Category Archives: Compensation

Embassy Row’s Dirty Little Secret: Abuse of Migrant Domestic Workers by Diplomats

– Domani Spero

The logic behind a restrictive interpretation of functional immunity is that while a diplomat may be protected from some distractions to aid his purpose, there ought to be no need for him to violate the laws of his host state to do so. As many legal scholars have pointed out, a diplomats behaviour in his host country is best described by the Arabic proverb, يا غريب خليك أديب (ya ghareeb, khalleek adeeb) – O stranger, be thou courteous. — Jaideep Prabhu 

Back when ….

In 2007, the Department of State reported that some foreign diplomats may be abusing the household workers they brought to the United States on A-3 or G-5 visas.  A subsequent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report the following year revealed that 42 household workers with A-3 or G-5 visas alleged that they were abused by foreign diplomats with immunity from 2000 through 2008. The GAO believes the total number of alleged incidents since 2000 is likely higher for four reasons: household workers’ fear of contacting law enforcement, nongovernmental organizations’ protection of victim confidentiality, limited information on some cases handled by the U.S. government, and federal agencies’ challenges identifying cases.

Via GAO 2008

Via GAO 2008

Each year, the State Department issues A-3 and G-5 visas to individuals whose employers are foreign diplomats on official purposes in the United States. Most of these individuals are hired to work for foreign diplomats in the District of Columbia, Maryland, New York, or Virginia. According to the 2008 GAO report, for fiscal years 2000 through 2007, 207 U.S. embassies and consular posts overseas issued 10,386 A-3 visas and 7,522 G-5 visas.

Recent State Department statistics indicate that from 2008 through 2012, it issued 5,330 A-3 visas to attendant, servant, or personal employee of A1 visa holders (ambassador, public minister, career diplomat, consul, and immediate family) and A2 visa holders (other foreign government official or employee, and immediate family).  It also issued 4,196 G-5 visas to attendant, servant, or personal employee of G1 through G4 (international organization officials and representatives).  That’s about a 50% decrease on A-3 visas and a 44% decrease in G5 visas issued since 2008. What might have accounted for that huge drop?

How about the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008?  Click here for the laws on trafficking in persons dating back to the year 2000.

In any case — five years ago today, President George W. Bush signed the TVPRA to combat human trafficking. Section 203 of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 requires the secretary of state to suspend  the issuance of A–3 visas or G–5 visas to applicants seeking to work for officials of a diplomatic mission or an international organization, if the Secretary determines that there is credible evidence that 1 or more employees of such mission or international organization have abused or exploited 1 or more nonimmigrants holding an A–3 visa or a G–5 visa, and that the diplomatic mission or international organization tolerated such actions.

No secretary of state has ever exercise the authority to suspend any diplomatic mission despite some repeat offenders. For a look at what the State Department has done/not done when it comes to TVPA and domestic employees of foreign diplomats in the United States, read Janie A. Chuang’s critical paper on Achieving Accountability for Migrant Domestic Worker Abuse in the 2010 North Carolina Law Review.  One of the sections talks about the State Department’s “Failure to Use Power to Name, Shame, and Deter Wrongdoers.”

Chief of Mission Accountability

In 2008, the State Department through USUN sent this note verbale on the Treatment of Domestic Workers at UN Missions.

Recently, the host country has learned of a number of allegations of trafficking in persons with respect to domestic workers, including allegations of involuntary servitude and physical abuse. For example, this Mission has periodically been informed of instances where wages actually paid are less than those stipulated in an employment contract; where passports have been withheld from employees; where the actual number of working hours is considerably greater than those initially contemplated and no additional pay is provided; and where an employee is forbidden from leaving an employer’s premises even when off-duty. The United States Mission takes seriously any such allegation brought to its attention and refers these cases, as appropriate, to the United States Department of Justice for review and investigation.  
[...]
The United States Mission also wishes to advise the Permanent Missions that its commitment to fair and reasonable labor conditions is consistent with its commitment to human rights and, further, comports with the practice of other governments and with the requirements imposed by international organizations on their employees who have foreign domestic workers.  Although the United States recognizes that the great majority of diplomats and Mission personnel are law-abiding members of the United Nations community, it is necessary to periodically re-circulate and update information regarding United States laws, regulations and policies regarding the employment of personal domestic servants.
In fact, if you take a look at this archive of diplomatic notes, it is clear that the treatment of domestic employees, their contracts, prevailing wage, pre-notification requirements are recurring subjects.

In a 2009 diplomatic note, the State Department puts the heads of missions on notice that they are generally accountable for the treatment of domestic workers employed by their mission. We presume that this is a recurring reminder that the State Department sends to all diplomatic missions in the United States:

The United States Mission looks to the Permanent Representatives to be responsible for the conduct of the members of their missions and for ensuring that their treatment of domestic workers in their employ evidences respect for all relevant United States laws. In this regard, it is  recommended that the Permanent Mission maintain copies of the signed domestic worker contracts and be able to review such contracts, as well as records of payments made to each domestic worker, in the event that the United States Mission seeks assistance if faced with credible allegations of a mission member’s mistreatment of a domestic worker.

The United States Mission and/or the Department of State refer credible allegations of abuse of domestic workers by mission members which may constitute criminal conduct to the United States Department of Justice. In that context, the United States Mission and the Department of State may take other appropriate action, including, based on the determination by an appropriate prosecuting authority that prosecution is warranted, a request for a waiver of any applicable immunity. Mission members are not only expected to pay the greater of the minimum or prevailing wage and abide by other contract terms, but they should also be aware that in the United States, withholding a person’s passport maybe evidence of the crime of trafficking in persons if it is done with the intent of keeping that person in a state of forced labor or service.

In the Trafficking in Persons Report 2010, the State Department notes the following:
Worldwide, domestic workers employed by diplomats suffer abuses ranging from wage exploitation to trafficking offenses. Diplomats are government officials who serve their governments abroad and are generally able to apply for visas enabling domestic workers – often from third countries – to accompany them on their foreign assignments.
Because domestic servants working for diplomats work behind closed doors – cleaning, cooking, and caring for children – they can become invisible to the neighborhoods and communities they live in. Domestic workers brought into a country by diplomats face potentially greater isolation than other workers because of language and cultural barriers, ignorance of the law, and sheer distance from family and friends. They work for government officials who may appear to them to hold exceptional power and/or influence. The resulting invisibility and isolation of such workers raises concerns about the potential for diplomatic employers to ignore the terms of their employment contracts and to restrict their domestic workers’ freedom of movement and subject them to various abuses. Because diplomats generally enjoy immunity from civil and criminal jurisdiction while on assignment, legal recourse and remedies available to domestic workers in their employ – and the criminal response otherwise available to the host government – are often significantly limited.
And in March 2012, during the Annual Meeting of the President’s Interagency Task Force To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this:

“We thought it was unfair for diplomats who victimized their own domestic workers were, because of diplomatic immunity, virtually untouchable. So now, we’re making sure that diplomats coming to this country understand their obligations and responsibilities, and we’re taking action when we have evidence that they are not.”

No one paid attention then,  but they’re paying attention now.

In the latest diplomatic row between the United States and India, the Times of India provided an unconfirmed timeline of the events.   It indicates that the State Department reportedly wrote to the Indian ambassador in Washington, D.C. on September 4, 2013 expressing “considerable concern” over the allegations.  On September 21, the Indian Embassy reportedly replied, “that this was none of US’ business and that the maid was seeking a monetary settlement and US visa, whereby subverting both Indian and US laws.”

If that timeline is accurate, one has to ask who miscalculated whose response?

