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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 May 4, 2017, at 3:54 p.m. ET

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

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.
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.

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

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

The "key" question, Tillerson told employees, is "how do you deliver on mission?"

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The State Department declined to provide the questions to BuzzFeed News.

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"Respectfully this is an internal survey!" spokesperson Mark Stroh said in an email when asked.

But other State Department officials passed it along to BuzzFeed News, on condition of anonymity.

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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."

Insigniam/State Department

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

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

Some questions focused on morale issues:

Insigniam/State Department

And others focused on...making word clouds:

Insigniam/State Department

"God help us. Word clouds," said one State Department survey taker*.

*This is not an official word cloud from the State Department
BuzzFeed News

*This is not an official word cloud from the State Department

But a lot of the questions asked about wasteful and duplicative programs. Like this question:

Insigniam/State Department

And this question...

Insigniam/State Department

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.

CNN

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.

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

Tillerson assured employees on Wednesday he would begin this review with "no preconceived notions on the outcome."

Yuri Gripas / Reuters

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

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

Before any changes are made, Tillerson has said he will be meeting personally with about 300 employees from the department and USAID in the coming weeks.

Yuri Gripas / Reuters

In the meantime, US diplomats and civil servants will wait and hope there's a piece of cake left for them at the end of the reorganization.

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