CIA Director Mike Pompeo intends to acknowledge widespread morale issues at the State Department under former secretary Rex Tillerson and to promise lawmakers he’ll revive its “swagger” if confirmed as the nation’s top diplomat.
Pompeo, who is expected to face a tough confirmation process, is anticipating a variety of questions about his management style and hawkish foreign policy views in a Thursday hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In excerpts of his prepared remarks obtained by The Washington Post, Pompeo says he has met with a large number of State Department officials who “shared how demoralizing it is to have so many vacancies and, frankly, not to feel relevant.”
“They all, to a person, expressed a hope to be empowered in their roles, and to have a clear understanding of the president’s mission,” Pompeo’s remarks say.
Tillerson left the State Department with vacancies in eight of the top 10 most senior positions and a slew of openings for top jobs in U.S. embassies across the globe. While the former ExxonMobil chief executive’s management style irked many rank-and-file employees, many viewed his foreign policy inclinations as a constructive and moderating counterbalance to President Trump.
Pompeo, a U.S. Military Academy graduate and former Kansas congressman, has been known for his aggressive foreign policy views. He has pushed for the unraveling of the Iran nuclear deal and welcomed regime change in North Korea. In Congress, he repeatedly criticized former secretary of state Hillary Clinton for security lapses related to the terrorist attack on a U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.
In his prepared testimony, Pompeo attempts to reveal a softer side of his foreign policy philosophy.
“When journalists, most of whom have never met me, label me — or any of you — as ‘hawks,’ ‘war hard-liners’ or worse, I shake my head,” he plans to say. “War is always the last resort. I would prefer achieving the president’s foreign policy goals with unrelenting diplomacy rather than by sending young men and women to war.”
In November 2016, shortly after Trump’s presidential victory, Pompeo tweeted that he looked forward to “rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism,” a reference to Iran.
But in his testimony, he pledges to find a way to maintain the deal by forging a supplemental agreement with key European governments — a prospect many U.S. allies view as increasingly forlorn.
“If confirmed, it will be an immediate personal priority to work with those partners to see if such a fix is achievable,” Pompeo plans to say.
Pompeo, who at times has downplayed the effects of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, also plans to take a tough line with Moscow.
“Russia continues to act aggressively, enabled by years of soft policy toward that aggression,” his prepared remarks say. “That’s now over.”