Senior leadership at the State Department was fired en masse on Wednesday, CNN reported, leaving Secretary of State in waiting Rex Tillerson with a massive void to fill on Day 1.
The four officials who were fired were "career foreign service officers who have served under both Republican and Democratic administrations," according to the Washington Post, taking with them years of institutional memory.
Initially, the Washington Post reported that the four senior officials resigned en masse. However CNN reported that they were all sent letters saying "their service was no longer required."
David Wade, a former State Department chief of staff, told the Washington Post that the mass firing was, "The single biggest simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can remember."
Though leadership often changes from administration to administration, senior leaders often stay on to work with the incoming president to ensure continuity and see whether there would be other roles in the department for them to take on, according to the Washington Post. That makes this mass firing unique.
"The muscle memory is critical. These retirements are a big loss. They leave a void. These are very difficult people to replace," Wade said.
Wade added that filling their roles with qualified people will be "particularly difficult" — a troublesome sign with an incoming secretary of state with no government experience. Tillerson has yet to be confirmed, but his three biggest GOP detractors — Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio — all said they now support Tillerson, making his confirmation a foregone conclusion.
Included in the mass firing, according to the Washington Post, is: Patrick Kennedy, who served for nine years as undersecretary for management; Assistant Secretary of State for Administration Joyce Anne Barr; Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Michele Bond; and Director of the Office of Foreign Missions Gentry O. Smith.