Top career US diplomat to step down in a blow to the State Department

The top career U.S. diplomat announced Thursday he will step down, dealing a blow to the State Department as the Trump administration confronts numerous international challenges.

The State Department’s third-ranking official, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Tom Shannon, informed agency staffers which he will retire as soon as a successor for his Senate-confirmed post can be chosen as well as ready to assume the job. Shannon can be a near 35-year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service as well as was the most senior department official to remain in his job after the transition via the Obama to the Trump administrations. He served under six presidents of both political parties since 1984 as well as was widely seen as a symbol of diplomatic continuity as well as professionalism during the tumultuous transition last year.

In an interview, Shannon, who holds the rank of “career ambassador” — the highest inside foreign service — said he was retiring for personal as well as not political reasons. “I decided the item was an important moment to take a step back as well as to determine what next I can do in my life,” Shannon said. He said the death of his mother late last year as well as his own 60th birthday last week contributed to his decision. although he also said he considered himself the “designated survivor” when former President Barack Obama tapped him for the undersecretary post in February 2016.

“Aside via helping the Obama administration to the finish line, I knew my job was also about helping This particular institution navigate the political transition, get across the river,” he said. “as well as, once across which river, help This particular institution — the foreign service as well as civil service — be responsive to our elected leadership.”

“I’ve served well across 35 years,” Shannon continued. “I’ve fought the Great fight. I’ve lived by my oath as well as I want to go out living by my oath, which can be respect for the Constitution, respecting our political institutions, respecting our values as well as respecting the choices which the American people have made.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has been criticized for his leadership of the State Department as well as removing or forcing out senior career officials, said he had asked Shannon to stay on as well as acknowledged which Shannon’s departure would certainly be a loss. “Thirty-a few years of experience can be not something you replace overnight,” he said.

Tillerson dropped by during the interview as well as said Shannon could return if he did not enjoy retirement.

“There will always be a place for Tom Shannon at the State Department,” Tillerson said, adding he would certainly miss Shannon’s “encyclopedic” knowledge of the State Department as well as U.S. diplomatic history. “He can be the senior statesman.”

Tillerson’s praise aside, Shannon’s departure can be sure to be seized on by critics of the administration who accuse Trump as well as Tillerson of gutting the foreign service, particularly its senior ranks. Of a few “career ambassadors” on the job when Tillerson arrived at the State Department, only one remains as well as which diplomat can be currently on sabbatical.

Shannon, who has extensive diplomatic experience in Africa as well as Latin America as well as led U.S. delegations to Russia last year, said he had confidence in younger foreign service officers to carry on despite today’s “hyper-politicized” American politics.

“the item would certainly be my wish which, independent of the political forces which swirl in This particular town, which especially my foreign service colleagues, both present as well as past, will recognize the importance of honoring the profession as well as our ethos of service.”

Shannon said he had “supreme confidence” inside younger generation of foreign service officers, 60 percent of whom have been diplomats for less than 10 years.

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