A senior U.S. official overseeing a reorganization of the State Department that has been criticized by current and former U.S. diplomats has stepped down after less than four months on the job, U.S. officials said on Monday.
Maliz Beams, a former financial industry executive who was named State Department counselor on Aug. 17, is "stepping away" to return to Boston, said a department spokesman on condition of anonymity. Christine Ciccone, the department's deputy chief of staff, will take over the agency's "redesign," he added.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been criticized by current and former U.S. diplomats as well as by some members of Congress for his management of the agency, where may top posts have not been filled nearly 10 months into Tillerson's tenure.
The department has also seen an exodus of senior diplomats.
Tillerson defended the department when he was recently asked about morale problems and concerns that the agency was being weakened.
"The redesign is going to address all of that. And this department is performing extraordinarily well, and I take exception to anyone who characterizes otherwise. It's just not true," he said on Nov. 20.
State Department officials observing the reorganization say it has been plagued with uncertainty both about what Tillerson wants to achieve and how to go about it.
"If the one thing she (Beams) was asked to do was the redesign and she is quitting ... how does this not reflect poorly on the overall management of this enterprise, that is the redesign?" said one official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Another State Department official said Beams had left of her own volition and was not fired. Beams did not immediately respond to voicemails left at her office and Massachusetts phone numbers or to an email sent to her State Department address.
The State Department spokesman declined comment on criticism of the reorganization.
A congressional aide said the effort is so amorphous that Congress is unable to pass legislation to give the agency the legal authority to make changes.
"To do that we would need to have some road map - something - and none of that has been provided," said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity.