back to top

This State Department Employee Survey Is Straight Out Of "Office Space"

Before the Trump administration slashes jobs at the State Department, it has a few questions to ask federal employees in a survey leaked to BuzzFeed News.

Posted on

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is on a mission to slash the State Department budget by 26% and eliminate 2,300 jobs.

Yuri Gripas / Reuters

Tillerson is billing this as a way to streamline the State Department and make it more effective. Critics worry that the planned cuts will sharply reduce humanitarian assistance and soft-power programs.

But before Tillerson makes any cuts, he asked State Department employees to fill out an online survey about what could be done better in Foggy Bottom.

Yuri Gripas / Reuters

He discussed the survey on Wednesday during an all-staff meeting at the State Department.


The survey, produced by the private consultancy firm Insigniam, is trying to find out how much time State Department officials are wasting on tasks not core to the "mission."

The answers will inevitably vary depending on who's responding among the department's roughly 75,000-strong workforce.

20th Century Fox

"Honestly, most of my work is managing internal conflict," one State Department official told BuzzFeed News.


Answers to those questions will be read closely by senior State Department officials under pressure from the White House to cut 37% out of the USAID and State Department budget.


Tillerson favors a more modest 26% cut. Some members of Congress, including Republican leaders, want to preserve even more of the department's nearly $50 billion budget.

But the pointed questions about redundant and wasteful programs left some officials wondering if the new leadership appreciated their work and mission at all.

20th Century Fox

"Basically it seems like business consultants approaching the work of a client whose industry they're unfamiliar with," said a State Department official.

But some State Department officials said it seemed like some outcomes were already predetermined.

20th Century Fox

"The fact that he's already committed to cutting the budget is a preconceived notion," said one official.

John Hudson is a foreign affairs reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.

Contact John Hudson at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.