AFSA: FSOs Will Now Compete in a “Scavenger Hunt” to Be Considered for Promotion Into the Senior Foreign Service

Posted: 1:07 pm PT

 
AFSA’s State VP Kenneth Kero-Mentz sent out a message today on the new Professional Development Program and new requirements for promotion into the Senior Foreign Service, Promotion Criteria Changed: Opening Your Window. If you have not seen it yet, see below via afsa.org:

 

Over a year ago, the Department informed AFSA that it wanted to change the criteria for those seeking entry into the Senior Foreign Service under the “Professional Development Program.” While AFSA supported many of the changes included in the PDP, we expressed deep concern about the so-called “service needs” proposal. Currently, those FSOs interested in opening their window must have served at least one tour at a 15% or higher hardship post. The Department told us it wanted to mandate that FSOs complete a tour at a 25% or greater hardship differential post from entry into the Foreign Service (or a tour at an unaccompanied post from entry), AND a second tour at a 20% or greater differential post after tenure.

During the extended negotiations, the Department’s justification for this radical shift changed constantly. Initially, the proposed changes were necessary to fill vacant positions at greater hardship posts. AFSA pointed out that the Department’s own data revealed that vacancy rates at 20% and higher differential posts are actually lower than the vacancy rates at 0% and 15% posts. Next, the Department claimed that the real problem was that there were too few and/or subpar bidders at certain hardship posts in Africa and South Central Asia. We countered that the recent changes to Fair Share rules and bidding privileges will drive more bidders to 20% and higher posts, alleviating that possible concern. But then the Department changed its rationale a third time, arguing that FSOs need to be exposed to service in high differential posts to build the leadership skills necessary for promotion into the SFS.

AFSA fought back, and took the dispute all the way to the Foreign Service Impasse Disputes Panel (FSIDP) where we argued strenuously that this move is unnecessary (based on the Department’s own data), directly contradicts the Foreign Service Act of 1980, harms members of the Foreign Service, and is untenable. Implementing this proposal would result in a less diverse SFS, we argued, and it contravenes both Section 101 of the Act (which states that “the members of the Foreign Service should be representative of the American people”) as well as Secretary Tillerson’s stated goal of a more diverse Foreign Service. Unfortunately, the FSIDP sided with the Department.

Our position has remained consistent: if the Department can identify a realproblem, AFSA is committed to working with the Department to solve it. Not only did the Department fail to provide evidence of a genuine problem, its proposed solution to its ever-evolving alleged problem is contrary to the Act’s SFS promotion criteria in that it undermines the legal authority of the Selection Boards. Adoption of the Department’s proposal guts the SFS promotion process by transferring decisions regarding the future leadership of the Department from the Selection Boards to HR. Instead of competing for promotion on the strength of their performance evaluations, FSOs will now compete in a “scavenger hunt” for the limited number of positions at 25% or higher posts to meet an arbitrary criterion to be allowed to open their windows and be considered for promotion into the SFS by the Selection Boards. We are quite certain this change will lead to unforeseen difficulties, not only for FSOs but also for regional bureaus, especially those with many FSO positions to fill at 15% posts.

This change in criteria will have an adverse impact on many Foreign Service employees who will not be able to meet the requirements due to the lack of available positions and their own or their family members’ personal situations, thus, undermining the diversity of the SFS. We argued—and provided concrete examples—that many of the greater hardship posts are even more challenging to serve in for tandem couples, for those with medical concerns, for families with children with special needs, or for LGBT FSOs where privileges and immunitiesmay not be granted to their spouses and families. And what about for those who are consistently promoted at the first opportunity—our “fast risers”—are they expected to focus only on hardship posts as they move up?

Unfortunately, now that the FSIDP has ruled, the Department announced this change on December 29 with the release of 17 STATE 127376. We believe this change is likely to result in numerous grievances from FSOs who bid, year after year, on greater hardship posts but were not assigned to such posts, and so we urge all FSOs to keep records of bidding. The Foreign Service Grievance Board (FSGB) “has long recognized that agencies are responsible for providing Foreign Service Officers with opportunities to advance their careers… [T]his provides a necessary protection in an ‘up or out’ promotion system and is grounded in the FSA and agency regulations.” Further, “a Foreign Service agency has an affirmative obligation to provide each of its officers with fair and reasonable opportunities for development and retention in the Service… [T]he agency cannot simultaneously engage in a process that deprives its officers of those very opportunities…”

