Budget cuts, high-level vacancies, and understaffing threaten sanctions enforcement, sustained diplomacy


After more than a year, Trump administration has failed to nominate a U.S. Ambassador to South Korea


Washington (February 15, 2018) – With President Donald Trump this week calling for a 29 percent cut to the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development budgets, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) called on the agency to explain how it is able to implement North Korea-related diplomatic and sanctions enforcement efforts in light of drastic budget cuts, high-level position eliminations, and staffing reassignments. The administration has proposed cuts to positions necessary to manage implementation of the dual-track policy toward North Korea that includes, as Vice President Mike Pence has stated, “maximum pressure and engagement at the same time.” Additionally, the State Department has not shown that is it increasing rank-and-file Civil and Foreign Service staff assigned to implementing the administration’s stated North Korea diplomatic strategy. Some reports even indicate that Foreign Service Officers are being assigned to process Freedom of Information Act requests rather than being tasked with advancing policy priorities such as North Korea.


“This management of resources calls into question whether the State Department can effectively carry out a global pressure campaign, enforce sanctions, and credibly counter the challenges posed by North Korea,” writes Senator Markey, top Democrat on the East Asia Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “


A copy of the letter can be found HERE.


In his letter, Senator Markey specifically asks:

  • When does the administration intend to fill the position of U.S. Ambassador to South Korea?
  • How many State Department employees, in both Washington, DC and overseas, are dedicated to carrying out the North Korean pressure campaign?
  • What is causing the delay in filling these vacant North Korea-related positions?
  • As a component of the pressure campaign, how often are State Department officials traveling to partner countries to encourage their governments to strengthen sanctions enforcement?