A Look at @StateDept Staffing Losses Between FY2016-FY2017 #ThisCouldGetWorse

Posted: 12:28 pm PT
Updated: Feb 13, 2:02 pm PT

 

We’ve written previously about staffing and attrition at the State Department in this blog. We’ve decided to put the staffing numbers in FY16 and FY17 next to each other for comparison. The numbers are publicly released by State/HR, and links are provided below.

Since the State Department had also released an update of its staffing numbers dated December 31, 2017 for the first quarter of FY2018, we’ve added that in the table below.

FY2016 saw a high water mark in the total number of State Department employees worldwide at 75,231.  There were 13,980 Foreign Service employees (officers and specialists), 11,147 Civil Service employees and 50,104 locally employed (LE) staff members at 275 overseas posts.

The Trump Administration took office on January 20, 2017. On February 1, 2017, Rex W. Tillerson was sworn in as the 69th Secretary of State. With the exception of the month of January, note that Secretary Tillerson was at the helm at State for eight months in FY2017 (February-September 30, 2017), and the first three months of FY2018 (October 2017-December 2017).

With 75,231 overall number as our marker, we find that the State Department overall was reduced by 351 employees at the end of FY2017.  On the first quarter of FY18, this number was reduced further by 476 employees.  Between September 30, 2016, and December 31, 2017 — 15 months — the agency was reduced  overall by 827 employees (including LE employees).

FY2017 did see six, that’s right, six new FS specialists, and 256 LE staffers added to its rolls (see That FSS Number for additional discussion on that six FSS gains). Note that LE staffers are generally host country nationals paid in local compensation plans with non-dollarized salaries.

Data also shows that there were 68 more FS/CS employees overseas. We interpret this to mean 68 more FS/CS employees assigned overseas, and not/not necessarily new hires. The FSO ranks were reduced by 107 officers, and the Civil Service corps was reduced by 500 out of a total of 25,127 American employees by September 2017. The Foreign Service was further reduced by 197 employees, and the Civil Service reduced by 144 employees by December 31, 2017.

Tillerson on Track

Mr. Tillerson goal is reportedly to reduce the department’s full-time American employees by 8 percent by the end of September 2018, the date by which Mr. Tillerson has purportedly promised to complete the first round of cuts. A November 2017 report  calculated the 8 percent as 1,982 people with 1,341 expected to retire or quit, and 641 employees expected to take buyouts. The data below indicates that the State Department’s American FS/CS employees at 25,127 in FY2016 was reduced by 948 employees by December 31, 2017, a reduction of 3.8 percent.  If the buyouts, as reported, occurs in April 2018, Tillerson would be at 6.3 percent reduction by spring, with five months to get to the remaining 1.7 percent to make his 8 percent target by September 30. And this is just the first round.

Projected Attrition

In 2016, the State Department already projected that between FY 2016 and FY 2020, close to 5,400 career FS and CS employees (21 percent) will leave the Department due to various types of attrition (non-retirements, retirements, voluntary, involuntary). That’s an average of 1,080 reduction each fiscal year from FY2016-FY2020.  Even without a threat of staff reduction, it was already anticipated that the State Department was going to shrink by 1,080 employees every year until 2020.  We think that part of this estimate has to do with the graying of the federal service, and the mandatory age retirement for the Foreign Service, but also because of the built-in RIF in the Foreign Service with its “up or out” system. Anytime we hear the State Department trimming its promotion numbers, we also anticipate more departures for people who could not get promoted.

It’s Not a RIF, Just Shrinking the Promotion Numbers

Tillerson made the staff reduction his own by announcing a staffing cut and a buyout. This was obviously a mistake, but what do we know? What this signals to us is a lack of understanding of how the system was intended to work most especially in the Foreign Service. This is a mistake that he could have easily avoided had he not walled himself away from career people who knew the building and the system that he was trying to redesign.

Yes, the reduction in State Department workforce was in the stars whether Tillerson became Secretary of State or not. There is a regular brain drain because the Foreign Service is an “up or out” system. Some diplomats who are at the prime of their careers but are not promoted are often forced to leave.  But to get more people to leave, Tillerson does not even need to announce a RIF, he only need to shrink the promotion numbers. A source familiar with the numbers told us that in 2017, 41 FSOs were promoted from FS01 to the Senior Foreign Service (SFS), down from an average over the past five years of 101, or a 60% decrease. Across the Foreign Service, we understand that the average decrease in promotion numbers is about 30% percent.

