01:25 - Source: CNN
Tillerson under fire for turmoil at State Dept.

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Criticism is over resignations, uncertainty over reorganization, hiring freeze

Nauert: We have a lot of work to do here at the State Department'

CNN  — 

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert acknowledged Friday that that there is a morale problem in the agency and offered this advice to workers: “Don’t give up.”

Asked about a spate of critical letters to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by members of Congress, as well as recent reports about high-level resignations, Nauert conceded that some staff are feeling frustrated.

“I know that times may seem tough right now,” she conceded to reporters at the agency’s regular news briefing. “I know that the headlines coming out of the State Department do not look good, do not look promising. We have a lot of work to do here at the State Department.”

“It breaks my heart to hear that some feel that they aren’t wanted or aren’t needed or aren’t appreciated,” she went on to say. “If I can get somebody else to convey that message more convincingly than I can, I would love to do that. But I just speak for myself right now and say how fantastic they are.”

Nauert did not fully answer a question about whether Tillerson is conscious of the morale issues or plans to do more personally to address them. However, she emphasized that the secretary expresses his appreciation to staff when he travels to embassies abroad.

Criticism in recent weeks has focused on high-level resignations, uncertainty over an ongoing reorganization effort, a hiring freeze and planned budget cuts.

In a letter to Tillerson on Wednesday, Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire expressed “deep reservations” about his staffing decisions, which, they said, “threaten to undermine the long-term health and effectiveness of American diplomacy.”

“Sure,” Nauert acknowledged at the briefing, “there is a morale issue in this building.”

“And that’s why I say, you know, ‘Folks, hang in there. We have a lot of work to be done. Please don’t give up. Don’t give up on this building. Don’t give up on what America is doing. Don’t give up on the importance of this job and career.’”