'Folks, hang in there. We have a lot of work to be done. Please don't give up," Heather Nauert says
The State Department acknowledged Friday a "morale issue" in its ranks as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson leads a charge to make sweeping cuts to its workforce.
"Sure, there is a morale issue in this building," spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters. "And that's why I say, you know, folks, hang in there. We have a lot of work to be done. Please don't give up. Don't give up on this building. Don't give up on what America is doing. Don't give up on the importance of this job and this career."
The Trump administration is seeking a one-third reduction of the State Department and foreign aid budgets -- a goal steadfastly rejected by congressional leaders as Tillerson continues to seek a redesign of the department.
On Wednesday, two senior senators, Republican John McCain and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, wrote a letter to Tillerson urging the top diplomat to lift a self-imposed hiring freeze calling out "recent management decisions at the Department of State that threaten to undermine the long-term health and effectiveness of American diplomacy".
Republican Senator Bob Corker also weighed in this week, saying on Tuesday that the administration is not "anywhere close to having a plan to present relative to the reforms that they want".
Last week, the head of the foreign service labor union struck out at the department, saying its senior ranks are being "depleted at a dizzying speed".
"The rapid loss of so many senior officers has a serious, immediate, and tangible effect on the capacity of the United States to shape world events," Barbara Stephenson wrote in a column to be published in December. "There is simply no denying the warning signs that point to mounting threats to our institution—and to the global leadership that depends on us."
In addition to the loss of career diplomats, Stephenson said career ministers at the State Department have declined from 33 to 19 this year and minister counselors have fallen from 431 to 369 since early September.
"The talent being shown the door now is not only our top talent, but also talent that cannot be replicated overnight," she wrote.