State Department Employees Eager To See What Pompeo Brings As Secretary Of State

May 1, 2018
Originally published on May 3, 2018 2:29 pm
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Mike Pompeo finally went to his new office today five days into his tenure as secretary of state. He's already been on an overseas trip, but now he's expected to stay put for a bit to connect with State Department employees, many of whom have felt sidelined by the Trump administration. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Welcome, sir.

MIKE POMPEO: Hi, hi, what's your name?

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The former congressman and CIA director posed for selfies and introduced himself in the crowded lobby on his first day here at the State Department.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

POMPEO: So I think I have the record for the longest trip to the first day of work.

(LAUGHTER)

KELEMEN: Right after he was confirmed last week, Pompeo hopped on a plane to Belgium, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan. He met with embassy personnel in each stop, having private talks with some young diplomats on their first or second overseas tours. Pompeo is promising to bring back what he calls the State Department's swagger. That will take work after his predecessor downsized the department says Nancy McEldowney, who used to run the Foreign Service Institute, which trains U.S. diplomats.

NANCY MCELDOWNEY: The fact that so many people were pushed out or encouraged to leave and then we saw an almost 50 percent drop in the number of people taking the foreign service exam to come into the State Department, these will take years to overcome, these mistakes that were made by Rex Tillerson and I believe with Donald Trump's encouragement.

KELEMEN: Pompeo is promising the staff that he won't spend all his time cloistered in his seventh floor office, and he's already capitalizing on his close ties to the president, who never came to the department when Tillerson was here but will do so tomorrow.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

POMPEO: It's an important day for the president's first trip to this important place.

KELEMEN: State Department employees seem pleased with this new energy. Though some observers are still wary about his congressional record of touting military options more than diplomacy. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.