In the rules books, the Director General of the Foreign Service is supposed to determine the number of promotions of members of the Foreign Service reviewed by the selection boards by “taking into account such factors as vacancies, availability of funds, estimated attrition, projected needs of the Service, and the need for retention of expertise and experience.” This decisions is based on “a systematic, long-term projection of personnel flows and needs designed to provide: (1)  A regular, predictable flow of recruitment into the Service; (2)  Effective career development to meet Service needs; and (3)  A regular, predictable flow of talent upwards through the ranks and into the SFS.”

The State Department does not even have a Senate-confirmed DGHR. The last Senate confirmed Director General Arnold Chacon left his post in June 2017 (see DGHR Arnold Chacón Steps Down, One More @StateDept Office Goes Vacant). Bill Todd who is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary is now acting Director General of the Foreign Service & acting Director of Human Resources, as well as “M” Coordinator. The Trump Administration has nominated ex-FSO  Stephen Akard to be the next DGHR (see Ten Ex-Directors General Call on the SFRC to Oppose Stephen Akard’s Confirmation).

Burning Both Ends of the Candle

The surprise is not that people are leaving, it is that people that you don’t expect to leave now are leaving or have left. An ambassador who retires in the middle of a three-year tenure. The highest ranking female diplomat who potentially could have been “P” retired. A senior diplomat retiring while at the pinnacle of his diplomatic career five years short of mandatory age retirement. A talented diplomat calling it quits while there’s a whole new world yet to be explored. The highest numbers of departures are occurring at the Minister Counselor level, and at the FS01s and below level (PDF). That said, these numbers as released and shown below, are still within the previously projected attrition numbers for FY2017. The FY2018 numbers is the one we’re anxious to see.

Tillerson’s staff reduction is not even the most glaring problem he gave himself. Basically, Tillerson’s State Department is burning both ends of the candle. The diplomatic ranks were reduced by 225 in December 31 last year but State will reportedly only hire a hundred in FY2018. There are rumors of only hiring at 3 for 1 to attrition. If this is the plan, Tillerson will surely shrink the diplomatic service but by not ensuring a smooth flow of new blood into the Service, he will put the institution and its people at risk. For instance, there are about 2,000 Diplomatic Security agents. Let’s say 21 percent or 420 agents leave the agency between now and 2020, and the State Department hires 140 new agents during the same period. The work will still be there, it will just remain unfilled or the positions get eliminated. A three-person security office could shrink to two, to one, or none. In the meantime, the United States has 275 posts overseas, including high threat/high risk priority posts that require those security agents.  What happens then? Are we going to see more contractors? Since contractor numbers are typically not released by the State Department, we won’t have any idea how many will supplement the agency’s workforce domestically and overseas.

The Foreign Service Specialists (FSS) Count

So if we look at the first table below (thanks JR), note that the total Foreign Service Specialists (FSSs) number is 5,821. A State Department release in November 29, 2017 confirms the 5,821 figure. But this figure as you can see here (PDF) includes Consular Fellow gains (previously known as Consular Adjudicators) in FY2017 (231), FY2016 (141), FY2015 (70), FY2014 (35) and FY2013 (37). The numbers are not clear from FY13 and FY14 because the counts were not done at the end of the fiscal year but midyear and end of the year. As best we can tell, the State Department HR Fact Sheet counts Consular Fellows as part of its FSS count in fiscal years 2015-2017.

The result is that the career FSS count is artificially inflated by the inclusion of the Consular Fellows in the count. While the first table below shows an FSS gain of six specialists, in reality, the CF inclusion in the count hides the career FSS losses in the last three fiscal years that ended. Why does that count matter? Because the Consular Fellow LNA appointments max out at 60 months.

