“When I read these stories that there’s this hollowing out, I take offense to that,” Mr. Tillerson said.

Mr. Tillerson denied that there was any large wave of departures, claiming that the number of foreign service officers in the department has remained largely unchanged.

He has made no secret of his intention to cut his department’s staffing levels by 8 percent by next year — a $25,000 buyout offer was recently made public — and its spending by about a third.

And the numbers Mr. Tillerson and his aides have been using to dispute claims of high-level departures come from Sept. 30, the day before many diplomats left.

“While the confirmation process has been excruciatingly slow for many of our nominees, I have been so proud of the acting assistant secretaries and people who’ve stepped into acting roles,” Mr. Tillerson said Tuesday, adding, “I’m offended on their behalf when people say somehow we don’t have a State Department that functions.”

The biggest holdup in Mr. Tillerson’s efforts to get a leadership team in place has not been a slow Senate confirmation process, but his own failure to select candidates for both the White House and the Senate to consider.

And while expressing pride about the work his acting assistant secretaries are doing, Mr. Tillerson has ignored much of that, refusing to sit with many of his acting assistant secretaries for the routine briefings they have requested to provide him, officials said. After his security…

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