Posted: 1:40 pm EDT
“Yes, we devote more and better lip service to the problem every year.”
— an unnamed regional bureau wag’s response when asked if the situation regarding spousal employment had improved over the years.
Posted: 1:40 pm EDT
“Yes, we devote more and better lip service to the problem every year.”
— an unnamed regional bureau wag’s response when asked if the situation regarding spousal employment had improved over the years.
Posted: 12:20 am EDT
A few years back, the State Department’s Family Liaison Office established the Global Employment Initiative (GEI) to help Foreign Service family members with career development and exploration of employment opportunities while posted overseas. The program employs Global Employment Advisors (GEAs) reportedly to provide on-site job coaching sessions, training workshops, and career development services at no cost to family members. They also “offer networking assistance, information regarding volunteer projects, and support family members’ efforts to engage in the local economy.”
Our overall experience with this initiative was not at all impressive. A locally hired U.S. citizen got the GEI advisor gig at post and spouses interested in networking and finding jobs got on a meet and greet with a couple American companies operating in the host country. But not a single EFM ended up with a job at post or a career plan through GEI.
There is, of course, the advantage of hiring a local U.S. citizen as GEI advisor, presuming that the individual already has an existing local network and need not have to build one from scratch. But it also has a disadvantage of hiring someone who has no idea how the system works. And that’s how you get a GEI advisor telling an EFM to make handicrafts for sale on Etsy. Because obviously, if you’re an EFM entrepreneur, the Foreign Affairs Manual does not have anything but lots of recommendations for you!
Blog comment: State’s so-called “global employment initiative” is a complete joke (well, except that nobody’s laughing about it). After two assignments I have *never* heard of someone who got a job through GEI. The only thing our regional GEI person ever said that made any sense was “State Department does not owe you a job.” Of course, I never said it did, but that was irrelevant as she then segued into telling me to start a cooking blog or make hand-woven baskets to sell on Etsy.
We wanted to learn more about this initiative, its funding, its results. How effective is it in assisting Foreign Service spouses overseas. How many GEI advisors have been hired to-date since its creation? How many spouses have been helped by the initiative in finding jobs, starting a business, developing career plans, etc. We also wanted to know what is the annual budget for this initiative, and if the return justify the investment. We’ve reached out to the GEI office at the State Department last week but we have not heard anything back to-date.
If you have a personal experience with the Global Employment Initiative — if you’ve found a job, started a business, created a successful career plan, or able to develop a career through GEI while posted overseas, let us hear from you in the comments section or send us an email. We will have a follow-up post if we have enough response.
In related news, State/FLO would like to explore ways to connect family members with professional telework opportunities and is conducting a survey until the end of March to determine the skills, education and experience of family members in the Foreign Service:
The Family Liaison Office (FLO) is investigating ways to connect interested family members with professional telework opportunities. To do this, we need current statistics on the education, skills, and experience of our Foreign Service family members. The questions were developed with input from the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW), the non-profit Foreign Service community organization. FLO will use this information to more effectively communicate with companies and organizations about the advantages of hiring talented mobile professionals. Your responses are anonymous and the survey should take less than 5 minutes to complete.
We understand that the FLO intends to use this information to “more effectively communicate with companies and organizations about the advantages of hiring talented mobile professionals.” We wanted to know if this outreach includes hiring managers at the State Department and/or USAID, and other federal agencies for telework opportunities. We’ve asked but have not heard a response to this specific question.
Why were we asking?
If the State Department is trying to impress “companies and organizations” to take advantage of hiring talented mobile professionals who are Foreign Service members, but the agency itself will not hire them to take advantage of their talent — well, what message does that say?
They’re smashingly great, hire them to telework for you because we won’t?
