May 8, 2020 - Politics & Policy

State Department plots reopening in "Diplomacy Strong" document

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at a podium while waving his hands.
Pompeo speaks to reporters at the State Department. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

A six-page document obtained by Axios details the State Department's plans for returning to pre-coronavirus levels of international engagement, with sections on "Where Are We Today?" and "Where Are We Heading?"

Driving the news: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel next week to Israel, as Axios' Barak Ravid scooped earlier this week. As the Washington Post notes, the State Department more broadly has been developing a plan to return thousands of employees to work.

Details: The document describes a three-phase, conditions-based return, envisioning up to 40% of the workforce returning in Phase I; 40%-80% in Phase II; and the remainder in Phase III.

  • The document establishes criteria for reopening local and overseas facilities. It says employees' safety and health are top priorities.
  • 14 days of improved conditions — as spelled out in the document — and "appropriate" levels of medical infrastructure would be required to move from one phase to the next.
  • Social distancing and limiting group sizes to 10 would be imposed in Phase I, with those requirements relaxed in subsequent phases.
  • During Phase I, cloth face coverings "should be worn" when social distancing "is not feasible." Masks "may be worn" in Phase II, and that mention is gone by Phase III.
  • "Mission-critical" travel restrictions during Phase I would ease to "unrestricted essential" and "limited non-essential" in Phase II and "cautious resumption of normal" in Phase III.
  • Mandatory teleworking would begin lifting in Phase I; would largely remain an option in Phase II; and would be at the discretion of individual bureaus in Phase III.
  • Daily temperature monitoring would be encouraged, not mandated, through the first two phases.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The big question: Pompeo has made it clear he wants to get back on the road, but are thousands around the U.S. and the world ready?

What we're hearing: One person familiar with the plans told Axios there's some concern among the ranks that the White House will pressure agencies to get people to return to their government offices before many workers feel it's safe.

Read the document:

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