At State, Pompeo needs to bring our diplomats back into the foreign policy game


Mike Pompeo, who was confirmed on a 57-42 vote by the Senate Thursday to become secretary of state, brings outstanding qualifications and experience to deal with big challenges he faces as America’s top diplomat. President Trump made a wise choice in selecting his CIA director to head the State Department, where he replaces former Secretary Rex Tillerson.

America’s diplomats are on the front lines around the world. They are patriots and they are fearless, working thankless hours in Kabul, Tripoli, Moscow and beyond – while rarely receiving the accolades our military enjoys and deserves.

Diplomats move themselves and their families to new places around the world every few years, missing holidays and important life events back home, working to genuinely make a difference for their country. Their children must adjust to new schools and new environments and make new friends. Their spouses must often put their own career plans on hold as they move from country to country.

For some reason, the State Department has become a punching bag in some political circles, and it’s no secret that morale at the agency has been low.

Many senior diplomats have resigned or retired. Not enough new junior diplomats have been hired. Too many State Department posts remain vacant. Many diplomats still on the job feel demoralized and disengaged from the foreign policy decision-making process.

With two larger-than-life secretaries of state during the Obama administration, State Department employees need a leader who will fight for them and lift the spirits of disillusioned diplomats.

American diplomats deserve better – and that’s where newly confirmed Secretary Pompeo comes in.

Pompeo can bring American diplomats back into the foreign policy game. President Trump is facing some of the most consequential foreign policy decisions in a generation – dealing with Syria, the fight against ISIS, the campaign to counter Iran, our continuing military engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq, and attempts to denuclearize North Korea.

A prime example is the president’s upcoming summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Pompeo’s secret meeting with Kim just a few weeks ago shows that Pompeo has the most crucial trait needed in a secretary of state – the president’s trust.

I know our diplomats are eager to support their new secretary in this historic endeavor, and he should lean on their knowledge and capabilities.

In addition, Pompeo can also greatly improve morale in the State Department. While the recent efforts to modernize the State Department are laudable, the communication of those new policies was not as effective as the rank and file would hope.

With two larger-than-life secretaries of state during the Obama administration, State Department employees need a leader who will fight for them and lift the spirits of disillusioned diplomats.

As proven by his effective tenure at the CIA, Pompeo – who previously served a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Kansas – is up to the challenge of restoring pride in American diplomacy again.

I had the privilege of serving as the Treasury Department’s deputy attaché at the American Embassy in Saudi Arabia. I also served as a U.S. Agency for International Development public affairs officer in Washington and for a short time at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. I have worked for both a Republican and a Democratic administration.

My colleagues at the State Department and I rarely knew each other’s politics, but we all knew that we wanted to represent the best of America to the world. I know that our Foreign Service officers do not want their work politicized; they just want to serve, and I am proud to have served with them.

My former colleagues may or may not agree with incoming Secretary Pompeo’s politics, but these hardworking men and women will faithfully give their best advice and counsel to their new secretary. They deserve for their work and their expertise to be valued and respected, and they deserve someone who will fight for them. That man is Mike Pompeo.