Posted: 01:16 am EDT
President Obama announces the nomination of David Hale to become the next U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, per WH pic.twitter.com/m5SaHT3bpi
— Defense One (@DefenseOne) March 10, 2015
Here is a brief bio via US Embassy Beirut:
David Hale, a career Senior Foreign Service Officer, was confirmed as Ambassador to the Lebanese Republic on August 1, 2013. Previously, he was the Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, 2011-2013, a Deputy Envoy (2009-11), and U.S. Ambassador to Jordan (2005-8), after multiple tours in Jordan and Lebanon and service in Tunisia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and at the U.S. Mission to the UN. In Washington, Hale was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israel, Egypt and the Levant and Director for Israel-Palestinian Affairs. He held several staff posts, including Executive Assistant to Secretary of State Albright. In 2013 Secretary Clinton gave him the Distinguished Service Award, and Hale has several Department Superior and Meritorious Honor awards. He speaks Arabic, is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and a native of New Jersey.
If confirmed, Ambassador Hale would succeed career diplomat Richard Olson who was appointed ambassador to Pakistan in 2012. All chief of mission appointees to Islamabad since 1973 had been career diplomats. We have to go all the way back to 1969 t0 find a political appointee to this post.
Posted: 12:27 am EDT
— Heather Higginbottom (@hhigginbottom) February 26, 2015
The Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources Ambassador Arnold Chacon oversees the Bureau of Human Resources (M/DGHR). The Bureau handles recruitment, assignment evaluation, promotion, discipline, career development, and retirement policies and programs for the Department’s Foreign and Civil Service employees.
DGHR Chacon was sworn-in by Secretary Kerry as the new Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources (DGHR), at the Department of State on January 8, 2014. Excerpt below, see the full remarks here:
The Department’s diversity, like our country’s, makes us stronger, not weaker. I will be the director general for all of the State Department family – Civil Service, Foreign Service, locally employed staff, family members, contractors, interns, detailees, and yes, Mr. Secretary, even Ben the diplo-pup. (Laughter.)
I will also ensure that our family reflects America in all its magnificent variety and represents every corner and every face of our great nation. Our mission is to recruit, retain, and sustain exemplary employees who advance our values, interests, and goals. It’s the right thing to do, but it’s also the essential thing to do if we’re going to navigate the complex challenges of the 21st century and make the most of new opportunities.
I’m also pleased and humbled by the presence today of so many friends and colleagues who share my desire to make a difference in people’s lives. I think of myself as a protege of a unique generation of accomplished and trailblazing diplomats – in particular, Ambassadors Cresencio Arcos, John Negroponte, Alan Solomont, Kristie Kenney, Harry Thomas, Ruth Davis, Skip Gnehm, Ambassador Perkins, and Sally Cowal. It has been my good fortune to have been mentored by such exceptional individuals who gave me career-enhancing opportunities and helped me become the best that I could be.
Posted: 12:07 EST
One of our favorite FS bloggers is Kelly from Well That Was Different. She has spent the last 25 years living and traveling in Latin America, Africa and Europe with her FSO spouse. Kelly recently wrote a blogpost on spouse employment in the Foreign Service. We excerpted the following with her permission. We should add that she is not/not an employee of the State Department, so hold your bite, you silly tigers. If the somebodies from the alphabet soup offices read this, we suggest full, undivided attention.
Excerpt from Who Are You Calling Eligible?
Any spouse can tell you about jobs that are advertised, but actually “reserved” for the spouse of a certain officer. Or jobs that are not advertised at all, even though they should be, because someone has already been handpicked for the job. Any spouse can tell you about jobs that were assigned to someone who might not even have arrived at post yet, who might even be on their first FS tour, who simply kicked up more of a fuss than others. Any spouse can tell you about positions that were mysteriously created out of thin air for male spouses who “have” to have a job (sorry, but it happens).
So, let’s not pretend that this system is working as advertised. If it did, then frustration probably wouldn’t be as rampant among the EFMs who choose to participate in it. Spouse employment is always named as the number one morale issue in the Foreign Service. There are valid reasons for this—and they can’t all be blamed on shrinking budgets or post 9/11 security requirements.
