.”

You can read the rest at Foreign Policy.

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