 

“This is happening 10 miles from the White House”

- Martina Vandenberg, Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center

Despite the many notable cases of abuse by diplomats ranging from non-payment of wages to sexual assaults, we do not see very often an arrest of a foreign diplomat or international representative in the United States. But following the arrest of  IMF’s Dominique Strauss-Kahn in 2011, Reuters did report the following:

Foreign diplomats have been the subject of at least 11 civil lawsuits and one criminal prosecution related to abuse of domestic workers in the last five years, according to a Reuters review of U.S. federal court records. The allegations range from slave-like work conditions to rape, and the vast majority of the diplomats in these cases avoided prison terms and financial penalties.

We have not been able to locate all civil lawsuits but the cases below are just a sampling of abuse allegations by domestic employees against their foreign diplomat-employers in the United States in the last several years.

Tae Sook PARK v. Bong Kil SHIN (South Korean Consulate/San Francisco) | Tae Sook Park, a domestic servant sued Deputy Consul General Bong Kil Shin of the Korean Consulate in San Francisco.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court decision dismissing Park’s claims of labor law violations. It held that the deputy consul was not entitled to immunity under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations or the U.S. Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, and remanded the case back to district court. He later became ambassador.

Swarna v. Al-Awadi (Kuwait Embassy)|  Swarna Vishranthamma took to court her former employers, Badar Al-Awadi and his wife, Halal Muhammad Al-Shaitan and the State of Kuwait in 2009.  At the time of the events in question, Mr. Al-Awadi was a diplomat serving in New York City with the Permanent Mission of the State of Kuwait to the United Nations. According to WaPo,  Kuwaiti government hired a prominent law firm to defend him in the civil case — in court filings, he has denied the allegations — and then later promoted him to be Kuwait’s ambassador to Cuba.

Mildrate Yancho Nchang (Cameroon Embassy) | According to WaPo,  Nchang filed a case against her employers alleging she toiled for three years without pay or a day off and then was hospitalized after being beaten by a Cameroonian diplomat’s wife. She sued in federal court in Maryland, but the case was dismissed in 2006 when the diplomat asserted immunity.

Mazengo v. Mzengi, et.al. (Tanzania Embassy)| In 2007, Ms. Mazengo, a citizen of Tanzania, sued her former employers, defendants Alan S. Mzengi and Stella Mzengi, husband and wife, alleging that they falsely imprisoned her and subjected her to involuntary servitude and forced labor in violation of federal law. Alan S. Mzengi was a diplomat accredited to the embassy of the Republic of Tanzania.  WikiLeaks Alert: See the State-USEmbassy Tanzania demarche on the outstanding restitution for TIP victim, Ms. Zipora Mazengo.

Regina Leo (Kuwaiti Embassy) | In July, 2008, a lawsuit was filed against an attache in the Embassy of Kuwait, Brig. Gen. Ahmed Al Naser, and his family, by their former maid, Regina Leo, an Indian immigrant who alleged that she was forced to work as much as 18 hours per day.

Marichu Suarez Baoana (Philippine Embassy) | According to WaPo, in 2009, Ms. Baoana, a Philippine national sued the Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations, Lauro L. Baja Jr. alleging she was forced to endure 126-hour workweeks with no pay, performing household chores and caring for the couple’s grandchild.

Daedema Ramos (Kuwait Embassy) | In 2010, the Filipina housekeeper left a Kuwaiti diplomat’s Manhattan duplex where she worked 20 hours a day, earning as little s $500 a month. With help from Damayan, a grassroots organization fighting for the rights of low-wage Filipino migrant workers she escape her employer, and was encouraged to fight back. In July 2012, the diplomat settled with her after she demanded unpaid wages.

Sophia Kiwanuka (World Bank) | According to Reuters, World Bank economist, Anne Margreth Bakilana, hired a Tanzanian woman, Sophia Kiwanuka, to work in her home in Falls Church, Virginia, and improperly withheld Kiwanuka’s wages and threatened to send her back to Tanzania, according to court records. She pleaded guilty in 2010 and was sentenced to two years probation and fined $9,400.

Bhardwaj v. Dayal et al (Indian Embassy) |  In 2011, Indian national Santosh Bhardwaj filed a lawsuit against Indian Consul General Prabhu Dayal for allegedly intimidating her into a year of forced labor, where she was subjected to 105-hour workweeks for $300 per month. According to Indian Express, in December 2012, the Indian Ministry of Finance approved payment of $75,000 from the budget of Ministry of External Affairs to a “former domestic assistant” who had filed a lawsuit against India’s consul-general in New York, Prabhu Dayal. Click here to read an interview with Mr. Dayal in India Today concerning his case and the Khobragade case.

Araceli Montuya (Lebanon Embassy ) | She filed a lawsuit against  her former employer, the Lebanese Ambassador Antoine Chedid. On April 2011, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington threw out a case in which Montuya alleged that Chedid and his wife underpaid and verbally abused her.

Four former cooks and housekeepers (Qatar Embassy) |  According to Reuters, on March 2011, four former cooks and housekeepers for Essa Mohammed Al Manai, Qatar’s second-highest ranking diplomat in the United States filed a civil lawsuit alleging they were paid less than 70 cents per hour and “forced to work around the clock” at Al Manai’s six-bedroom home in Bethesda, Maryland. The suit also claimed that one of the women was sexually assaulted. More here.

F.V. (The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office) |  In 2011, Hsien-Hsien “Jacqueline” Liu, 64, of Taiwan, high-ranking representative of Taiwan was charged in federal court with fraud in foreign labor contracting for fraudulently obtaining a Filipino servant for her residence. Liu paid the Filipino worker $400-450 per month, although the employment contract stipulated a salary of $1,240 per month. Liu allegedly required the victim to work six days a week, 16 to 18 hours a day, and forbid her to leave the house without permission. (See Taiwanese Official in Kansas Charged for “Fraudulently Obtaining a Filipino Servant”).  Liu was arrested by the FBI on Nov. 10, 2011 and was detained for two months before entering a plea agreement. She eventually entered a plea agreement and was ordered to pay US$80,044 in restitution to the two maids. According to the Taipei Times, in 2012, Liu was suspended from her duties for two years for “seriously damaging the country’s reputation.”

Gurung v. Mahotra (Indian Embassy) | In 2012, a New York City Magistrate Judge  ordered Neena Malhotra, an Indian diplomat and her husband Jogesh to pay nearly $1.5 million reportedly arising from their employment of an Indian girl, Shanti Gurung who alleged “barbaric treatment” while she was employed as their domestic worker.

C.V. (Mauritius Embassy) | According to The Record, in 2012, Somuth Soborun, the Republic of Mauritius’ ambassador to the US pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor offense in September, admitting that he failed to properly pay a domestic worker minimum hourly and overtime wages between December 2008 and August 2009. He was fined $5,000.  As part of his plea agreement, Soborun has already paid $24,153 in restitution to the domestic worker, who was identified in court papers only by the initials C.V.

Kumari Sabbithi, Joaquina Quadros and Tina Fernandes (Kuwaiti Embassy) | In 2012, the ACLU represented three Indian women who were employed as domestic workers by Major Waleed Al Saleh and his wife Maysaa Al Omar of McLean, Virginia.  The complaint alleged that they were brought to the U.S. in the summer of 2005 and that they were forced to work every day from 6:30 a.m. until sometimes as late as 1:30 a.m. for approximately $250 to $350 a month. The complaint further alleged that they were subjected to threats and verbal and physical abuse, including one incident in which Al Saleh threw one of the women, Sabbithi, against a kitchen table, knocking her unconscious. The Kuwaiti government agreed to settle the case brought by three women who claimed that they were trafficked to the United States by a Kuwaiti diplomat and his wife.