A good friend who was once an EFM and is now an FSO says that you have to choose. If you are serious about having a “real” career as the spouse of a Foreign Service Officer, the only option is to become an FSO yourself. If you don’t do that, then forget about having a linear, highly remunerative, career. It’s not a popular point of view, but I have to say, based on over 25 years of experience, that I agree with her. Repeatedly having to compete for scraps at every post is just not a satisfying trajectory. I have noticed that it seems to make a lot of spouses pretty unhappy.
Read in full here.
Only 2,736 eligible family members (EFMs) are working within U.S. missions overseas (pdf). As of November 2014, 64% or 7,449 family members overseas — out of a total of 11,620 — are not working.
I went and look at the FLO website just now. Good heavens, the Global Employment Initiative (GEI) is still on! That exciting program “helps family members explore employment options and opportunities, and provides career development services.” Want to know how effective is that program? Me, too!
Posted: 19:07 EST
Saturday was going swell and all until I saw the news out of Venezuela. Apparently, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is not handling the TP for oil offer from Trinidad and Tobago very well. The Caracas Chronicles calls it Revolutionary TPlomacy or quite simply “toilet paper diplomacy.” It’s not just toilet paper, of course, but …
“The concept of commodity sharing is simple -– the Government of Trinidad and Tobago will purchase goods identified by the Government of Venezuela from T&T’s manufacturers, such as tissue paper, gasoline, and parts for machinery,” Persad-Bissessar said.
— Slate (@Slate) February 26, 2015
Running out of TP. A TP-oil swap. While you’re digesting that, take time to read Daniel Lansberg-Rodríguez’s New Yorker piece, Comedians Waiting for Cars and Coffee.
Bloomberg Business reported that due to the plunging oil prices, “Venezuela’s economy will contract 7 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund, while inflation, which accelerated to 69 percent in December, is already the fastest in the world.”
It’s that time of year again. One wonders when is President Maduro going to declare “Blame the Yanquis for Everything” as the national motto? Of course, sometimes, it just has to be somebody closer.
On February 19, the twice elected mayor or Caracas, Antonio Ledezma was arrested reportedly by some 80 men on charges that he was part of a conspiracy to mount a coup against the Maduro regime.
According to The Economists, this is just the latest of a dozen alleged plots against the president whose government has approval ratings below 20%.
The arrest of the mayor of Caracas, Venezuela, shows that the regime will do whatever it takes to hold on to power http://t.co/jTpSKnI0kf
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) February 21, 2015
Here’s something shocking; I’ll never look at a box of cereal the same way again:
This box of imported cereal in Caracas at 1720Bs. represents ~1/3 of current MONTHLY minimum wage in Venezuela pic.twitter.com/HXFsClJgLW
— daniel duquenal (@danielduquenal) February 26, 2015
The NYT also reported that four American missionaries were detained on Wednesday in Ocumare de la Costa, a small coastal town west of Caracas. The missionaries from the Evangelical Free Church in Devil’s Lake in North Dakota were reportedly providing medical aid to the coastal town’s residents and support to a local church. I don’t know about you but this is not hopeful news for American tourists or for approximately 36,000 Americans living in Venezuela.
Maduro says Venezuela captures U.S. citizens linked to espionage http://t.co/TPSsBpHEHh
— Reuters World (@ReutersWorld) March 1, 2015
And there were dueling protests.
— Vox (@voxdotcom) February 27, 2015
Because what do you do when queues for food are getting longer? Hold a major rally “for sovereignty and against U.S. interventionism,” claro que sí! TeleSUR reported that during the rally, Maduro announced that he would “reduce the number of U.S. diplomats working in Venezuela.” The report includes the following actions directed against the United States:
— Nathan Crooks (@nmcrooks) March 1, 2015
It’s worth noting that the U.S. Embassy in Caracas is one of the top 10 nonimmigrant processing posts in the world. In FY2013, the embassy issued 204,758 visitor’s visas and 6,184 student visas (pdf). The wait time to get an appointment for a visitor’s visa in Caracas is currently 59 days. Although the reported reduction of the US Embassy Caracas staff has not been confirmed by the State Department, it is highly likely that if it proceeds, the US Embassy Caracas will soon return to the 2011 wait time for appointments for visitors visas which hovered at 264 days. Or depending on how many consular officers will be left at post after this reduction of staff, we could see a much longer wait than that for Venezuelan applicants.
