New Secretary of State vows to ‘listen’ and ‘learn’ from staff

Even before Mike Pompeo’s official swearing-in by President Donald Trump on Wednesday, the new Secretary of State made the diplomatic rounds in Europe and the Middle East. But this week checked off another box when he visited the Department of State’s D.C. headquarters.

The former congressman from Kansas, who had been leading the CIA since January 2017, delivered remarks to staff. He succeeds Rex Tillerson, a former ExxonMobil executive who held the post from February 2017 to his firing March 13 of this year.

“I then will, sometime either later this week or beginning of next, do more to develop my commander’s intent, what it is I hope to achieve with your help,” Pompeo said to the crowd gathered in the lobby of the Harry S. Truman Building on Tuesday. “I’ll speak to the entire work force, I’ll lay out for you my expectations and my hopes, and most importantly, share with you my leadership style.”

While the secretary position is now filled, the State Department still has 75 positions without a nominee, according to a database compiled by The Washington Post and the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. These include the chief financial officer, assistant secretaries for intelligence and research, and for political-military affairs, as well as the special envoy for North Korean human rights issues.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that Pompeo had a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month while he was still CIA director. Three of the countries Pompeo visited on his first official diplomatic tour last week — Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Belgium — also lack ambassador nominations.

During his congressional career, Pompeo served on the House Intelligence, Energy and Commerce, and Select Benghazi committees — the last of which interrogated his predecessor Hillary Clinton about the government’s response to 2012 attacks on U.S facilities in Libya. That country is also without an ambassador nomination, according to the database.

Pompeo is a West Point graduate who served as a cavalry officer along the Iron Curtain, and with the 2nd squadron, 7th Cavalry in the Army’s 4th Infantry division before attending Harvard Law School, according to the State Department. On Tuesday, he spoke of “getting back our swagger” and described the agency’s primary objective as “to deliver President Trump and America’s foreign policy around the world.”

“The United States diplomatic corps needs to be in every corner, every stretch of the world, executing missions on behalf of this country, and it is my humble, noble undertaking to help you achieve that,” he said.

He also talked about getting to know his new colleagues, of which the agency has nearly 10,000. The Partnership’s annual “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government Survey” found that in 2017, the State Department ranked eighth out of 18 large agencies — a drop of 2.8 points from the previous year.

The survey also found that opinions of the agency’s senior leadership fell by 9.2 points from 2016 to 2017, and ranked 16th out of the 18 large agencies. Factors such as teamwork, innovation and strategic management indicated improvement, however.

“So I have a great deal to learn about the State Department and how we perform our mission, but as people, I’m confident that I know who you are,” Pompeo said in his remarks. “You chose to be a foreign service officer or a civil servant or to come work here in many other capacities and to do so because you’re patriots and great Americans and because you want to be an important part of America’s face to the world. My mission will be to lead you and allow you to do that, the very thing you came here to do.”