WASHINGTON - The senior State Department official charged with overseeing U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s effort to overhaul the agency has resigned after just three months on the job, according to a department official.
Maliz Beams was named counselor to the department on Aug. 17, according to her biography on the State Department’s website. She has decided to return to her home in Boston, and Christine Ciccone, Tillerson’s deputy chief of staff, will step in to lead the redesign effort, according to the official, who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters.
The departure is a blow for Tillerson, who had brought in Beams to oversee the signature initiative of his term so far — a restructuring intended to eliminate inefficiencies and overlap at the department. The plan has run up against resistance within the department and in Congress, where critics say it has contributed to key positions going unfilled and plummeting morale.
Sen. Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has said Tillerson’s staff isn’t “anywhere close to having a plan to present relative to the reforms that they want to make there.”
In the face of such criticism, the State Department official said that Tillerson will ask Congress to expedite approval of nominees for undersecretary for management and legal adviser.
Beams had led “highly successful organizational transformations in a variety of financial services industry sectors,” according to her State Department biography.
Beams was one of Tillerson’s most high-profile hires, and one of the few people appointed to a top post amid a wave of departures by senior officials. Before becoming counselor, she had been chief executive of Voya Financial Retirement Services, and before that president of TIAA Institutional and Individual Client Services.
Speaking to the U.S. Embassy staff in London in September, Tillerson said of the redesign, “If I accomplish that, that will go on forever, and you will create the State Department of the future.”
Denying the reports of a morale problem at the department, Tillerson said in an interview in October, “If it’s as bad as it seems to be described, I’m not seeing it, I’m not getting it.”
Beams didn’t immediately return requests for comment sent to her State Department and personal email addresses.