Here’s something else: in FY2013, 124 diplomatic visas (A-1, A-2) were issued to Venezuelan officials assigned to the United States. That’s a lot more than “we have no more than 17” that the Venezuelan president announced at his blusterous rally.
In any case, the last Senate-confirmed Ambassador to Caracas was Patrick Duddy who served from August 6, 2007 to September 11, 2008, during the Bush Administration. He was later expelled by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Eight months after that he was returned as Ambassador to Caracas by the Obama Administration. He left the mission on July 2010. That same month, Larry Palmer was nominated by President Obama. By December 2010, the Venezuelan Government had withdrawn its agrément on the appointment of Larry Palmer to Caracas.
On October 1, 2013, the Venezuelan Government declared the U.S. charge d’affaires persona non grata and ordered her expulsion. The United States Government reciprocated by declaring the Venezuelan charge d’affaires persona non grata. The U.S. Embassy in Caracas is currently headed by career diplomat Lee McClenny who assumed post as Chargé d’Affaires in July 2014. The Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C. is currently headed by the former Venezuelan ambassador to Brazil, Maximilien Sanchez Arvelaiz.
Despite the difficult bilateral relations, we anticipate that Venezuela and the United States will continue to maintain diplomatic relations and embassies in one another’s capitals. Why? Below via the Congressional Research Service:
Venezuela remains a major oil supplier to the United States, even though the amounts and share of U.S. oil imports from the country have been declining because of Venezuela’s decreasing production and the overall decline in U.S. oil imports worldwide. In 2013, Venezuela provided the United States with about 806,000 barrels of total crude oil and products per day, about 8.2 % of total such U.S. imports, making Venezuela the fourth-largest foreign supplier of crude oil and products to the United States in 2012 (after Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Mexico). This is down from 2005, when the United States imported 1.53 million bbl/d of total crude oil and products from Venezuela, accounting for 11% of total U.S. imports.129 According to U.S. trade statistics, Venezuela’s oil exports to the United States were valued at almost $31 billion in 2013, accounting for 97% of Venezuela’s exports to the United States.
The CRS report also notes that Venezuela is scheduled to have legislative elections in September 2015, and that a recall referendum for President Maduro is not possible until 2016. The country’s next presidential election is not due until December 2018.
So what’s in the fopo fortune cookie? “The next 3-4 years will continue to be loud and noisy. The Yanquis will be trotted out at fault at every opportunity.”
* * *
Posted: 14:06 EST
The Department of State is developing a rank-order Register to fill a limited number of Foreign Service Diplomatic Courier vacancies. Couriers are responsible for the security of the Department of State’s Courier-accompanied diplomatic pouch operations worldwide. The job is physically exacting and couriers spend a substantial portion of their careers living and working overseas in a nearly constant travel status using conveyances to include passenger and cargo aircraft, trucks, trains, and ships.
It is important that a Diplomatic Courier has the physical endurance to withstand the challenging physical stresses from working long hours, lack of sleep, extremes of heat or cold, and other discomforts. A Diplomatic Courier must have the physical strength to lift and move heavy items such as diplomatic pouches and crates that may be oversized and weigh as much as 70 lbs or carry heavy equipment.
Some essential functions of the job have a physically demanding component. For instance, a Diplomatic Courier is required to perform work that requires regular and recurring periods of prolonged sitting, standing, bending, and stretching. A Diplomatic Courier is often required to physically move and transport heavy diplomatic pouches. That could involve climbing ladders and working in and around aircraft, trucks, trains, aboard ships, etc. Other essential duties of the job may involve assisting with the recurring lifting of heavy diplomatic pouches and boxes. Related activities include crawling, maneuvering, and working in cramped spaces as well as the occasional moving and transporting of diplomatic pouches that may weigh as much as 70 lbs.
