London Civil Service Excursion Tour Opens — Oh Wait, It’s Gone, Then It’s Back, Ah Forgetaboutit?

—By Domani Spero

As you may or may not know, Civil Service employees sometimes get opportunities to apply for hard-to-fill posts overseas.  These are called “excursion tours.”  These are positions overseas that do not get many Foreign Service bidders and are then opened to CS employees. calls these tours “invaluable as a way to experience the ups and downs of Foreign Service life.”

Generally, these are positions in hardship and danger posts or hard-to-fill posts.

We understand that an excursion tour “mysteriously opened” early this year for an assignment that starts this summer in London.  The position is not language designated. And the estimated arrival time in London is early July 2013.

There’s a reason why this is a mystery. London is not/not a danger post.  Despite Buzzfeed’s 31 Most Enraging Things About Living In London, the city is not/not a hardship post.  It is a mighty expensive place though. In fact, the State Department grants a 70% cost of living allowance (COLA) for employees living there.

Photo via

Photo via

Which begs the question, how come the EUR bureau and the US Embassy in London is unable to fill this position with an FSO?

Lack of FSO bidders.  For London. Go ahead and digest that thought.

Now, we heard that a zillion Civil Service officers jumped at the opportunity to go to London.  Understandable. And who can blame them?  Some folks “poured their hearts and soul” into applying for this job.

And just as mysteriously as it appeared, the job was pulled down. The job was later re-reposted as a different job announcement requiring submission of new applications. Apparently, some of those who were interviewed and made the cut following the first announcement did not make the cut in the second announcement.

La-la-dee-da ….sounds fiiiishhhhy!!!

We’ve been able to dig up the original and reposted job announcements and compare them (via  Note:  The  strikethru below indicates deleted text that was in the original announcement no longer present in the reposted announcement  (original announcement dated January 16, 2013 with closing date of January 30, 2013).  The highlighted underlined text below indicates additional text that is new in the reposted announcement (reposted announcement dated February 26, 2013 with closing date of March 4, 2013).  The purported reason for the reposting was that “a portion of the announcement” was “dropped off” when this position was originally posted online.

OverseasREPOSTING Overseas Civil Service Development Program FOREIGN AFFAIRS OFFICER LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM (GS-0130 – 14)
Overseas Civil Service Development Program
 – 14)

The Director General is pleasedDue to announce that applications are nowa portion of the announcement beingaccepted fordropped off when this position was originally posted to USAJOBS, the following two-year position is being re-advertised. NOTE: You will need to reapply if you had applied when the position was initially announced. This will be a two-year assignment under the Overseas Development Program (ODP):

Position: Foreign Affairs Officer GS-0130-14

Location: Washington DC (overseas duty location: London, United Kingdom)

USA Jobs Vacancy Announcement # HRSC/ODP-2013-0004HRSC/ODP-2013-0007
Announcement closes on January 30,March 4, 2013

Program Summary: This position is a part of the Overseas Development Program (ODP) located in the Bureau of Human Resources, Office of Career Development and Assignments, Mid-Level Division, Office of Overseas Civil Service Assignments.

The purpose of the ODP is to expand Civil Service Deployment opportunities. Selectees will participate in an informational program and any job related training. Once program requirements are met, the selectees will be placed on a limited Foreign Service non-career appointment (LNA) for a two-year overseas assignment. Upon completion of the overseas assignment at London, the selectee will be reassigned or detailed to a position in the Department unless they have chosen to apply for and been selected for a second overseas ODP assignment.

Job Summary:

Serves as a Political Officer responsible for a broad set of political-military issues, including the United States (US) – United Kingdom (UK) coordination on bilateral and multilateral defense cooperation issues. Serves as a part of a 5-member political/military team, which reports on bilateral US-UK political-military cooperation and matters related to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union’s (EU) European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP), the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE), and other relevant multilateral fora. Serves as the Political Section’s lead action officer for coordinating US-UK and interagency Embassy approaches to top 21st century security challenges, including cyber security, civilian-military cooperation and stabilization activities, and non-proliferation, arms control, and disarmament efforts. Leads Section support for the Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues (S/CCI), the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO), and the family bureaus that support the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security. This position is not language designated. Estimated time of arrival at post is early July 2013.

Eligibility: In order to be eligible for consideration for the ODP, an applicant must:

– Be a current Civil Service career employee of the Department of State with at least 3 years of service in a permanent Department position;

– Or a career Civil Service Department of State Employee serving on a FS LNA with a tenure code of 7 with no more than three months remaining on their present LNA.

