Posted: 6:01 am ET
Updated: 10:30 am PT (fixed headline)
During his town hall with employees on December 12, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced the lifting of the hiring freeze in 2018 for Eligible Family Members (EFM). Actually, it turned out to be a 50% lift but State won that news cycle; no one came back to correct that it was not a full lifting of the hiring freeze (see Tillerson Issues New Personnel Actions, But What’s That About Lifting the EFM Hiring Freeze?).
During that speech, Tillerson also announced the expansion of the Expanded Professional Associates Program (EPAP) for Foreign Service spouses (see Tillerson Announces “Immediate Changes” From Redesign, USAID is Now in the GAL – Yay?). He promised:
To take care of our people, we will:
–Diversify and improve the quality of professional opportunities for Eligible Family Members by increasing the number of EPAP positions, from 250 to 400.
–Support EFMs in EPAP positions by offering increased training opportunities for them at the Foreign Service Institute.
The Department’s Family Liaison Office also says that “The Department of State is committed to supporting its employees and their families as they balance their service with the needs of family life.”
Recently, the State Department released its new guidance on Preparing for the 2018 Spring/Summer EPAP Vacancy Announcement. Via state.gov/flo:
The Expanded Professional Associates Program (EPAP) provides U.S. citizen Eligible Family Members (EFMs) serving overseas with 200 professional-level Foreign Service full-time positions in Economics, Financial Management, General Services, Human Resources, Management, Office Management, Political, Public Diplomacy, and Registered Nurse areas. The program also provides up to 50 positions in the Information Management area. These positions are centrally funded. Each regional bureau and the Bureau of Information Resource Management (IRM) is authorized a specific number of positions as determined by the Under Secretary for Management. Individual posts may also create post-funded ICASS positions with approval from their regional bureau.
New EPAP Qualification Standards
FLO also announced new qualification standards for EPAP applicants:
Previously Qualified EPAP Employees/Applicants Must Must Re-Re-Re-Qualify!
Here’s the howler: everybody starts from scratch. Previously qualified applicants must re-qualify to be eligible under the new standards; they will not be grandfathered into the new program.
Because the qualification standards were revised in 2018, the process of prequalification in one or several EPAP areas has been replaced with the new Qualification Standards. As of January 1, 2018, prior EPAP employees or EPAP prequalified applicants will need to meet the eligibility requirements listed in the new Qualification Standards. To be eligible for each position, applicants must submit an application package with all required documents.
The application must specifically address both the education and specialized experience requirements listed in the new Qualification Standards. Global Employment Advisors (GEA) can provide tips on preparing a federal resume; email GEI@state.gov.
Refer to the following documents: • New EPAP Qualification Standards • Checklist: How to prepare required documents for the 2018 Spring/Summer Centralized Vacancy Announcement
State/FLO says that EPAP pay grades range from FP-07 to FP-04 as determined by the regional bureaus and IRM. Each advertised position will show the minimum and maximum grades (full performance grade) at which a candidate may be hired.
And yet, the New EPAP Qualification Standards for Financial Management EPAP lists FP-03 as an EPAP grade, with Ph.D. in Business or Public Administration (with a concentration in Accounting or Finance) as an educational requirement, with “none” listed for specialized experience.
Folks, the announcement for a Foreign Service Financial Management Officer (FMO) says that “applicants with finance-related higher education and specific experience in financial management or accounting are preferred” but the education requirement for applicants does not even require a master’s degree, or for that matter, a “Ph.D. in Business or Public Administration with a concentration in Accounting or Finance as an educational requirement”.
Education: Applicants must possess at least a Bachelor’s degree with a minimum of 24 semester hours (36 quarter hours) in accounting or finance earned at the undergraduate or graduate level from an accredited school. Professional certifications such as CPA (certified public accountant) or graduate degrees from an accredited in business, government, or public administration are preferred with concentrations in accounting or finance.
Stitching a Checkered Work Experience to Qualify For Specialized Experience
The Public Diplomacy EPAP with an FP-06 grade requires BA/BS or above in non-related field and 5 years specialized experience in management, oversight and provision of media, marketing, communications, public relations, educational, cultural or journalistic services.
Unless a spouse has that experience already when he/she joined/married into the Foreign Service, it will be a challenge to get that specialized experience after entry. FS spouses typically take what jobs are available to them at the posts their spouses are assigned to. So they could be working at Public Affairs one tour, at the Consular Section another tour, or as a security escort at yet another post. Which makes it hard to have 5 years specialized experience in specific tracks.
Similarly, Political EPAP requires BA/BS or above in non-related field and 5 years specialized experience in research, monitoring and analysis of political, social, or related conditions and trends, write reports and make recommendations on same. Oh hey, also negotiate policy.
How many folks think this is a new strategery to get to that crucial staffing cuts without a RIF?
Training, Oh, Training – Still on Space A
Selected candidates are encouraged to take related training courses while in Washington, DC during home leave, R&R or personal travel. Financial support for training is not currently available prior to starting a position. However, if a candidate is working and post wishes to fund travel costs and per diem for him/her to take courses at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) or a regional training center, salary will continue to be paid during the training period from central funds. Individuals selected for this program will generally have priority over other EFMs for language and functional training enrollment on a space available basis. Email FLOASKTraining@state.gov for more information.
Is the State Department serious?
It would review its policy of “space available” training for spouses. And it needs to provide internship opportunities for spouses to obtain specialized experience. We know some spouses who went back to school while in the Service but lack the specialized experience due to their inability to find work while posted overseas.
Send us comments if you care. This is a very late night, um morning now for me, and I need to get to bed. Will probably update this later when I am more awake.