AFSA has repeatedly told the Department that it wants to help solve problems in filling FSO positions at greater hardship posts, if they truly exist, but to date the Department has failed to provide any evidence of an actual problem. While AFSA will continue to be collaborative in its labor management relationship with the Department—and we are pleased that our negotiations with the Department yielded many positive changes in the PDP compared with earlier versions—we will not be complicit in the pursuit of a “solution” for which there is no problem. Further, the Department’s changes to the PDP will further complicate bidding simply because there are not enough hardship positions to meet demand. There is no guarantee that talented FSOs, who have to this point progressed quickly through the ranks, will be able to meet these additional requirements to enter the Senior Foreign Service within the prescribed time frame. Those FSOs unable to meet these new requirements—and, given the scarcity of positions available, that will be many FS-01s—will not be allowed to open their windows unless they can convince HR to grant them a waiver.

With the recent FSIDP decision, the Department is now free to implement this radical change through the Professional Development Program. It is AFSA’s intention to approach discussions with the Department with the goal of minimizing adverse impact of this new policy on our members’ careers to the greatest extent possible. Looking toward the future, we urge all members of the Foreign Service to maintain good records of their bidding efforts, and stay tuned as we work with the Department to ensure that the “waiver” portion of its proposal is developed into a robust, transparent, and well-defined system. In accordance with the Department’s ALDAC, those with policy questions should direct their concerns to careerdevhelpdesk@state.gov and feel free to share your concerns with us as well.

Despite our disappointment, we look forward to continuing with our overall collaborative and positive relationship with the Department.

 

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US Embassy London Lowers Flag at Grosvenor Square as It Prepares to Move to #33NineElmsLane

Posted: 12:39 pm PT

 

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@StateDept Rolls Out New FSO Development Program, and Promotion Rules to Get Into the Senior Foreign Service

Posted: 4:49 am ET

 

On the last working day of 2017, the State Department quietly rolled out its new “Professional Development Program for Foreign Service Generalists.” This new program will reportedly “ultimately replace” the current Career Development Plan (CDP). The cable that went out to all posts says that the PDP “places greater emphasis on leadership and professional development, and requires “significant and substantial” supervisory and management experience.”    The current Career Development Plan principles are as follows:

  • Operational effectiveness, including a breadth of experience over several regions and functions
  • Leadership and management effectiveness
  • Sustained professional language proficiency
  • Responsiveness to Service needs

The new Professional Development Program principles are as follows:

  1. Operational effectiveness, including a breadth of experience over several regions and functions;
  2. Leadership and management effectiveness;
  3. Professional language proficiency; and
  4. Responsiveness to Service needs.

Oh.

The PDP will be phased in over the next eight years, beginning in 2018. Through 2025, FSOs who apply for Senior Threshold Board (STB) review may elect to meet all of the CDP requirements or may instead elect to meet all of the new PDP requirements, depending on which complete plan they prefer. Beginning January 1, 2026, all FSOs who apply to open their windows must meet the requirements of the PDP.

The announcement notes that the PDP Service need requirement (see below) is designed to enhance the ability of FSOs “to lead effectively once they cross the Senior Threshold, ensure more equitable burden-sharing, and expand the pool of qualified bidders at historically-difficult-to-staff posts.”

On waivers for the PDP Service need requirement, the cable notes that they will include “limited medical clearances or needs of the Service – as is the case with the CDP – and will be expanded to include extraordinary circumstances that may affect an FSO’s ability to service in the required hardship postings.”

The Department has reportedly started “initial consultations with AFSA on this matter.” The guidance also says that “Once HR attests that an FSO has met the requirements to open his or her window – either through the CDP or PDP – he or she does not need to reapply or resubmit another application for consideration.”

One source called this “another pointless gimmick” rolled out during the holidays when no one was paying attention. We understand that this whole process is self-certified, so there is some doubt if HR even verifies anything. We’ve heard feedback that the Promotion Boards won’t even see this. If  you’re an HR ninja and knows more, let us know.

Career Development Plan/CDP

  • requires FSOs to serve three tours dealing with one region and two tours dealing with one region (Major/minor regional assignments from entry into service)
  • requires Generalists to test at the 3/3 level within seven years before opening their window for consideration of promotion across the Senior Threshold.