USA v. Devyani Khobragade |  In December 2013, the Indian Deputy Consul General Arrested For Visa Fraud and False Statements Related to Domestic Worker

The  reported abuse of migrant domestic workers by diplomats and the staff of international organizations typically include wages and hour violations, passport deprivation, denial of the workers’ right to leave the house or premises in which they work, physical, sexual and emotional abuse and invasion of privacy, where domestic workers often have their rooms searched, their mail opened, and are not allowed to make private phone calls.  For additional reading, see  Joy M. Zarembka’s Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy,which details the plight of some of the domestic workers brought to the U.S. by employees of international organizations.

Maid in Manhattan Case: U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, the Man Who Makes Embassy Row Tremble

We suspect that nowhere is the  Khobragade Affair watched more closely than in the United Nations in New York and in the Embassy Row (the informal name for the streets and area of Washington, D.C. in which embassies, diplomatic missions, and other diplomatic representations are concentrated).  Besides India, that is.  To avoid possible “misunderstanding,” the State Department has recommended that diplomats keep employment records of their domestic workers including work hours and payment, records that should be maintained for the duration of actual employment of domestic employees plus three years.  Would be interesting to see how many diplomatic missions in the United States actually take this recommendation seriously.

In an interview with India Today published on December 23, the former Indian Consul General Prabhu Dayal who was taken to court by his former housekeeper in New York said that “in our consulates in the US, there is a lot of fear today.”

“India’s view has been that the domestic assistants of our diplomats hold Official Passports and should be outside the purview of US labour laws. The US side has not agreed to this, insisting that US laws apply to them. This impasse continues.[...] even if were were to revamp our system relating to domestic assistants, we will not be able to guarantee that our officials in our Consulates will not be arrested or dragged into law courts for some  reason or another in future. The US is a highly litigious country where suing people is a sort of favourite past time. [...] There is no doubt, however that our officers posted at the Consulate in New York have begun to feel very insecure after all these recent cases, and the same may also be true for the other Consulates in Chicago, San Francisco, Houston and Atlanta. How will India protect its diplomats posted to the Consulates given the US position on immunity?”

But perhaps the more telling parts during this incident is the on the record statement made by a senior Indian official quoted by the Times of India below:
“Which Indian would pay a help Rs 6500 ($ 100) a day?” asked Shakti Sinha, a former principal secretary in the government of India who did various stints abroad, including at the World Bank and various UN agencies, assuming eight normal working hours.

FirstPost.com reports  on India’s former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal’s opinion on this matter, quoting the former official as saying:

“There is much chicanery involved here. Indian diplomats taking domestic staff to the US accept the minimum wage requirement when all concerned, including the US visa services and the State Department, know this is done pro-forma to have the paper work in order. To imagine that the US authorities are duped into believing that our diplomats will pay their domestic staff more than what they earn is absurd. The US authorities have been clearing such visas for years to practically resolve the contradiction between reality and the letter of the law.”

And that’s probably why “there is a lot of fear today.”

Apparently, according to NYT, there are 14 other Indian maids working for Indian diplomats in the United States, and “India is negotiating over their status with the State Department.”  If a Deputy Consul General could be hauled to jail for underpaying her domestic employee, who could Preet Bharara go after next?

Dirty Laundry Gets Washed

The State Department’s TIP 2012 report says that “U.S. government employees, their dependents, and members of their households do not have immunity in the U.S. domestic legal framework for acts of human trafficking associated with domestic staff occurring at overseas postings. Any such reports will be fully investigated by Diplomatic Security and/or the Office of the Inspector General and, where appropriate, may result in either an administrative penalty and/or referral to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution. These measures apply to Department of State employees overseas as well as their dependents and other members of household.”

It’s not an accident that the above item was included in the report.  The State Department had two recent cases of domestic worker abuse.

Harold and Kimberly Countryman | In 2006, Harold Countryman, a former Department of State agent, and his wife, Kimberly Countryman, a realtor in northern Virginia, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting visa fraud.  According to the plea agreement, Kimberly Countryman admitted to using the fraudulent visa to further the forced labor of a Cambodian woman in their employ. According to court documents, the couple provided materially false information to the Department of State to obtain a visa on behalf of a Cambodian woman, who they then brought to the United States to work for them as a domestic servant for two years. In the plea agreement, Kimberly Countryman admitted that she procured the visa with reason to believe that the visa would be used to commit a felony, namely forced labor. As a result, Kimberly Countryman is subject to an increase in her sentence. Kimberly Countryman acknowledged that she withheld a portion of the woman’s pay, took possession of the woman’s passport, and physically assaulted the woman.  As part of the plea agreement, the Countrymans were required to pay $50,000 in restitution and $50,000 in forfeiture.

Linda  and Russell Howard |  In 2011, Jane Doe, an Ethiopian national in her 30s filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia against a State Department employee Linda Howard and her husband, Russell Howard, alleging involuntary servitude, forced labor and human trafficking in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA).  She alleged that she was forced to work more than 80 hours a week for less than a dollar an hour; the exact amount was $0.88 an hour; the minimum hourly wage at the time of Jane Doe’s employment was $6.55 an hour.  Court awarded a default judgment to Jane Doe for total damages of $3,306,468.  Linda and Russell Howard had reportedly left the United States. See Court Awards $3.3 Million Default Judgment Against State Dept Couple Accused of Slavery and Rape of Housekeeper.

The Signal Plus the Noise, the Diplomatic Edition

The suspension of a high-ranking Taiwanese official for two years for “seriously damaging the country’s reputation” is the only case we are aware of in recent memory where an official was disciplined by the sending country in the aftermath of U.S. federal charges related to the treatment of a domestic worker.  In most cases, it looks like the official in question, protected by the sending state, gets moved elsewhere,  or even gets a promotion with no career repercussion. Clearly underpayment or mistreatment of a domestic employee is not considered a serious offense by a good number of diplomatic missions.

While diplomats continue to dodge cases like this behind diplomatic immunity, and as long as governments stand behind their diplomats when they commit infractions like this, the practice will continue. As the German Institute of Human Right points out: “...[E]mployers’ diplomatic immunity in prac­tice overrules the human rights of the victim and leads to a situation of de facto-unaccountability and –impu­nity for exploitative employers.”

In this India-U.S. row, we note that the outrage is focused on the circumstances of the diplomat’s arrest. And that is understandable. But it is also important to note that while the focus of the  outrage is the strip-search, few are talking about the alleged treatment of the domestic worker.  Unless, of course, we’re talking about the former Khobragade maid as a CIA agent.

In early December, Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York also charged 49 Russian Diplomats/Spouses With Picking Uncle Sam’s Pocket in Medicaid Scam. Most of the diplomats charged are no longer in the country. And of the defendants still  here, most are attached to the UN Mission and presumably enjoy diplomatic immunity. If the U.S. may not be able to put anyone in jail nor be able to recoup the thousands of dollars in scammed Medicaid money, why charged them?  We suspect that the charges were brought to put a stop to the scam.  Basically a megaphone saying — we know what you’re doing, shame on you, now stop it.

As complicated as the Khobragade case may seem, it will be resolved eventually. A $90 billion bilateral trade partnership is at stake. Who would throw that partnership over the cliff for a mid-level official?  Or for an underpaid housemaid?  Stay tuned.  Perhaps the more interesting take on this incident is by Alison Frankel who writes, “For all we know, the State Department intended to send a message to the international diplomatic corps, which is often accused of cloaking itself in diplomatic immunity to avoid claims of mistreating domestic staff.”

Do we have an aha moment here?

