German MP Röttgen: ′There is no US-foreign policy yet′ | News | DW | 18.05.2017
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German MP Röttgen: 'There is no US-foreign policy yet'

The chair of the Bundestag's foreign affairs committee has said that a lack of direction from the White House has left the US without a foreign policy strategy. Some 200 State Department jobs still need to be filled.

Norbert Röttgen, the chairman of the German parliament's foreign affairs committee, said in an interview on Thursday that although there has been lots of "ideological rhetoric" coming from the White House, President Donald Trump's new administration is lacking after 100 days.

"There isn't any US foreign policy yet," he told German public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk in a radio interview. "This is, of course, a factor that is disturbing in its own right,"

Norbert Röttgen (Picture-Alliance/dpa/K. Schindler)

German MP Norbert Röttgen said current State Department personnel are "completely unsure of what their policies are"

He added that the Trump administration is still lacking concrete trade policies, but most crucially, there are personnel problems within the US State department.

"There's still no sufficiently operational staff," said Röttgen, who is a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling Christian Democrat party.

Currently, he and other German delegates have been meeting in Washington with members of Congress and with State Department employees from the previous administration who are currently occupying the roles on an acting basis.

Röttgen noted that the use of career officials as temporary placeholders in the State Department is a sign that the system is still working within the US. Newly confirmed Trump administration officials are also slowly entering the discussions as well.

"So the contacts are slowly coming, but those who are still in the [State] department are completely unsure of what their policies actually are," Röttgen said.

The sorry state of the State Department

Although the Senate approval process for new State Department employees usually takes a while, the process this time "is extremely delayed because Trump and his team were not prepared for this government transfer," the German lawmaker told Deutschlandfunk.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said he is planning to eliminate some 2,300 State Department jobs as part of his efforts to cut department's budget.

Out of nine senior official positions within the department, seven are currently vacant and the other posts are being filled by officials on an acting basis without congressional approval.

Out of 66 other senior official positions listed on the State Department website, 36 are listed as vacant - including the Coordinator for US assistance to Europe, Eurasia and Central Asia.

According to the Washington Post, which is tracking the Trump administration's nominations to key executive branch positions, there's currently no candidate nominated for the position of German ambassador.

With around 200 State Department positions requiring Senate approval, leadership holes may not be completely filled until 2018 due to the months-long confirmation process, the New York Times reported in late April.

This leadership vacuum has left foreign diplomats frustrated about who to contact and also raises questions about how the US plans on managing, monitoring and fulfilling its diplomatic duties.

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