Jon Huntsman will come before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today, launching his confirmation process.
Although the former ambassador to China and Singapore has the experience to head the Russian diplomatic mission, he conspicuously lacks colleagues; 48 American embassies still lack an ambassador, including geopolitical hotspots South Korea and Qatar.
Compounding the manpower shortages, more than half the State Department’s 141 senior positions remain unfilled and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has moved to eliminate dozens of State Department special envoys. Critics charge that Mr Tillerson’s downsizing will cause long-term damage to America’s Foreign Service.
However, Trump and Tillerson have faced bipartisan pushback from Congress. Two weeks ago the Senate Appropriations Committee allocated the State Department $10 billion more than the administration requested and maintained billions in aid programs targeted by Trump.
A Republican who served under President Obama with bipartisan respect, Huntsman should be confirmed with ease. But the larger success of his mission will depend on whether Congress can force President Trump to fund and staff the State Department. If not, America’s diplomatic corps will be stretched thin trying to deal with a myriad of international crises.
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