Embassy Job Vacancy Round-Up: Because We Need a Laugh

Today, we bring you a sampling of job announcements from US embassies around the globe. When they are not intentionally funny, they are funny strange, I kid you not. 

US Embassy Bogota has an announcement for an investigator and has not even bothered to write up its vacancy announcement in English.  Yes, the job is open to everyone, including Eligible Family Members.  The ad posted by the embassy online is all in  Spanish.

Is it some kind of a test – if you can’t understand the ad, you should not apply? Must be dat.

US Embassy Manila is looking for a web programmer who has completed a “Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Information Technology, Web Development, or Electronics and Communications Engineering,” “no experience needed,” but a “Level 4 (Fluent) Speaking/Reading English and Tagalog language” required.

Apparently, you cannot do web programming in Manila if you don’t know any Tagalog. WHooops! Sorry, I fell off my darn chair!  And here I thought, English is Manila’s other official language.

US Embassy New Delhi is looking for an Administrative/Visa Assistant to “compose routine correspondence, coordinate travel, handle the referral system, and maintain the time and attendance. And this job requires “Level IV (Fluent) proficiency in English and Hindi.”

The last I heard, embassy correspondence even in India is still done in the English language.

And that’s the reason you need a Level IV Hindi for this job?

US Embassy Jakarta is looking for an “ASEAN Secretariat Liaison.” The required qualifications include this: “Minimum 5 years professional experience in economic and/or political reporting and policy analysis required. Minimum of one year working in the Economic Section of a large U.S. Embassy.”

Makes me wonder — is the ASEAN mission out to poach the senior FSN at the Econ Section of the US Embassy or is there somebody who worked previously at an Econ section elsewhere in the worldwide universe that they already have in mind?

Post is also looking for an “ASEAN Public Affairs Liaison.” Required qualifications include: “Five years of progressively responsible experience in communications, writing, cultural programs, higher education, teaching or appropriate public affairs/public diplomacy experience.”

Oh, look, no requirement of “one year working at the Public Affairs Section of a large U.S. Embassy.”

US Embassy Caracas is looking for a “Surveillance Detection Supervisor.” One of the required qualifications, one year of supervisory experience: “A minimal of one year of work experience with the general public in outdoor settings. For example, street advertisement, street social worker, street salesman (saleswoman), and/or external construction worker.”


If you have street work experience, feel free to send in your CV. If not, hang out here with me, we’ll find some more funny ones ….

How to save money in Iraq? Withdraw the troops, send in the diplomats … and get ready with the fire hoses

Via Federal Times:

The State Department’s budget has already taken a hit in 2011, but it appears that its finances will be squeezed even tighter just as the department is trying to regain ground lost to the Pentagon over the past decade.

In the final budget resolution passed for 2011, Congress agreed to provide $48 billion for State and foreign operations. This marked an $8.4 billion reduction from the president’s budget request. It was also $504 million less than the department received in 2010.

For 2012 spending, the House Appropriations Committee announced that it plans to cut $11 billion from the State Department and foreign operations budget request of $47 billion. This includes funding for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Meanwhile, it plans to cut only $9 billion from the Pentagon’s requested budget of $671 billion, which includes $118 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Read in full here.

At the highest level of the Iraq war which happened during the surge, the average monthly DOD obligations in Iraq peaked at $11.1 billion in FY2008. Note — monthly obligations. Just roughly the same amount Congress plans to cut from the State Department annual, yearly, 12 month budget in FY2012. 

In the infinite wisdom of our elected representatives, given that we will “save” tons of money from the withdrawal of our troops in Iraq, we will “save tons more” by slashing the budget of the State Department — because why not? Instead of DOD completing the job over there, we’ll now have DOS doing the job for a lot less.  A lot less money and a lot less people and a lot less of everything!

Obviously, given the history of that made up controversy about the Iraq recruitment in 2007, State is anxious to show the flag. It will have personnel for Iraq, ready or not.  If it does not have enough folks, it will hire 3161 limited appointees to staff up the place.  It will have its own private army to protect our diplomats. It will have its own air fleet to shuttle our personnel from one end of the country to another. It will have its own life support personnel, presumably all contractors. It will be starting close to scratch on just about everything, from how to bring in food and other supplies, aircraft mechanics for its new air fleet to pest control guys.

But this is a gig set up to fail.