Professional Development Program/PDP:

  • requires a mix of domestic and overseas assignments in at least two different bureaus after tenure
  • FSOs who entered the service after January 1, 2017 must serve at least one tour in a global affairs bureau or in a global affairs position
  • requires Generalists to test at the 3/3 level (or at the 3/2 level for a hard or super-hard language) any time after tenure
  • requires Generalists to serve at hardship posts in order to be considered for promotion across the Senior Threshold
  • requires Generalists to complete a tour at a 25 percent or greater hardship/danger differential post from entry into the Foreign Service OR complete a tour at an unaccompanied post from entry into the Foreign Service, AND complete another tour at a 20 percent or greater hardship/danger differential post after tenure.

That requirement to test at a 3/3 any time after tenure instead of testing at the 3/3 level within seven years before opening their window for consideration of promotion — have folks thought that through? We don’t understand this actually. Language skills can quickly atrophy when not in used; this can’t be good for the Service, can it? The comment section is open.

There are also Foreign Service specialists, not many but some, who also get promoted into the Senior Foreign Service. When we asked about the PDP requirement for them, our source is not sure what requirement comparable to the PDP will be required.

The CDP notes that “perhaps the most important difference among the 17 separate specialist career paths lies in the fact that the Career Development Programs pinnacle is not always the grade of FE-OC, as it is for generalists. The pinnacle for specialists may be FS-04 as it is for the Office Management Specialists, FS-01 for the Facilities Management Specialists, or FE-MC for Physicians.”

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Trump Renominates Nominee Who Believes The Bahamas Is … Um, a U.S. Protectorate

Posted: 3:49 am ET

 

Trump’s nominee to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas Papa Doug Manchester has been renominated on January 8.  During his confirmation hearing last year, he was asked about the comments he made to the SFRC staffers. Apparently, he thinks that the Bahamas is a U.S. protectorate.  How did we miss this howler last year? When asked about this by Senator Menendez during the Senate hearing, he responded, “We’ll certainly for all intents and purposes we believe that it is a protectorate …”

Local media The Tribune reported last year that the comments “received immediate push back from former Foreign Affairs Minister and current Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate Fred Mitchell, who slammed them as “patently offensive”.  But apparently, the current Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield said he was still “enthused” by the opportunity to work with the nominee, and n an interview with The Tribune, Mr. Henfield reportedly called for “understanding and reasoning” in the wake of Mr Manchester’s controversial comments when he called The Bahamas a “protectorate.”

Then there’s this Q&A on his LGBT record:

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White House Sends @StateDept Renominations to the Senate

Posted: 3:15 am ET
 

 

On January 2, we blogged about the Senate requiring the renominations of State Department nominees stalled in 2017 (see Senate Requires the Renomination of @StateDept Nominees Stalled in 2017). On January 8, the White House sent the following State Department nominations back to the Senate:

AMBASSADORS

James Randolph Evans, of Georgia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Luxembourg.

Richard Grenell, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Federal Republic of Germany.

Doug Manchester, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

Kathleen Troia McFarland, of New York, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Singapore.  

STATE DEPARTMENT

Eric M. Ueland, of Oregon, to be an Under Secretary of State (Management), vice Patrick Francis Kennedy.

Stephen Akard, of Indiana, to be Director General of the Foreign Service, vice Arnold A. Chacon, resigned.

Samuel Dale Brownback, of Kansas, to be Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, vice David Nathan Saperstein.

Susan A. Thornton, of Maine, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (East Asian and Pacific Affairs), vice Daniel R. Russel.

Yleem D. S. Poblete, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Verification and Compliance), vice Frank A. Rose.  

It looks like everyone caught in limbo in the Senate in 2017 have been renominated except for one.  We have not been able to locate the renomination of Jay Patrick Murray who was nominated Alternate Representative for UNGA. Unless that renomination shows up at a later time …  that nomination is probably dead.

2018-01-03 PN410 Department of State | Jay Patrick Murray, of Virginia, to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations, during his tenure of service as Alternate Representative of the United States of America for Special Political Affairs in the United Nations. Returned to the President under the provisions of Senate Rule XXXI, paragraph 6 of the Standing Rules of the Senate.

2018-01-03 PN409 Department of State | Jay Patrick Murray, of Virginia, to be Alternate Representative of the United States of America for Special Political Affairs in the United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador. Returned to the President under the provisions of Senate Rule XXXI, paragraph 6 of the Standing Rules of the Senate.

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