Tillerson details plan to cut special envoy jobs

WASHINGTON • US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has unveiled his plan to eliminate several special envoys, including those for climate change and the Iran nuclear deal, in a sweeping proposal to put his stamp on the agency and meet President Donald Trump's demands for deep budget cuts.

In a letter on Monday to Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr Tillerson detailed how those jobs will be subsumed into other agencies, such as the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Each cut is accompanied by the amount of money the change will save.

The moves will "advance US national security interests, and will help to counter the influence of US adversaries and competitors", Mr Tillerson said in the letter. Some jobs have "accomplished or outlived their original purpose", while others will exist but in a different structure, he said.

Mr Tillerson's plan, parts of which will need congressional approval, reflects his belief that there are too many special envoy jobs - there are currently about 70 - and their work often duplicated efforts done elsewhere in the department.

He is also seeking to carry out demands that he cut the agency's budget by about a third.

Some of the reductions have widespread support. Among them is the representative for Northern Ireland issues, a position seen as increasingly unnecessary since the Good Friday agreement was implemented in 1998. The special envoy for climate issues and lead coordinator for the Iran nuclear deal implementation are also on the chopping block.

Some positions being scrapped are likely to provoke criticism, however, both within the department and the broader foreign policy community, including the special envoy for the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2017, with the headline 'Tillerson details plan to cut special envoy jobs'. Print Edition | Subscribe