The U.S. government’s third-highest ranking diplomat announced his resignation Thursday after nearly 35-years of service, the latest in a steady stream of senior career officers to leave the State Department since Donald Trump entered the White House just over one year ago.
“My decision is personal, and driven by a desire to attend to my family, take stock of my life, and set a new direction for my remaining years,” Thomas Shannon said in a statement.
Secretary of State Tillerson told the Associated Press he asked Shannon not to resign and admitted Shannon’s departure would be a loss. “Thirty-five years of experience is not something you replace overnight,” he said. Tillerson praised Shannon for his “encyclopedic” knowledge of U.S. diplomacy and added, “There will always be a place for Tom Shannon at the State Department.”
Despite Tillerson’s words of praise, Shannon’s departure is likely to trigger renewed criticism from detractors of the administration that Trump and Tillerson are gutting the foreign service, which has created serious morale problems among the ranks.
Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy Steven Goldstein denied Shannon’s departure was related to low morale amid severe budget cuts and reorganization at the State Department, where Shannon.
Goldstein said Shannon had been hoping to spend more time with his father following the recent death of his mother and said Shannon told Tillerson he would remain at the agency during the first year of Tillerson’s transition, and the one-year mark arrived Thursday.
“The secretary is as regretful as everyone else but we respect the decision he has made,” Goldstein said in Greenbrier, West Virginia, where he and Tillerson are meeting with Republican lawmakers at a retreat.
Shannon’s resignation leaves another void in the upper echelons of the State Department, where 13 assistant secretary and undersecretary positions and dozens of ambassadorships remain unfilled.
The 60-year-old Shannon has agreed to remain at the agency for a few months while another undersecretary is confirmed by the Senate.
Shannon is widely respected in the U.S. diplomatic community, having served under six presidents.
“… my service has been defined by our oath of office and the commitment we make to protect and defend our Constitution, our institutions, and our values,” Shannon said. “Underlying this commitment is our deep respect for the will of the American people and a determination to advance the interests and well-being of our nation by ensuring the success of our elected governments.”