In addition, candidates must have vision that is correctable to 20/20 in one eye and 20/40 in the other, no color blindness, adequate night vision and good peripheral vision. Candidates must have good hearing with no loss of greater than 30 decibels at 500, 1000, 2000 Hz level. The musculoskeletal system should have no deformities, diseases or limiting conditions that would interfere with the performance of duties.
The Office of Medical Services will conduct or arrange for a physical examination of each applicant offered a position to ensure that the candidate meets the physical and medical requirements necessary to perform the essential functions of the job and can meet the standards required for a worldwide medical clearance.
Applicants must be available for worldwide service, and be able to tolerate intensive world travel, living away from family, and working and living in difficult and / or isolated conditions.
According to State Department statistics, the agency has 102 full time, permanent couriers as of March 2013. The largest population of couriers is in the FS-04 level, a couple is in the Senior Foreign Service.
Applicants must be U.S. citizens between the ages of 20 and 59 and posses a valid U.S. driver’s license. Education and experience qualifications must be met. Male candidates must also be in compliance with the Selective Service Act. This is an FP-06 job with an annual salary of $39,166-$57,517. Application deadline coming up. See more at careers.state.gov.
* * *
Posted: 18:17 EST
We have not seen the official announcement from the WH yet, but on February 24, Secretary Kerry released the following statement on the nomination of FSO Katherine S. Dhanani to serve as the first United States Ambassador to Somalia since 1991:
President Obama, today, nominated Katherine S. Dhanani to serve as the first United States Ambassador to Somalia since 1991. This historic nomination signals the deepening relationship between the United States and Somalia. It also allows us to mark the progress of the Somali people toward emerging from decades of conflict. Somalia has considerable work ahead to complete its transition to a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous nation. The United States is committed to supporting Somalia on this journey as a steadfast partner. If confirmed, the Ambassador will lead the U.S. Mission to Somalia, currently based at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. As security conditions permit, we look forward to increasing our diplomatic presence in Somalia and eventually reopening the .
According to her online bio, Ms. Dhanani succeeded Cornelis M. Keur as U.S. Consul General in Hyderabad and assumed charge of post in September 2010. She has been a foreign service officer since 1990 and has previously served at US embassies in Georgetown, Guyana, Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, Mexico City, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lusaka,Zambia and Libreville,Gabon. She was also deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Harare. She is a trained economist from the Kenyon College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She taught economics at the Grinnel College before joining the U.S. Foreign Service. During her tenure in Hyderabad, she blogged at A Diplomat in the Deccan.
Except for a Virtual Presence Post, the United States has no formal diplomatic presence in Somalia. The most recent Travel Warning for Somalia last updated in October 2014, recommends that U.S. citizens avoid all travel to Somalia.
Kidnapping, bombings, murder, illegal roadblocks, banditry, and other violent incidents and threats to U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals can occur in any region of Somalia.
While some parts of south/central Somalia are now under Somali government control with the military support of African Union forces, al-Shabaab has demonstrated the capability to carry out attacks in government-controlled territory with particular emphasis on targeting government facilities, foreign delegations’ facilities and movements, and commercial establishments frequented by government officials, foreign nationals, and the Somali diaspora. In February 2012, al-Shabaab announced that it had merged with Al-Qaida.
The current Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, James C. Swan previously served as the United States Special Representative for Somalia from August 2011 to July 2013, leading U.S. diplomatic, security, and stabilization initiatives that culminated in U.S. recognition of a Somali government for the first time in more than two decades. In August 2013, James P. McAnulty was appointed his successor as Special Representative for Somalia.