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Filed under Ambassadors, Compensation, Diplomacy, Diplomatic Immunity, Diplomatic Life, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Service, Govt Reports/Documents, Hall of Shame, India, Realities of the FS, State Department, Visas

November 4, 1979: Iranian Mob Attacks US Embassy Tehran; Hostages Compensated $50/Day

– Domani Spero

Thirty four years ago today, the US Embassy in Tehran was taken over by a mob of Iranian students supporting the Iranian Revolution.  52 embassy employees were held hostage for 1 year, 2 months, 2 weeks and 2 days until their release on January 20, 1981.

Below are some excerpts from ADST’s Oral History project’s interviews with Ambassador Bruce Laingen, the chargé d’affaires at that time,  Ambassador John W. Limbert who was assigned as Political Officer at the  US Embassy in Tehran from 1979-1981, and Penelope Laingen, the wife of Ambassador Laingen.

Bruce Laingen | Read The Iran Hostage Crisis Part I and Ambassador Laingen’s interview:

“Their real intent was not to get the Shah back, despite the slogans that were so useful to them in that sense to get passions in the streets aroused. Their intent was to use that device to destabilize and undermine the provisional government of the revolution and to facilitate a greater role for the more radical elements.

At any rate, it did not seem that the situation was all that bad at the outset. In retrospect we should have begun destruction earlier. I, obviously as chief of mission, had that responsibility and today bear that responsibility for the way in which not enough of our classified documentation was destroyed. We had too much, we started too late, and we had equipment that was not the best….

Of course, a lot of the paper that did not seem to have that urgency of destruction, including unclassified biographical material, would also in time prove to be a very damaging element of the situation, because lots of that stuff has Central Intelligence Agency logo stamped on it even if it is unclassified. That was enough to fire the fury of the more radical elements of the revolution, even though it was material of an unclassified, descriptive nature. That was sufficient to cause a great deal of pain and hurt to a lot of Iranians.

And that is the real pain that I have felt since. Not that our security was threatened, our strategic interests, or political interests in Iran and the region. They were not seriously affected by what was leaked. It was clear in any event at that point that our relationship with the Iranians was not going to be reestablished very soon. But the human hurt for a lot of people in Iran because of the way we were not able to destroy incriminating documentation, that is the legacy that hurts me very much today.”

John Limbert | Read more here or his interview here.

“I did probably one of the most stupid things I’ve ever done in my Foreign Service career. I volunteered to go out and talk to these guys. I’m a Persian speaker, so perhaps I can go out and see if we can defuse this someway, or delay it, defuse it, divert it. We did not see these guys being armed or anybody getting hurt. So that’s what I did. I went out, they opened the door, I went out the door and started talking to these guys. And at first they were shocked, because they thought I was an Iranian. I kept reassuring them, “No, no, no, I’m not an Iranian, I’m an American employee of the embassy, you should get out of here.” I took my most professorial tone with them and was as overbearing as I could be and saying, “You are where you should not be. You have no business here. You should get out as soon as you can. You are causing trouble. Who do you think you are?” So forth and so on. And they weren’t having any of it.

I’ll tell you a little story about this. About 1991 or ’92 there was a made-for-TV movie about the hostage taking. It wasn’t a great bit of moviemaking but it was not bad. And part of the movie shows this particular incident, where the actor playing me goes out to talk to these guys and gets taken. I was showing this at one point to an audience, using this as an example and one of the people in the audience, perhaps he didn’t realize this character was supposed to be me and in this stage whisper said, “God, what an idiot!” although he didn’t use the word “idiot.” He used a more anatomical descriptor. True, I must admit he had a point. I’ve always called this the low point of my Foreign Service career and my least successful negotiation.”

Penelope Laingen | Read her 1986 interview here.

“In my whole history of being connected to the Foreign Service, whenever I’d started a project, for instance — I am a writer and I had three chapters written in a novel and my teacher said “You have a real winner here and should get an agent now” — then, Bruce was taken hostage, so I put that away and I’ve not gotten back to it. I will someday, I hope. I had also upholstered a chair and I had everything but the back done when we went to Malta, (so I had to put that away, too). I mean, it’s just been a history of deferring or putting aside something. So when he was taken hostage, I just had to put everything else out of my mind and concentrate on that. I also called all my training in the Foreign Service to bear, even though I felt I had been “dismissed” by the Foreign Service.

[...]

So, here we come to the hostage crisis, a terribly public, international crisis, where you are on television. I think most people recognize and say, okay, this is the wife of the Chief of Mission (and how she behaves reflects not only on her husband, but perhaps on the whole Foreign Service or on Americans on the world scene). If I had gone on television and cried nightly, if I’d flown off to Iran and called the President stupid or the Government’s policy stupid, I think I would have heard in two minutes just how private a person I was! (I would have been reprimanded by the very Department of State which had proclaimed me to be a private person with no responsibility to my husband’s career). I mean, I’m being sarcastic and I realized I wasn’t a private person. You can’t be a private person. You are a part of the Foreign Service and particularly when you are on the public stage like that. It’s a public life. How can you be a private person in a public life? See, this is what Sandra Gotlieb found out. You cannot be a private person in a public arena. There’s no way.

So, the hypocrisy of this official policy has just gnawed no end at me. And I got no support from the Department in that role. I got sort of superficial support. Well, not even that, not even that.
[...]

One thing that made it difficult was the lack of esprit de corps among the families. I mean, we had never served together, so that was one of the drawbacks. And there were all different services involved. There’s a study done of fourteen hostage wives. Those of us who had served the longest in the Foreign Service expected the most, yet felt we had received the least support. Those foreign-born spouses in the group expected nothing and were deeply grateful for whatever they received in the way of support. They had no great expectations of the Department, which was perhaps a cultural difference. And the military wives felt they received the greatest support, which they did, and in return kept their allegiance to those services in tact. I believe Sheldon Krys and other Department managers did the best they could under the circumstances, but they had much to learn from the Iran crisis in the management of families during a crisis. It was always a source of great disappointment to me, for instance, that not once during the crisis did any of my husband’s colleagues offer to take our youngest son to a basketball game or call to inquire about the house or other personal matters. It was up to us unite ourselves and support one another in that personal way.”

According to the CRS report dated September 2013, “the former hostages and their families did receive a number of benefits under various civil service laws, and each hostage received from the U.S. government a cash payment of $50 for each day held hostage. The hostages have never received any compensation from Iran through court actions, all efforts having failed due to foreign sovereign immunity and an executive agreement known as the Algiers Accords, which bars such lawsuits.”   Also see this Brief from USDOJ before SCOTUS dated April 2012.  See  Roder, et.al v. Iran to catch up on the litigation history.

So 444 days by $50 is exactly $22,200.00.

Currently in Congress, is Senate bill S. 559, the Justice for Former American Hostages in Iran Act of 2013, which would establish a fund to compensate the former hostages. The American Hostages in Iran Compensation Fund would pay to each former hostage or estate of a former hostage $150,000 plus $5,000 per each day of captivity ($2.37 million total per former hostage).  Over at the House, the Justice for the American Diplomats Held Hostage in Tehran Act, H.R. 904, was introduced and referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice.  Each former hostage or estate of a former hostage would receive $10,000 for each day of captivity ($4.44 million each); each spouse or child of a former hostage would receive half that amount.

In both bills, the funds would come from fines and penalties imposed for violations related to Iran. Both cases also include a provision that recipients waive and release all existing claims against Iran and the United States arising out of the hostage crisis.

