Views From Across the Border

Feb. 1, 2017

When it comes to the construction industry, President Trump has made headlines by issuing a number of executive orders that have an impact, ranging from his proposed wall on the US-Mexico border, to the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, to fast-tracking certain infrastructure projects.

The headline that caught my eye as it relates to the construction industry is the shakeup at the State Department. During a time when the new Secretary of State is still going through the confirmation process, four top State Department officials submitted their resignations.

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They are: Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy, 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 Ambassador Gentry O. Smith. They leave right after the retirement of Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Gregory Starr and Director of the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations Lydia Muniz.

The departures could very well be typical for the transition into a new administration.

But David Wade, who served as the chief of staff for former Secretary of State, John Kerry, said, “It’s the single biggest simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can remember, and that’s incredibly difficult to replicate. Department expertise in security, management, administrative, and consular positions in particular are very difficult to replicate, and particularly difficult to find in the private sector.”

The headline caught my eye because shortly before that news broke, I had coincidentally talked to a State Department employee who was at the World of Concrete. Javier Lopez is the Construction Officer for the US Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia. Please watch his interview. He spoke to me of crossing borders and the opportunities for US companies internationally.

For that we’re going to need a vibrant and functioning State Department. In that regard, I’m hoping things there settle down quickly, and that the President and his administration are not building diplomatic walls between nations.