Thursday, 30 March 2017

US State Department in Meltdown Under Trump?

The US State Department is charged with the administration of US cultural property protection measures in a country with one of the biggest markets for antiquities, so it is a matter of some concern to all of us involved in international heritage issues that there seem to be a number of doubts about just what it is up to two months into the new administration. A shocking picture is painted by a recent Washington Post article (Anne Gearan and Carol Morello, 'Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spends his first weeks isolated from an anxious bureaucracy' Washington Post March 30th 2017).

President Trump’s top diplomat, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former ExxonMobil chief executive is described as:
isolated, walled off from the State Department’s corps of bureaucrats in Washington and around the world. His distant management style has created growing bewilderment among foreign officials who are struggling to understand where the United States stands on key issues. It has sown mistrust among career employees at State, who swap paranoid stories about Tillerson that often turn out to be untrue. And it threatens to undermine the power and reach of the State Department, which has been targeted for a 30 percent funding cut in Trump’s budget. Many have expressed alarm that Tillerson has not fought harder for the agency he now leads.
We recall also the suspicious lack of transparency evidenced by the cancellation of press briefings. Tillerson remains the only Senate-confirmed official selected by Trump anywhere inside the State Department building. His political advisers have little foreign policy experience and little pull at the White House, current and former officials said. What longterm effects this will have on the State Department's Cultural Heritage Center (CHC) and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and their cultural heritage projects remains yet to be seen.

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