The last Senate-confirmed ambassador to Somalia according to history.state.gov was James Keough Bishop (1938-) who was appointed on June 27, 1990. The appointment was terminated when the Embassy closed on January 5, 1991.
* * *
No, the world is not getting less dangerous but according to our sources, the State Department is eyeing changes in danger pay that could result in the loss of danger pay for a number of posts worldwide.
A group inside the State Department called the Danger Pay Working Group reportedly noted that the current practice of awarding Danger Pay has “veered from the original legislative language” which narrowly awards the additional compensation for a few extreme circumstances such as active civil unrest and war. Under the proposed changes, the definition of Danger Pay would reportedly revert to — you guess it, “the original legislative language” which would result in a probable loss of Danger Pay for a number of posts worldwide.
The State Department is also revising its Hardship Differential Pay. The idea appears to involve moving some of the factors which previously resulted in Danger Pay into the Hardship calculation. The number crunchers estimate that this may not result in equivalent levels of pay but apparently, the hope is “to compensate employees to some degree for these factors.”
Let’s back up a bit here — the Danger Pay allowance is the additional compensation of up to 35 percent over basic compensation granted to employees (Section 031 and 040i) for service at designated danger pay posts, pursuant to Section 5928, Title 5, United States Code (Section 2311, Foreign Service Act of 1980).
Here is the full language of 5 U.S. Code § 5928 (via Cornell Law)
An employee serving in a foreign area may be granted a danger pay allowance on the basis of civil insurrection, civil war, terrorism, or wartime conditions which threaten physical harm or imminent danger to the health or well-being of the employee. A danger pay allowance may not exceed 35 percent of the basic pay of the employee, except that if an employee is granted an additional differential under section 5925 (b) of this title with respect to an assignment, the sum of that additional differential and any danger pay allowance granted to the employee with respect to that assignment may not exceed 35 percent of the basic pay of the employee. The presence of nonessential personnel or dependents shall not preclude payment of an allowance under this section. In each instance where an allowance under this section is initiated or terminated, the Secretary of State shall inform the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate of the action taken and the circumstances justifying it. [Section effective Feb. 15, 1981, except as otherwise provided, see section 2403 of Pub. L. 96–465, set out as a note under section 3901 of Title 22, Foreign Relations and Intercourse].
In 1983—Pub. L. 98–164 inserted provision that presence of nonessential personnel or dependents shall not preclude payment of an allowance under this section, and that each instance where an allowance under this section is initiated or terminated, the Secretary of State shall inform the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate of action taken and circumstances justifying it.
In 1984 — Pub. L. 98–533, title III, § 304,Oct. 19, 1984, 98 Stat. 2711, provided that: “In recognition of the current epidemic of worldwide terrorist activity and the courage and sacrifice of employees of United States agencies overseas, civilian as well as military, it is the sense of Congress that the provisions of section 5928 of title 5, United States Code, relating to the payment of danger pay allowance, should be more extensively utilized at United States missions abroad.”
We note that specific provision added in 1983 but it appears that in 2005, the State Department amended the Foreign Affairs Manual (3 FAM 3275-pdf) to say this:
Danger pay may be authorized at posts where civil insurrection, civil war, terrorism, or wartime conditions threaten physical harm or imminent danger to the health or well being of employees. It will normally be granted at posts where the evacuation of family members and/or nonessential personnel has been authorized or ordered, or at posts at which family members are not permitted.
The Global Terrorism Database indicates that there were 3,421 terrorist incidents in 1984, the year when Congress recognized that danger pay allowance should be more extensively utilized at U.S. missions overseas. The same database indicates that there were 11,952 terrorist incidents in 2013. Hard to argue that the world has become less dangerous in the intervening years.
Below is a list of posts with danger pay based on the latest data from the State Department or see snapshot here:
Post Hardship Differential, Danger Pay, and Difficult-to-Staff Incentive Differential (also known as Service-Needs Differential) are all considered recruitment and retention incentives. These allowances are designed to recruit employees to posts where living conditions may be difficult or dangerous.