Remarks by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Mission Canada Personnel

As delivered.

It wasn’t in my remarks to hit the button and make it go green. It’s green now. (Laughter.) Well, let me say again how much we appreciate – (laughter) – all of you and our folks across the countries in how you represent us and the important role you play across this vast nation of Canada. And just really happy all of you could join us on the VTC at least today.

But again, thank all of you for what you do in furthering America’s interests. And in particular, I want to thank our locally employed employees. As you know, a lot of your colleagues, they come and go. They come in for their assignment and stay a couple years, three years maybe, and then they move on. And it’s really your presence here and the continuity that you provide to this mission that allows others to come in and be successful. And you maintain those relationships and you maintain our ability to operate seamlessly as people move through their assignments and move through their responsibilities here. So thanks to all of our locally employed, as well.

When I came in to the State Department, on day one I had some things I said that were important to me about our values. And first and foremost, I said we’re going to protect our people – so safety and security is extraordinarily important to me – and protect our people no matter what the situations they may find themselves in. And that comes with you taking personal responsibility for your own safety and security first, and then look to the people on either side of you and make sure you’re taking care of them. But we’ve said to every mission around the world, if you ever have concerns about that, you should raise your hand immediately and let us know because we will address it. So protecting our people.

Second, as I said, we were going to hold ourselves accountable and be honest with one another. And that means we can’t expect our partners, whether it’s here in Canada or our partners within the State Department or our partners within the U.S. Government, to be accountable if we don’t hold ourselves accountable for our responsibilities. And be honest when we make mistakes; let’s learn from them. Don’t be afraid of them. We’re going to make them. And be honest with one another. When we have our disagreements, let’s work through them in a very, very respectful way.

Which was the third value I wanted to really impart to people, is that everyone has an extraordinarily important role to play in the success of the State Department both on the Civil Service side, Foreign Service side, locally employed, our EFMs. Everyone has a role that’s important to us, and we should respect the role that everyone plays. There are no second-class citizens in this State Department. Everyone is important, and we’re going to treat each other with the respect that each of us deserves as well. So those are the things that I say are important everywhere I go, because it makes us stronger as an organization if we all work together in a much more effective way.

The last thing I want to comment quickly on the redesign of State Department. Hopefully many of you had a chance to either watch on the webcast the town hall we had last week, or maybe you’ve been able to re-watch it or read the text of it. But the redesign effort really was – we put it underway in order to have you tell us what do you need to be more effective, more efficient, and what are the obstacles that get in the way of your ability to do your work.

What I know is we have a very capable and competent workforce of dedicated people in the State Department. So if we’re not achieving everything we could, it’s because there are things that are getting in the way. Tell us what those are so we can begin to address those. And in the town hall, that’s what we talked about is we’ve been through three phases of listening to you, setting up seven teams of 250 people of your colleagues to take all that information, identified 300 projects from it. They got it down to 150. We’ve since gotten it down to 72, and now we’re down to 16 what we call “keystone projects.”

We announced some early things. And I told the folks on the teams, I said, “If there’s things that I can do with a stroke of a pen, you bring them to me, I’ll do them.” So we announced, I think, seven what we said are early actions. We’re going to take things like getting everyone into the cloud so we can communicate with one another more efficiently, allow people to work from different locations, just help you be more efficient and more effective, to things like some of our policies around MedEvac, how we treat MedEvac cases, to lifting the freeze on hiring EFMs, but beyond that, expanding opportunities for EFMs through the EPAP program. We’ve increased the number of people we want to push through that program because this is just a great way to deliver on our mission around the world.

So we had a number of things and we’re doing those, and they’ll get done within the next year. The 16 keystone projects have now been turned over to bureaus and tiger teams, and these are a little more comprehensive projects. Some of them we hope will be underway and under implementation within the coming year. Some of them are going to take a little longer, like creating a new IT system. It’s going to be a multi-year effort. But we need to modernize the tools you have. We need to modernize the way you work, allow you to be – to do the things that you’re really good at, which is use this, use the brain matter. And when we tie you up on things that are really wasting that capacity, we’re really not serving the American people well with the investment that we’ve made in you.

So that’s what the redesign was really about. And from that, we’re going to find some efficiencies and things that we’re going to capture. And the whole endpoint of it is for you to have a much more rewarding career, a much more enjoyable career, and contribute more – because you have a lot of to contribute, and I know that.

So I’m going to stop there because our time is a little short because I’m late getting here, and I want to have an opportunity to shake your hands. As I also said on the first day in the State Department, my objective is to shake every member of the State Department’s hand. So you’re going to find me working the crowd now. (Laughter.)

Thank all of you again for all your contributions and we appreciate you. God bless you. (Applause.)