* * *

 

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Filed under Ambassadors, CIA, Compensation, Court Cases, Diplomatic Attacks, Diplomatic History, Foreign Service, FSOs, Govt Reports/Documents, Iran, Realities of the FS, Spouses/Partners, State Department

State Dept on Embassy Workers Unionization: Yo! Could Put U.S. National Security at Risk

– By Domani Spero

Eric Katz via govexec.com: State Department Says Unionizing Its Foreign National Workers Would Threaten Security

The International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers — a union housed within the AFL-CIO — reached out to the State Department about the possibility of unionizing more than 40,000 “locally employed” staff in foreign countries. State responded that it does not have the legal grounds to seek a collective bargaining arrangement with the employees.

Additionally, the State Department said it simply had no interest in seeking to unionize the employees.

“Such unionization at diplomatic and consular missions is fundamentally incompatible with the basic functions and operations of such missions,” Steven Polson, State’s chief labor-management negotiator, wrote in the letter.

He added unionization “could, frankly put our foreign relations and national security at risk.”  

According to govexec, Mr. Polson cites the potential “logistical nightmare” of collective bargaining with foreign nationals paid under 176 different local compensation plans. And apparently,  “labor laws in certain countries prohibit their citizens from maintaining union representation.”

The report also said that Mr. Polson “encouraged foreign national employees to join “[locally employed] staff associations,” which could “meet regularly with post management to discuss concerns and resolve issues” and declared the “department has no interest in pursuing this discussion further.”

n 2009, Eddy Olislaeger, a veteran FSN at the US Embassy in Brussels founded the International Foreign Service Association (IFSA). The group wrote to then Director General of the Foreign Service Nancy Powell (now current US Ambassador to India) seeking her help in “formalizing a working relationship between IFSA and the State Department.” The State Department declined IFSA’s request on the basis that it was an attempt to establish a union.

More on this issue from the FSNs perspectives see:

Last Friday, IFSA issued a statement expressing disappointment “by the State Department’s continued rejection of any form of social dialogue with the largest component of its workforce.” It calls Mr. Polson’s argument against unionization “humiliating to the thousands of loyal and dedicated LE staff, let alone the 12,000+ men and women who work in security positions all over the world protecting US diplomats, US citizens and embassy facilities.”   The statement also notes that “Locally employed staff work in a legal vacuum, a system of Catch-22 rules and regulations, a compensation plan that lacks transparency, the absence of a system of accountability for management and a corporate culture that is not conducive to openness.” It expresses its commitment on continuing “to seek a dialogue aimed at breaking down the inequities in our workplace.”  Read in full here.

The current number of local employees working at U.S. Embassies worldwide as of March 2013 is 45,576.  A 2007 State/OIG report noted that since 1998, far more local embassy employes have been killed in the performance of their duties than have American Foreign Service employees.  The report points out the need for the Department “to codify in one place and strengthen its commitment to LE staff.”  That report recommended not only the development of “a bill of rights for locally employed staff” but also the establishment of a “a locally employed staff ombudsman position.” Neither of those recommendations, as far as we know has been implemented by the State Department.

In 2008, State/OIG did an inspection of the compensation issues of local embassy staff.  A report it issued on April 30, 2009 (Review of Locally Employed Staff Compensation Issues (ISP-I-09-44) included the following:

The U.S. is falling behind in providing a competitive compensation package for LE staff that is commensurate with their experience, technical skills,and responsibilities. Office of the Inspector General (OIG) survey data show that the U.S. Government is implementing average salary increases that are approximately 60 percent of what could be termed “prevailing practice.”

U.S. missions worldwide told the OIG team of their concerns about the current LE staff compensation review process, including discontent with off-the-shelf salary survey data, lack of transparency in the process, disparities between the salary and budget cycles, the use of outmoded and cumbersome communication technology, and the lack of interagency involvement and decision making.

Here’s the funny part, please get ready to laugh.

Image via Wikimedia Commons by Saibo

Image via Wikimedia Commons by Saibo

The State Department through it’s HR office on Overseas Employment (HR/OE/CM) spends an extensive amount of time and energy  in the the local employee compensation reviews/surveys to determine prevailing practice.

That’s a largely wasted exercise since the Department and other agencies “cannot” fund the suggested locally employed embassy staff salary increases.

State/OIG noted then that “the current system is inappropriate and inefficient, does not meet the requirements of the FSA, cannot be justified or explained, and cannot be regarded as professional treatment of an irreplaceable, valued group of employees.”  The OIG team also found situations in which “embassies were losing staff to other employers, an occurrence often attributed to the inability of the Embassy to achieve pay parity with the local labor market.  Some missions found that it was difficult to replace employees who left to take other jobs, particularly in countries with low unemployment rates.”

That State/OIG report cited 27 missions which presented “compelling arguments that their lower grade employees fall short of minimal living standards.” These arguments included accounts of LE staff doing the following:

  • removing children from school
  • cutting back to one meal a day
  • sending children to sell water or little cakes or toiletries on the streets
  • foregoing prescription medication because they cannot afford the co-pay
  • resigning to move back to their hometown because they cannot afford to live in the post city
  • sending their families back to their home country because they cannot afford to live in the host country
  • the cost of rice for an average family equating to half the monthly wages of over 60 percent of the staff
  • employees depending on salary advances and defaulting on loans in order to cover basic expenses
  • grades 1 to 3 earning less than $1.00 per day
  • employees paying at least $250 a month for a single room apartment with a salary of $250 to $400 a month
  • up to 50 percent of salary being spent on groceries, and 40 percent on
  • utilities salaries falling short of official poverty levels

State/OIG has that in its report on local compensation issues. The report presumably was read by somebody with the appropriate pay grade at the State Department.  Read. Checked.

That’s from a four-year old report.  But we recently heard that in one European post, the bureau with the highest attrition rate for local employees, one post has not had a salary increase in about 10 years.

Look — the State Department collected $3.1 billion in consular fees in FY2012.   That large pie shows allocation to Resource Management for American Salaries at $433,508,000 and to the Foreign Service Institute-Consular Training, Conferences, and Workshops at $7,054,000.  We could not find allocation of any sort for local employees.  Despite the budget constraints, it’s not like the State Department is not pulling in shovels of money from its consular operation, because it is.  If you can allocate $430 million to the salaries of American employees, it is hard to understand why can’t you find a slice of that pie for the salary increase of local employees.

Is it that funds for local employees is not  a priority?  Is it that the State Department takes them for granted, after all, they chose to work for the USG? And, of course, will continue working for the State Department whether they get salary increases/pay parity or not.  Some decades ago, the USG also decided that local employees need not even be members of the Civil Service for retirement purposes.  This group of people cannot vote or contribute to U.S. social security.  Is it that they’re foreign nationals and Congress has no real interest in them?  There are 45,576 of them and aren’t they all just happy to have jobs working for Uncle Sam who takes care of them when he can?

Foreign Service Nationals are apparently the “sturdy backbone” that holds together our diplomatic missions overseas. And  because we treat them so well and all, there is absolutely no reason why they should ever need a union, or a bill of rights, or an ombudsman.  And if they get killed in the line of duty, well then …. they’d be lucky if they find a USG official to fundraise for their next of kin on his own time.

If this group of employees were a book, the following would be printed in bold on the dust jacket:

“FSNs provide more than services and corporate memory. They are the backbone of the Department and play an essential role in achieving U.S. foreign policy objectives. Their loyalty and dedication are legendary. Many FSNs have given their lives protecting U.S. embassies and employees.”

State Magazine (Official Magazine of the U.S. Department of State)

“Of approximately 40,000 FSNs employed worldwide by all U.S. agencies, 32,000—80 percent—work for the Department. Their knowledge, special skills and rich network of local con- tacts are priceless. They share our vision, our challenges, our risks and our burdens.”

