Rex Tillerson: The American government is "not a highly disciplined organization"

The Secretary of State has failed to fully staff his department, yet blames the government for being inefficient

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published July 14, 2017 9:12AM (EDT)

 (AP Photo/Molly Riley, File)
(AP Photo/Molly Riley, File)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson may have failed to staff the State Department, but that doesn't mean he's blaming himself.

On a flight to the United States from the Middle East, Tillerson told  reporters that "it is a lot different than being CEO of Exxon because I was the ultimate decision-maker. That always makes life easier."

He added that when you're a CEO and make a decision, "you own it, you make the decision, and I had a very different organization around me. One that I spent my whole life with, people knew me very well and they knew what to expect."

He added, "We had very long-standing, disciplined processes and decision-making — I mean, highly structured — that allows you to accomplish a lot, to accomplish a lot in a very efficient way."

The secretary of state placed some of the blame for his frustrations on the government itself, arguing that the American state is "largely not a highly disciplined organization."

Surprisingly, however, Tillerson also acknowledged that part of the problem may rest with the identity of America's current commander-in-chief.

"You know, in all honesty, we have a president that doesn't come from the political world either," Tillerson said. "In my old life, I spent a lot of time around the political world because I had to deal with governments all over the world. . . I'm quite comfortable in these settings."

It remains to be seen whether President Donald Trump, who is well-known to be sensitive to criticism and has an eye for potential disloyalty (real or imagined), will take kindly to Tillerson's remarks.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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