State Department's internal survey probes for cuts

Trump’s budget proposal calls for a more than 28% cut to the department.

ByABC News
May 4, 2017, 2:59 PM
Sec. of State Rex Tillerson speaks to State Department employees on Feb. 2, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Sec. of State Rex Tillerson speaks to State Department employees on Feb. 2, 2017 in Washington, DC.
AFP/Getty Images

— -- The State Department is probing its employees to find redundancies, waste and inefficiencies.

ABC News has obtained the internal survey sent to the department’s 75,000 employees here in Washington and at missions around the world.

It reads like many corporate questionnaires, but imbued with a looming sense of massive cuts, with several questions about how employees spend their time, what work could be outsourced to other departments and what programs are not meeting the department’s mission.

“What should the department stop doing?” it asks bluntly at one point.

The 43-question survey went live Wednesday and starts by asking employees for “the benefit of your natural and well-developed skills … to adapt to the changes at home and changes that we face over the next 20 years.” Those “changes at home” seem to imply the economic and political realities under a new president who has proposed slashing the federal budget.

“The results of the survey will be used to inform efficiency improvements as part of the larger efforts called for under E.O. 13781,” it continues in the introduction, calling the survey “part of an extended ‘listening’ phase” of Secretary Rex Tillerson’s effort to reform the institution and meet President Trump’s steep cuts for it.

In two sections, it asks about work that State and another government agency do – and how to eliminate those duplications: “To optimally support the future mission of the Department, what one or two things should your work unity totally stop doing or providing?”

It also asks for help describing the department’s mission and what that mission should be over the next 20 years (in six words or less).

Some of it is the boring jargon of consultants. “When was the last time a process map was completed with you or shared with you?"

And at times, it offers employees the chance to ask for the tools they don’t already have to do their job – or to highlight their work and how they contribute to the mission.

“Please share the top three accomplishments you are most proud of in your career.” Each response box is limited to 175 characters.

Employees are asked for their greatest fears and concerns for the department and for themselves, too.

“Is there anything else you would like to tell Secretary Tillerson?” reads the final question.

President Trump’s budget proposal called for a more than 28 percent cut to the department and USAID, the foreign aid agency that technically falls under Tillerson’s purview. The administration is reportedly considering cutting 2,300 jobs through buy-outs and attrition, and folding USAID into the department entirely.

Tillerson addressed employees Wednesday, explaining why the new administration believes cuts are necessary and encouraging them to participate in the survey. But despite anxiety in the department, he offered no details of what cuts may come.

"We have no preconceived notions on the outcome. I didn't come with a solution in a box when I showed up," he said, adding, "I want to condition you to be ready to participate in the next phase because that's when it will become more challenging."

The survey concludes May 15 at 9 a.m., and a report based on its findings will be finalized and shared sometime later this month.