Ambassador W. Robert Pearson (Director General of the Foreign Service, 2003-2006)

“I would like to say a special thank you to our 53,000 Locally Employed Staff serving around the world. These dedicated men and women perform many critical tasks and generously share their experience and wisdom with their American colleagues.

Ambassador Nancy Powell (Director General of the Foreign Service, 2009-2012)

“Consul generals come and go, ambassadors come and go, Secretaries come and go, but our locally employed staff really provides the continuity. You provide the memory bank of everything that went before, and we could not do this work without you as our colleagues working side by side every single day.”

Hillary Rodham Clinton (Secretary of State, 2009-2013)

“Americans who serve overseas are blessed to never serve alone. We rely on the support and the friendship and the wise counsel of our locally employed staff, and we trust our cause to their courage. Local employees around the world commit themselves to building strong and lasting relationships between their home countries and the United States, and they often serve for decades with loyalty and with devotion. You teach a steady stream of American diplomats who serve among you for a few years all about the values and virtues and beauties of your country and of the spirit of your people. You are the sturdy backbone that holds together the kind of mission that we are engaged in, and we are enormously grateful to you for that.”

John F. Kerry, Secretary of State, March 1, 2013

 

Perhaps what  Mr. chief labor-management negotiator failed to explain is if 45,576 local embassy employees were to unionize, they could potentially immobilize embassy operations in over 280 locations. In which case, every mission would have to implement a policy of “all-purpose duty,” as US Embassy Moscow did in 1986 whereby all embassy employees were expected to pick up all of the tasks previously handled by the Foreign Service Nationals, in addition to their official responsibilities.  In Moscow, the Ambassador spouse was not spared as her household staff was also pulled out and she had to double as hostess and cook.  In this scenario, even the most tedious tasks, such as washing embassy cars, shoveling snow, cutting grass, cleaning bathrooms, answering phones, printing visas, clearing goods through customs, etc. etc….will become the responsibility of the American diplomatic officials, in addition to their own duties and responsibilities.

We live in an interconnected world, more so now than five years ago.  The linkages already exist.  A time will come in the not too distant future when Mr. Polson’s “staff associations” will become one, whether the State Department choses to recognize it or not.

🙉

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Filed under Compensation, Foreign Service, Govt Reports/Documents, Leadership and Management, Locally Employed Staff, Secretary of State, State Department

US Mission Iraq: War Over, Danger Pay and Hardship Pay Go Down, Oh, But It’s Confusing

According to the State Department’s allowances website, all State Department posts in Iraq have been designated 35% danger pay and 35% post (hardship) differential pay posts.  The US mission in Iraq designation at the top 35% danger/35% hardship pay bracket has been in effect since March 5, 2006.  All of 2004 and 2005 it was at 25%/25%.  All of 2003, it was between 20%-25%.

We recently learned that the State Department has nudged four Iraq regions down for both danger and hardship pay:

Danger/Hardship Pay, February 2012

Danger/Hardship Pay, February 2012

Our understanding is that these new rates are now in effect but the Allowances website has yet to catch up.  This would be the first time in almost 7 years that US Mission Iraq is not at the top danger/hardship differential bracket.  This would also leave just the posts in two countries at the top danger rate bracket of 35%, one officially a war zone, while the other is not:

  •  Afghanistan: Kabul, Others
  •  Pakistan: Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Rawalpindi (except Quetta which remains at 25%)

The State Department’s Office of Allowances does say on its website that “since conditions at Danger Pay posts are reviewed periodically to ensure that the Danger Pay continues only during the existence of conditions justifying such payment, it is possible for the Danger Pay designation to be removed or modified at any time.”

The when of that is what is curious.

We have previously blogged about the perplexities with State’s danger pay designation (see Where dangerous conditions are not/not created equal … and  State Dept’s New High Threat Posts Are Not All Danger Posts).

Below is a table of Iraq casualties between 2003-2012

Iraq Body Count (2003-2012)

Iraq Body Count (2003-2012)

Danger Pay Rate

2003   3004  2005   2006   2007   2008   2009   2010   2011   2012

20%     25%     25%     35%     35%       35%     35%     35%      35%     35%

We understand that State has its own danger pay factors and since we have no access to that, we’ll have to make do with publicly available information on just how dangerous Iraq was since 2003 based on casualties.  Note that when casualties in Iraq started going up in 2003, the danger pay rate was between 20-25%.  It remained at 25% the entire year of 2005.  It went up to the maximum rate of 35% in March 2006 and remained at the top bracket until this year. The U.S. military pulled out of Iraq in December 2011.  The casualties that year and 2012 remained above 4,000 but below the 12,000 casualties at the beginning of the war. The danger rate stayed at 35%.

Screen Shot 2013-02-24

While the casualties have gone down, the country remains dangerous.  Here is what the embassy’s  2012 Crime and Security Report had to say about Iraq:

Iraq is rated as a critical threat for terrorism and political violence by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Despite the general decline in terrorist-related violence, the security situation in Iraq remains fluid. In December 2011, U.S. forces completely withdrew from Iraq. Terrorists and insurgent groups continue to conduct large-scale, lethal attacks that often target personnel and facilities associated with both American organizations and the Government of Iraq.  Insurgents also continue to carry out effective small-scale attacks throughout Iraq that cause fewer casualties but hinder free movement and influence public opinion regarding safety and security.
/snip/
While total attacks against U.S. personnel have decreased over the last three months, the threat of kidnapping, rocket attack, and small arms fire against U.S. interests in Iraq remains high and subject to flux based on domestic political, regional, and international developments.
/snip/
Since the U.S. military has withdrawn from Iraq, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Iraq have an extremely limited ability to assist Americans in the event of an emergency. Many services which many existed in the past, such as U.S. military-provided medevacs, transportation, convoy support, lodging, Quick Reaction Forces response to incidents, and monitoring of Personnel Security Details, are not generally available via the U.S. Embassy or Consulates.

In August 2012 IRIN/UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had this to say about the situation in Iraq:

Assessments of security trends in Iraq vary wildly depending on who you speak to, how you count the statistics, and which period of time you study. But one thing is clear: bomb blasts, targeted killings or improvised explosive devices are still a daily occurrence in Iraq.

Last week’s coordinated attacks – leaving more than 100 people dead – set a record for the highest number of deaths in a single day in more than two years, displaying the continued ability of insurgent groups to strike. A double bombing in the capital yesterday brought July’s death toll to 245, according to a count by Associated Press.

While the US and the Iraqi government insist that security gains have been made in recent years, UN and independent analysts characterize the situation as having stabilized at an unacceptably high level of violence, albeit now concentrated in more specific areas.

One might argue that the departure of the U.S. military has made working in Iraq more challenging, thus justifying keeping the mission at 35% in 2011 and 2012. But the U.S. military has not returned to Iraq in 2013, so what has changed to merit bumping down the rates?

Is the reason the danger rate is a notch lower due to improved security? Really?  Or is this due to the looming sequestration? Whatever it is, it is muddy as heck.

Here is another interesting example — Yemen.

The US Embassy in Sana’a was a 20% danger post in 2006,  2007 and part of 2008.  On September 17, 2008, the embassy was attacked which resulted in 19 deaths and 16 injuries.  According to Wikipedia, six attackers, six Yemeni police and seven civilians were killed.   On October 26, 2008, the embassy’s danger rate went up to 30% where it remained to-date.