Congress holds the purse strings and the folks over there have never been particularly fond of these foreign affairs officers, as they are with the soldiers in their voting districts. One senator is opposed to the State Dept getting any of DOD’s equipment or creating its own mini-army. Others are not happy about the projected growth of contractors working for State. What, you want our diplomats in Iraq armed with toothpicks? Make up your minds, dammit!

The State Department has never taken on a responsibility like this; there will be lots of hiccups even as demands for quick results go off the roof. Um, okay, hiccup is an understatement.

Personnel will continue to rotate on short-term, one year deployments, on voluntary basis.  At some point, this repeated deployments of an agency small enough its FSOs can all fit in an aircraft carrier, will have institutional consequences and personal repercussions.  Bench strength? What’s that?

Iraq as a democracy in our own image is a foolish dream. The State Department will now be expected to be the firewall against its descent back into chaos. Be ready with the fire hoses …

Um, sorry, Congress had just slashed the money for the fire hoses. 

In related news, the Commission on Wartime Contracting held a hearing yesterday with Ambassador Kennedy, the U/S for Management on the grilling stand. Below excerpted from WSJ:

Former Congressman Christopher Shays, a co-chairman of the commission, raised the possibility that contractors might have to use force to rescue diplomatic personnel caught in a roadside improvised explosive device attack, potentially leading to an overt combat role.

“If you have an IED and you need to get a medic to deal with the injuries that are outside the embassy and—and/or you are under fire and you have to shoot your way out to get back to safety—in either case, you have to get someone there to attend to the wounded and you have to aggressively use force or you have to aggressively use force to get out, why do you think that’s not an inherently governmental function?” he asked Mr. Kennedy.

Mr. Kennedy said he was comfortable with the distinction between the way the military used force, and the more defensive role of contract security.

“We fully understand that we still have challenges ahead as we carry out our diplomatic missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations where we rely on contingency contracting, but we believe we have instituted a sound foundation to carry us forward,” Mr. Kennedy said.

That’s supposed to be a comforting response? But what is he not saying?

In Search of a Better Neym and Meaning: Trailing Spouse, Trailer Trash, Sidecar?

Vespa SidecarImage via WikipediaIf you’re looking for something cheerful to read this morning, move along, because this one topic is not.

A reader a while back pointed me to a  blog,  Secret Confessions of a Trailing Spouse A support blog for those who chose to follow… then started to freak the fuck out; And when not freaking out, lots of posts about making stuff …”

It looks like the blog author is in academe, but the issues are certainly familiar to expatriates and accompanying spouses/partners (yes, this pc term is a darn mouthful).  She writes by way of introduction, “Trying to wait without waiting. Married to a PhD, currently not career-bound, potentially a trailing spouse, but not completely ok with the idea of putting my eggs in his basket. Or letting him take my eggs and his basket to another city. Or something?”

From one of R.B.’s post:

Trailer Trash, and a need for better vocabulary

Am I a sidecar?

No, I never liked the term trailing spouse, but I was damned glad to find there was a word for what I was stepping into.  The Smart Expat has a post about a friend who referred to herself as “trailer trash”, a cheeky reference to the limiting (and ill-fitting) trailing spouse.   “Accompanying spouse” was suggested, but damn if that doesn’t strangle the tongue. It’s hard to find a word that properly respects but describes that position. Why is it so hard to make it sound important, necessary and incredibly complicated?  Probably because all the things a TS does in the move is typically considered women’s work.  And even though this refers to the complicated business of setting up a new home base, it isn’t respected as it should. (Look at the salaries of child care workers and teachers, and tell me this world ain’t a little screwed.)  If crazy people hadn’t coined it, I’d say “help meet” was a good term, but it gives me the shivers.

Trailing spouse seems like a grim self-fulfilling prophecy, wherein you start to drag behind and lose your identity because that’s what you’re calling yourself.  Because your title doesn’t imply independence or acknowledge what you do, only what you’re following behind.  This is why words are so important.  Words can totally hurt people, or give them the idea that they aren’t held to high expectations (I feel this every time someone says “girl” when they mean “woman”).

We need something that implies a parallel partnership.  I wish sidecar didn’t sound so damn ridiculous, because I kind of love it.

Check out her blog here.  She has a good list of resources for trailing expatriates and trailing rebels. You might also want to read (or not) the Trailing Spouse Track (article RB linked to) where another TS under a pseudonym writes, “Career-wise, I need a reason not to stick my head in the oven….” in reference of course to the poet, Sylvia who was “trailing” her husband Ted in academia.