WASHINGTON • Senate Democrats have unveiled a report that is highly critical of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s management of the State Department, two days before he is set to testify on Capitol Hill.
The 46-page report, issued on Tuesday and produced by Democratic staff on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says Mr Pompeo’s department is rife with what it describes as troubling issues: vacant key department posts, a culture of disrespect towards career staff and an atmosphere of political retaliation.
Democrats say this has hampered the agency’s effectiveness in pursuing diplomatic relationships abroad or responding to crises like the coronavirus pandemic.
“President (Donald) Trump and Secretary Pompeo have left the department decimated and demoralised,” said Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the committee’s top Democrat.
“This is not a bureaucratic or inside-the-Beltway issue. There are real consequences for the United States and our national security.”
The report most likely previews attacks that Democratic senators will make against Mr Pompeo today, when he testifies before the committee on his department’s budget request for fiscal 2021.
It will be his first public appearance on Capitol Hill since coming under scrutiny for privately urging Mr Trump to fire State Department inspector-general Steve Linick, who was removed in May after opening investigations into Mr Pompeo’s potential misuse of department resources and his effort to push arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
A State Department spokesman denied the report’s conclusions and said Mr Pompeo had successfully enacted the foreign policy goals of the Trump administration, working to advance the interests of the US around the world.
Senate Democrats said in the report that the White House and Mr Pompeo had not nominated enough qualified candidates to key State Department posts, noting that 11 assistant secretary or undersecretary positions are vacant or filled by acting officials.
“Vacancies and acting posts have had serious ramifications for America’s presence in the world, its overseas operations and for US national security,” the report says.
“The lack of senior department officials and personnel attrition levels doesn’t just mean empty desks. It translates to a lack of US leadership on the global stage.”
Department officials have in turn blamed Democrats in the Senate for the vacancies, saying senators have not considered, and even obstructed, candidates for confirmation.
Democrats have countered by saying they have approved over 160 nominees for confirmation, but have denied some because some candidates put forward by the Trump administration misrepresented their qualifications or had a history of racist and offensive comments.
The report also analysed data from a 2019 federal employee survey. It found that 53 per cent of respondents in the department’s international organisation bureau said political coercion was tolerated, up from 24 per cent in 2016; while 34 per cent in its legal bureau felt department leadership did not have high levels of honesty or integrity, an increase from 0 per cent in 2016.
Senate Democrats also used the report to highlight a culture of fear and mistrust that career department staff feel towards political appointees under the Trump administration.
They pointed to reports of a senior adviser in the department’s international organisation bureau compiling “loyalty lists” after Mr Pompeo became secretary.