We understand that until last year, embassy personnel were driving their own vehicles, traveling around the country, taking taxis, and living in their own apartments.  For security reasons, they now  live in the old Sheraton Hotel Sanaa (apparently also known as the New Green Zone Sanaa) which has been leased by the US Embassy reportedly until January 2018.  The staff is not allowed to travel anywhere with one exception and only with armored vehicles.  Of course, the embassy lost a good number of its armored vehicles during the mob attack.  Unlike the US Embassy Tunisia where there were publicly available photographic evidence of the damages, the US Embassy Sanaa reportedly kept a tight lid on photos of the embassy damages in the aftermath of the attack.  For what reason, we do not know.  Perhaps they did not want to upset the host country?  In the meantime, the U.S. ambassador and American soldiers at post have a bounty on their heads until June 2013 (see US Embassy Yemen: AQAP Offers Gold Bounty for Ambassador Feierstein). And the danger rate remains at 30%.

Can somebody please grab the tail on what’s going on here? People need to understand the whys of this process. Whether they volunteered or were voluntold, they deserve a good explanation. C’mon guys, don’t make this rocket science.

Also we’re hearing that the priority bidding season for Afghanistan/Iraq/Pakistan or AIP is about to expand to include Libya and Yemen. One of our blog sources wondered out loud if the new bidding season might be called iPLAY.

sig4

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Filed under Afghanistan, Compensation, Counting Beans, Foreign Service, Iraq, Pakistan, Realities of the FS, Security, State Department, U.S. Missions

"I am a poor diplomat" — Israeli diplomats packing bags over low pay

YNet News is reporting that Israeli diplomats are packing their bags and heading home over low pay. Spouse employment features in the story, too. Is that surprising? Excerpt:

Y. like eight other Israeli diplomats, recently told the Israeli Foreign Ministry that he will be shortening his term of employment – over the low pay.

Three diplomats in the US, two in Latin America, two in Asia and one in Europe are joining him in returning home – they include a spokesman at a large embassy and an important envoy at another embassy.

“My wife was forced to leave her job because of my employment with the diplomatic service, so she works as a secretary with the delegation making $1900 a month,” says Y. who has shortened his contract by over a year.

“Most of her salary pays for our kid’s education and she is frustrated that I’m keeping her here as a secretary.” Y. makes just $4,800 a month – and that includes all the extras. That might sound like a lot when converted into shekels, but life abroad means that his expenses are much higher than they would be in Israel.
[...]
Y. and his colleagues describe a bleak reality where people who are supposed to be representing the country, live in near penury – where expenses often come out of their own pockets and parents are asked to help out.

“I find myself taking the metro to a meeting with the President of the United States Barack Obama, because if I take a car the expense would be crazy,” says Y.

L. will be returning to Israel after only four months in his diplomatic role. “We have $1,500 a month that our parents give us just so that we can make ends meet,” he explained.
[...]
“They don’t receive travel reimbursements and don’t attend diplomatic events,” he stated. “They don’t receive overtime and are expected to work around the clock. We fail to understand why diplomats who serve on behalf of their country need to subsidize Israel.”

According to him, diplomats prefer to go back to Israel and receive the meager salary – but at least their wife/husband can find a normal job in Israel and increase the monthly family income.

Read the whole thing here.

In a related news, Haaretz.com has an item about an interruption at the Ambassador’s conference in Jerusalem this week when the foreign ministry’s workers’ committee launched a protest on Israeli diplomats’ low wages. Apparently, committee representatives arrived at the conference hall wearing shirts with the slogan “I am a poor diplomat” while blowing whistles.

 

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Quickie: USAID as a “check-writing agency?”

337/365: The Big MoneyImage by DavidDMuir via Flickr

Ken Dilanian of USA Today has an interesting piece on the CEO compensations of American aid groups. (h/t to RL for the tip). These aid groups are for-profit companies and tax-exempt groups paid by USG to deliver foreign assistance programs.

USA TODAY reports that it “examined total CEO compensation of the 10 largest recipients of foreign aid grants and contracts that also derive at least 70% of their revenue from U.S. taxpayers. Each one receives a 501(c)3 charitable exemption from federal taxes.”

Number #1 in the USA TODAY list is American Institutes for Research (AIR); its president was paid $1.1 million in 2007, the highest in the group.

Number #2 is the Academy for Educational Development; its president was paid $879,530 in total compensation in 2007, tax records show, a figure that includes “catch-up retirement restoration payments.”

Number #3 is the Research Triangle International whose 2007 chief executive compensation was $658,844.

The report quoted Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who chairs the subcommittee that funds foreign aid: “It conflicts with most people’s notion of what a non-profit organization is about when they’re paying themselves salaries that are several times higher than what a U.S. Cabinet secretary would earn.” This leads the senator to conclude that “an understaffed USAID has become “a check-writing agency.”

To put this in context salary-wise, I’d like to note that the President of the United States earns $400,000 a year. The vice president’s annual salary is $221,100. Secretary of State Clinton earns $186,600. So the top aid CEO’s salary is almost three times that of President Obama; almost five times Vice President Biden’s salary and almost six times that of Secretary Clinton. I don’t know at what level the USAID Administrator is paid, but the top level of the executive schedule in 2009 is paid $196,700 a year.

What might be the compensation of a president of a third world country where these aid groups operate? Philippine President Gloria Arroyo earns about $1,333.33 a month or approximately $16,000 a year. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe’s salary was reportedly pegged at US$20,800 for 2009. Oh, wait — I’m not sure it’s wise to mention Fruitcake Bob, given that he has a fondness for expensive parties; remember that $1.2 million birthday bash and his shindig earlier this year? [Oh, frack! too late now!]

Read the whole thing here.

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Top Most Expensive Places to Live in the Foreign Service

The cost-of-living allowances are those allowances that are designed to reimburse employees for certain excess costs that they incur as a result of their employment overseas where the cost of living, exclusive of quarters costs, is substantially higher than in Washington, D.C.

Below are the top most expensive places to live for Foreign Service personnel; alphabetic list based on government COLA rates as of June 2009:


#1. SWITZERLAND [90%]

Geneva, Bern, Other

#2. JAPAN [80%]

Akashi, Nagoya, Sapporo, Osaka-Kobe, Kyoto, Komaki

#3. DENMARK [70%]

Copenhagen, Other

#4. FRANCE [70%]

Garches, Lyon, Marseille, Montpellier, Paris, Sevres, Suresnes, Versailles

#5. ITALY [70%]

Florence, Milan, Turin

#6. NORWAY [70%]

Oslo

#7. ZIMBABWE [70%]

Harare, Other

#8. BERMUDA [60%]

Bermuda

#9. GABON [60%]

Libreville, Other

#10. FRANCE [60%]

Other

#11. HOLY SEE [60%]

Holy See

#12. ITALY [60%]

Rome

#13. JAPAN [60%]

Tokyo

#14. SPAIN [60%]

Barcelona

Post (Cost of Living) Allowance FAQ (Also see DSSR Chapter 220). You can check out the full list of Post Cost of Living rates here.

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Report on Pay and Benefits of Deployed Civilians in War Zones

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released its report on compensation and medical benefits extended to Federal civilians during deployment in the war zones. Selected excerpts reprinted below:

Summary:

The Department of Defense (DOD) and other executive agencies increasingly deploy civilians in support of contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prior GAO reports show that the use of deployed civilians has raised questions about the potential for differences in policies on compensation and medical benefits. GAO was asked to compare agency policies and to identify any issues in policy or implementation regarding (1) compensation, (2) medical benefits, and (3) identification and tracking of deployed civilians. GAO reviewed laws and agency policies; interviewed officials responsible for governmentwide guidance at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and for policy at six selected agencies, including DOD and State; reviewed all workers’ compensation claims filed by deployed civilians from January 1, 2006 through April 30, 2008 at the Department of Labor; and conducted a generalizeable survey of civilians deployed from the six agencies during this same period.

