Mid-Level Hiring Trouble Brewing at USAID?

USAIDImage by US Army Africa via Flickr

Just saw the note from AFSA USAID Vice President Francisco Zamora on mid-level hiring:

AFSA USAID has just submitted to USAID an Implementation Dispute in accordance with section 1014 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 as amended to cease and desist placing new mid-level DLI officers into existing and created positions overseas which regular officers have not had the opportunity to compete for.

Background: The previous and current administration and Congress have agreed on the need to rebuild USAID, which AFSA supports. Some focused mid-level hiring into the Foreign Service makes sense in this regard. However, AFSA does not trust that the Agency recognizes the inequity and the damage to morale that excessive mid-level hiring imposes in our up-or-out, competitive, merit-based Foreign Service. Over the last two years, AFSA has repeatedly requested but still not received any analysis or workforce planning data that would justify mid-level hiring in certain backstops that have not resorted to such hiring before. AFSA maintains that FS-4 hiring is sufficient for new hires in the majority of cases, as has been the Agency’s decades-old practice, and is enshrined in the FS Act of 1980. AFSA continues to work to educate Congress and others on the negative implications of excessive mid-level hiring on the Foreign Service. However, AFSA will not object to sending new mid-level hires to critical positions such as the four Critical Priority Countries and, on a case-by-case basis, where it is proven that there is no other alternative.

Nevertheless, AFSA does have serious concerns with new mid-level officers being assigned to positions that do not exist on the staffing pattern, and also filling vacancies before existing officers have a chance to bid on the positions. USAID management has rationalized that some of these newly created overseas mid-level positions can be classified as training slots. This, of course, makes no sense because mid-levels are expected to already be at competence level at those grades, and are therefore not considered trainees. AFSA is seeking to negotiate with the Agency for sensible changes to the policy and process for assigning new mid-level hires, and will pursue all avenues open to us, up to and including third party arbitration. Up to now, the Agency has rebuffed AFSA, we believe, in contravention of its bargaining agreement and labor practices enshrined in federal law and policy. (wikipedia links in above text added).

You may send comments and questions to the USAID VP.

I don’t know how many positions are at stake here; I can’t say whether this is excessive hiring or not. But eight mid-level positions are currently being advertised at USAID Careers, all without closing dates; at least three position had been posted since 2008. Here is the mid-level hiring page. HTML copy of the framework agreement between USAID and AFSA dated February 2009 is here. (Original document of the framework posted online is in Word; I have converted that document into PDF here). The text of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 is here. The relevant section is Chapter 10 for Labor Management Relations.

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