Larger Than Usual Exodus of Senior State Department Staff in New Administration

PHOTO: Patrick Kennedy, Undersecretary of State for Management testifies during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, September 18, 2013 in Washington, DC. Play Mark Wilson/Getty Images
WATCH State Department Faces New Diplomatic Hurdles

A handful of senior management staff at the State Department have resigned this week, department officials said today -- representing an unusually large exodus for a change of administrations on C Street.

Among six politically appointed officials at the State Department to hand in their resignations was the Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy, who has worked at the department for over nine years and was first appointed to the job by President George W. Bush, officials said.

"Kennedy was an institution," as one senior State Department official put it.

Kennedy helped lead the transition at the State Department for the incoming Trump administration and was a well-respected figure within the building. Yet many Republicans associated Kennedy with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's tenure, and dragged him into the fallout from the Benghazi terror attack as well as Clinton's private email controversy, making his departure somewhat unsurprising.

Senior State Department officials familiar with the circumstances insisted these resignations occurred not as a protest of the incoming administration, but said that they were essentially asked to leave, though they were technically not fired.

By nature of their positions, these people would have been made to submit a resignation letter, but the administration doesn't have to accept it. Indeed some resignations were not.

"As is standard with every transition, the outgoing administration, in coordination with the incoming one, requested all politically appointed officers submit letters of resignation," Acting State Department Spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement today.

"The Department encourages and advocates for senior officers to compete for high level offices in the Department. These positions are political appointments, and require the President to nominate and the Senate to confirm them in these roles," Toner added. "They are not career appointments but of limited term. Of the officers whose resignations were accepted, some will continue in the Foreign Service in other positions, and others will retire by choice or because they have exceeded the time limits of their grade in service."

President Trump's selection to be the next Secretary of State, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, is expected to be confirmed by the Senate next week.