– Have completed all probationary periods;

– Not be serving in another long-term development program;

– Be able to obtain the appropriate medical and security clearance for the post of assignment prior to receiving travel authorization;

– Sign a Mobility Agreement and a Continued Service Agreement; and

– Cannot serve beyond the mandatory 65 year old Foreign Service retirement age.

How to apply for consideration: All interested applicants should apply for consideration through USAJOBS at the vacancy announcement noted above. You can link to USAJOBS from the CS Abroad communities site under the Overseas Opportunities tab:

Please ensure all proper documentation is submitted in accordance with the vacancy announcement (e.g., performance appraisal, SF-50 indicating tenure, grade, step, salary, etc,).

Note: Education may only be substituted in accordance with the Office of Personnel Management (OM) Qualification Standards Handbook. Education must be accredited by an accrediting institution recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Please be advised that applicants that do not provide the proper documentation in accordance with the vacancy announcement will be determined to be disqualified.

NOTE: If your present grade is higher than the GS-14 level and you apply and are selected for this position, you will have to sign a Notice of Change to Lower Grade memo as the position is classified at the GS-14.

How is it possible that an FSO job in London does not have any bidders that post had to turn it into an excursion tour?

As an aside, do you know that US Embassy Port-Au-Spain in Haiti had 108 bidders for one RSO position? Seriously.

An FSO is a generalist and the RSO is a specialist but both are in the FS system.   If this specific London position were located in NEA , SCA or AF, we could understand it, but this one is tricky. After all, London is London. It is not/not a hard-to-fill post.

London in fact, according to the IG is considered a popular bid for officers completing duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, and it is not uncommon for the short list of qualified bidders for the highly sought London vacancies to contain only officers rotating out of these two countries.  On linked onward assignments, the OIG notes that the “gradual accretion of tied assignments in London’s staffing pattern has had the unintended impact of putting many positions in London out of reach for virtually all bidders, regardless of how qualified, except for returnees.”

So —

Just between us, was this GS-14 job (FS-02 equivalent) in London created for somebody in particular?  If it was, then clearly it had to be for somebody who is in the Civil Service or a CS on a Limited Non-Career Appointment (LNA). Is this for somebody already in London who does not want to leave?  And pray tell, who is the main official who engineered the creation of this job?

The  stated reason for the reposting of this job (something “dropped off”) is crap.  If the job requires a CS with at least 3 years experience, why mention the probationary period?  It looks like there’s one “dropped” item when comparing the two job announcement.  It’s the line that says “You can link to USAJOBS from the CS Abroad communities site under the Overseas Opportunities tab:”  Curious thing, that “dropped off” item is in the middle of the announcement and did not occur elsewhere.  The announcement also says that the selectee who can only be a CS employee “cannot serve beyond the mandatory 65 year old Foreign Service.” As if your brain turns off when the birthday candle burns 65.  Contrary to the job reposting, CS applicants for hard-to-fill posts must be career employees with a tenure code of 21 (not 7 as in this London announcement) according to  We take it, this specific London assignment is not considered a hard-to-fill post?  For examples of hard-to-fill positions announced in 2012, click here.

This is indeed one of those bureaucratic mysteries … though not an isolated mystery.

Pardon me?

Noooooo, it’s not so the job description can be rewritten to better fit a specific person, silly.  Absolutely not.  What a preposterous suggestion!

But hey, who pulled this off and how did the re-write come to be?  No, re-advertised because there were “too many applicants” is not a legitimate reason.

Call your friends in London about the job up for bid, and see what they tell you (pick one):

  1. don’t bother applying for the job
  2. don’t waste your time on this one
  3. forgetaboutit, selection already done
  4. all of the above

Now, it’s not that we don’t want CS employees to go on excursion tours to nicer places. We just don’t like jobs advertised for all but tailored for one.

P.S. Please send us the job creator’s email and phone number via Contactify; we’d love a job in France this summer.


Updated on June 17 @6:47 am:  So we’re told that  this is *not* a hard-to-fill position and is apparently part of a new program to promote civil service career development by providing opportunities for excursion tours.  This new program is under a new unit at State called the Overseas Civil Service Assignments (OCSA) located at HR/CDA/ML.  Since early this year, this has been headed by a new chief, Joann G. Alba at (202) 663-0461. “The purpose of this unit is to expand opportunities for Civil Service employees to serve overseas.  Tenured State Department Civil Service employees will be able to apply through USA Jobs for positions at selected posts overseas.   Selectees will be placed on Foreign Service Limited Non-career Appointments for the duration of their two year overseas tours.”  (Thanks J!)

London friends reportedly did say, “don’t bother.”