'The Department Of Swagger': The State Department's Instagram Rebranding Campaign

Sep 14, 2018
Originally published on September 14, 2018 7:48 pm
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is rebranding his department, calling it the Department of Swagger in his new Instagram account. Diplomats and foreign policy experts say boosting morale will take more than a catchphrase, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Secretary Pompeo's Instagram features a picture of Shakespeare, who he says first used the word swagger, and General George Patton, famous for his swagger stick.

ALEXANDRA BELL: A collective cringe was the general feeling I got from most of my former colleagues.

KELEMEN: That's Alexandra Bell, an arms control expert who was a political appointee in the Obama-administration State Department.

BELL: They are happy that Secretary Pompeo has done things like restart the hiring process. But you can only get so much credit for fixing a problem that should have never happened in the first place.

KELEMEN: Secretary Pompeo is filling in many of the positions left vacant by Trump's first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. This week, four Foreign Service Officers were made Career Ambassadors, the highest rank in the Foreign Service.


MIKE POMPEO: It's a good step toward strengthening the State Department's leadership, something I put at the top of my priority set in my first now several months here. I know that American diplomacy is most agile and most effective when we have our entire team in place.

KELEMEN: His department is getting slightly smaller, though. There are 3 percent fewer Foreign Service Officers, according to the union. The Civil Service is about 8 percent smaller. The department's inspector general is also looking into reports of political retribution against some career staff, as Alexandra Bell points out.

BELL: That sort of thing should never take place. I have heard colleagues refer to some of these Trump appointees as commissars, if you like. They're, you know, sort of being watched and reported on. That's a terrible environment for any civil servant.

KELEMEN: So she's hoping Pompeo will take those investigations seriously. Spokesperson Heather Nauert says he does and won't tolerate such a thing. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department.

(SOUNDBITE OF GRAMATIK'S "JUST JAMMIN'") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.