Although policies concerning compensation for deployed civilians are generally comparable across agencies, GAO found some issues that affect the amount of compensation–depending on such things as the agency’s pay system or the employee’s grade/band–and the accuracy, timeliness, and completeness of this compensation. For example, two civilian supervisors with comparable salaries who deploy under different pay systems receive different overtime pay because the overtime rate is determined by the employee’s pay system and grade/band level. While a congressional subcommittee asked OPM to develop a benefits package for all deployed civilians to war zones and to recommend enabling legislation, OPM has not yet developed such a package or provided legislation. Also, implementation of some policies may not always be accurate or timely. For example, GAO estimates that approximately 40 percent of the deployed civilians in its survey reported experiencing problems with compensation–including not receiving danger pay–in part because they did not know where to go for assistance. Moreover, in January 2008, Congress gave agency heads discretion to apply the death gratuity provision retroactively for deaths connected with operations in Iraq or Afghanistan on or after October 7, 2001. At the time of GAO’s review, agencies had not yet issued formal policy to implement this benefit.

Although agency policies on medical benefits are similar, GAO found some issues with medical care following deployment, workers’ compensation, and post deployment medical screenings that affect the benefits of deployed civilians. Specifically, while DOD allows its treatment facilities to care for “non-DOD” civilians following deployment in some cases, the circumstances are not clearly identified in guidance and some agencies were unaware of DOD’s policy. Civilians who deploy also may be eligible for medical benefits through worker’s compensation. GAO’s analysis of 188 such claims filed with Labor revealed some significant processing delays resulting in part from lack of clarity about the documentation required to support claims. Without clear information on what documents to submit to support a claim, applicants may continue to experience delays. Further, while DOD requires medical screening before and following deployment for civilians, State requires medical screenings only before deployment. Prior GAO work found that documenting the medical condition of deployed personnel before and following deployment was critical to identifying conditions that may have resulted from deployment. Each agency provided GAO with a list of deployed civilians, but none had fully implemented policies to identify and track these civilians. DOD, for example, had procedures to identify and track deployed civilians but concluded that its guidance was not consistently implemented. While the other agencies had some ability to identify and track civilians, some had to manually search their systems. Thus, agencies may lack critical information on the location and movement of personnel, which may hamper their ability to intervene promptly to address emerging health issues, as GAO has previously reported.


Death Gratuity:

In addition, Congress provided for a death gratuity under FECA of up to $100,000 to be paid to the survivor of a deployed civilian whose death resulted from injuries incurred while deployed in support of a contingency operation. This statute also provided agency heads with the discretion to apply the death gratuity provision retroactively for survivors of civilians who died, on or after October 7, 2001, from injuries incurred in connection with their service with an armed service in the theater of operations during either Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom. This provision became law on January 28, 2008. However, Labor, which is responsible for implementing regulations under FECA, has yet to issue formal implementing policy—although Labor officials told us that they have been working to finalize a policy for over a year. Further, while some agencies have issued memoranda or conducted briefings concerning the death gratuity, according to officials at the agencies included in our review, none has issued formal policy that incorporates these provisions—including the retroactive provision—because they are waiting for implementing guidance from Labor.

In fact, officials from State and USAID said that they cannot move forward on these provisions until Labor issues its guidance. Labor officials told us that because of the recent change in administration, they could not provide us with an anticipated issue date for the final policy; Labor officials stated that the draft policy is currently being reviewed for approval by the Office of Management and Budget. Despite the lack of formal policy, officials at Labor and DOD stated that, at the time of our review, this $100,000 death gratuity had been paid in one instance Civilians’ Eligibility to Receive Care at DOD Medical Facilities Following Deployment Is Not Clear or Conveyed to Other Agencies Despite DOD’s policy to allow “non-DOD” civilians to receive treatment in DOD facilities following deployment, confusion exists within other agencies and DOD regarding non-DOD civilians’ eligibility for this care. For example, officials at several agencies, including State, USAID, and Justice, were unaware that deployed civilians were eligible for care at DOD facilities following deployment, in part because these agencies did not receive the September 2007 memorandum from DOD. Additionally, confusion exists within DOD regarding non-DOD civilians’ eligibility.

Response from the Department of State:

In its written comments in response to a draft of our report, the Department of State concurred with our three recommendations. Specifically, with respect to our recommendation that it develop post-deployment medical screening requirements, State committed to implementing mandatory medical clearance exams for civilian employees upon completion of their assignment in a combat zone, beginning in 2010. With respect to our recommendation that it establish an ombudsman program to help ensure that deployed civilians receive the compensation and medical benefits to which they are entitled, State committed to designating a formal ombudsman to replace its informal existing mechanisms. Finally, with respect to our recommendation that it establish policies and procedures to identify and track deployed civilians, State committed to consulting and coordinating with DOD and other executive agencies to determine the best way to establish policies and procedures to accurately identify and track standardized information on deployed civilians. If properly designed and implemented, these actions should meet the intent of our recommendations.

Response from United States Agency for International Development:

In its written comments in response to a draft of our report, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) generally agreed with our conclusions but did not agree with our recommendations. With respect to our recommendation that USAID establish an ombudsman to help ensure that its deployed civilians receive the compensation and medical benefits to which they are entitled, USAID officials pointed out that the agency already has an ombudsman to support its Critical Priority Countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan. According to USAID, this ombudsman, among other things, helps Foreign Service employees deployed to these countries with a variety of issues, including compensation and medical benefits. We contacted the individual who USAID identified as the ombudsman and asked for documentation related to this position and its origin and responsibilities. This official stated that the position was established in 2006 to assist deployed civilians in obtaining the compensation and medical benefits to which they are entitled, but this official did not provide any supporting documentation. In the absence of documentation, it is unclear to us how USAID’s ombudsman ensures that deployed civilians receive the full compensation and benefits to which they are entitled. Accordingly, we continue to believe our recommendation has merit. With respect to our recommendation to establish policies and procedures to accurately identify and track standardized information on deployed civilians, USAID commented that it believed its current systems to be adequate and additional policies and procedures to be unnecessary at this juncture. We disagree; for example, when asked to develop a list of civilians the agency had deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, USAID officials stated that they had no agencywide system that would provide this information. They relied in part on a manual search of personnel records.

Furthermore, we note that USAID was unable to provide a list of civilians who had deployed for less than 180 days–in part because doing so would have been extremely labor intensive. As we have noted in this report and in prior work, agencies must be able to capture and subsequently retrieve location-specific information on employees, to identify possible exposures to environmental or industrial contaminants during deployment. Such information includes movement within theater and medical treatments while deployed. Without this capability, an agency may be unable to intervene promptly to address any future health problems that employees may develop as a result of deployment in support of contingency operations. USAID’s current capability, which relies in part on manual searches and may require labor intensive efforts to retrieve this information, does not represent a system that meets the intent of our recommendation. Should any deployment-related medical concerns develop in the future, such a system may fail to identify all individuals who may be affected. As a result, we continue to believe that our recommendation is appropriate.

Read the whole thing here including the GAO’s 10-point recommendations.


Related Item:

GAO: Human Capital – Actions Needed to Better Track and Provide Timely and Accurate Compensation and Medical Benefits to Deployed Federal Civilians GAO-09-562 | June 2009 (pdf)


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Filed under Afghanistan, Compensation, Foreign Service, FS Benefits, Govt Reports/Documents, Iraq, State Department, USAID, War

Quickie: Emolument Clause and the Saxbe-fix in the Sauce

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Filed under 67, Compensation, Congress, Court Cases, Secretary of State

Quickie: The Overseas Pay Gap Once More

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Filed under AFSA, Compensation, Congress, Spouses/Partners