Posted: 4:34 am ET
One of the State Department’s geographic bureau has recently sent out guidance to its overseas posts asking them to prioritize their projected vacancies. If this is happening in one bureau, in all likelihood, this is also happening or will soon happen with the rest of the bureaus.
The directive appears to originate from the the Director General of the Foreign Service (DGHR) advising bureaus that a number of 2018 positions will not/will not be advertised. If they are not advertised, it means the positions will not be announced as vacancies available for bidding. In essence, these unadvertised positions will go unfilled, that is, remain vacant during the 2018 assignment cycle.
We understand that respective bureaus will soon receive the final numbers broken down by position type from DGHR. Bureaus will then be asked to decide which positions will be advertised on the list/which will go unadvertised.
One bureau is anticipating a fast turn-around on this and is preemptively asking its posts and offices to “rank their positions from highest priority for filling to less urgent.”
Have we not seen this movie before?
Very shortly, posts will be asked to do more with less, once again, as positions will go unfilled in the upcoming assignment cycle. If positions go unfilled for one or two assignment cycles, how soon before the State Department will bridge its overseas staffing gaps by simply eliminating the positions?
At some point, the State Department will not only suffer staffing gaps but experience gaps, as well. Despite advances in technology, no one has yet been able to grow career diplomats overnight; there are no microchips for area knowledge that can be embedded behind the ears; there are no linguists you can simply pick from trees; there are no robots who can do visa interviews or notify Americans of the death of their loved ones overseas. There are no holographic consular officers who can do prison visits. Apparently, you also cannot grow overnight architects and engineers who know the intricacies and security requirements of embassy buildings. Who knew?
So what happens when the needed expertise is gone and the government is not able to grow that expertise fast enough? Why, it will hire consultants and contractors, of course.
In related news, a cable reportedly also went out informing employees that HR is on schedule to release the Foreign Service promotion lists before Labor Day. The cable alerts employees that there will be “fewer promotions this year relative to last year.” Anticipating a specific reaction, the State Department told employees that they need to understand that promotion rates “normally go through cycles” and that this year’s promotion numbers, while lower than last year’s, are “largely within the historical range.” The cable explains that there are more people competing for fewer promotion opportunities and that the low cycle in promotion is due to 1) large Diplomatic Readiness Initiative and D3.0 cohorts from the hiring surges in 2001/04, and 2009/12, and 2) a position base that “will contract over the next couple of years.”
Is there a third shoe waiting to drop?