11/29/17  Department of State Facts About Our Most Valuable Asset – Our People (September 30, 2017 Counts) 

Consular Fellows are hired via limited non-career appointments (LNAs). The Consular Fellows program, similar to its predecessor, the Consular Adjudicator Limited Non-Career Appointment (CA LNA) program, is not an alternate entry method to the Foreign Service or the U.S. Department of State, i.e. this service does not lead to onward employment at the U.S. Department of State or with the U.S. government. In fact state.gov notes that Consular Fellows are welcome to apply to become Foreign Service Specialists, Foreign Service Generalists, or Civil Service employees, but they must complete the standard application and assessment processes. So for Congressional folks keeping track of the career Foreign Service numbers, this would be a notable distinction.

Trump’s 2019 Budget and the Next 27% Cut

Trump’s fiscal 2019 proposed budget includes a 27% cut to the State Department. This potentially could get a lot worse; when the Administration starts shrinking programs, and priorities at this rate, it will inevitably create a cascading effect impacting overseas presence and personnel. State Department officials may say no post closures, and no reduction-in-force now but we probably will see those down the road, even if not immediately.  Remember when State was shrunk in the early 1990’s? It took a while before people could start picking up the pieces, and the replenishment for the workforce did not happen until almost a decade later. (see The Last Time @StateDept Had a 27% Budget Cut, Congress Killed ACDA and USIA).

Still, we have to remind ourselves that the budget proposal is just that, a proposal, and that Congress has the power of the purse. Is it foolish to hang our hopes on our elected reps?

HR Fact Sheet as of December 31, 2017 (PDF)

HR Fact Sheet as of 9/30/2017 (PDF)
Oops, looks like this file was subsequently removed after post went up.
See copy via the Internet Archive

HR Fact Sheet as of 9/30/2016 (Archived PDF)

HR Fact Sheet as of 9/30/2015 (PDF)

Below is a bonus chart with the FY2015 staffing numbers (yellow column#1), and the gains/losses between September 2015 to December 2017 (yellow column ##2). We’re sure that Mr. Tillerson’s aides would say that yes, there are staffing losses but look, the State Department’s overall workforce is still larger at the end of 2017 when compared to 2015. And that is true. Except that if you look closely at the numbers, you will quickly note that the gains of 1,346 employees are all LE staffers on local compensation.

 

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Senate Confirms Four Foreign Service Lists Including Two Pretty Thin Promotion Lists (Updated)

Posted: 3:43 am ET
Updated 2:04 pm PT

 

On January 30, the U.S. Senate confirmed four Foreign Service lists including two promotion lists that look pretty thin.  Are these all the names of FSOs/FSSs who got promoted, 98 in all? There were no promotions to the Career Ambassador (CA). or the Career Minister (CM) ranks, hey? How normal is that? 

According to State/HR’s count from last year (PDF), there were  19 Career Ministers in the entire Foreign Service at the end of FY2017. Unless there’s a separate list floating around, we’re not seeing the CA/CM promotions. There could also be a reduction in the Minister Counselor (MC) and Counselor numbers given that the count published by State was dated September 30, 2017 (Department of State Facts About Our Most Valuable Asset – Our People (September 30, 2017 Counts) and we have no idea how many departures by rank had occurred between October to January 2018.

Update: On November 16, 2017, the U.S. Senate confirmed four nominees to the rank of Career Minister (see PN 2100). 

The following-named Career Members of the Senior Foreign Service of the Department of State for promotion within the Senior Foreign Service of the United States of America, Class of Career Minister:

  • John R. Bass II, of VA (current ambassador to Kabul)
  • John D. Feeley, of DC (will retire effective March 2018)
  • Judith G. Garber, of VA (current Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans, Environment and Science (OES)
  • Sung Y. Kim, of VA (current ambassador to Manila)

With the promotion of 4 career employees into the Career Minister rank, the State Department now appears to have 23 Career Minister rank members (4 new promotions, 19 FSOs, 0 FSSs). See PDF. That’s the same low number as in 2012, but will dipped to 22, same as in 2009, when Ambassador Feeley retires in March 2018. The lowest dips occurred at 19 both in 2008 and 2017.

With the promotion of  33 career employees into the Minister Counselor rank, the State Department now appears to have 447 Minister-Counselor rank members (33 new promotions, 384 FSOs, and 29 FSSs with Minister-Counselor rank).  See PDF.

With with promotion of 64 career employees into the Counselor rank, the State Department now appears to have s 611 Counselor-rank members (64 new promotions, plus 431 FSOs, and 116 FSSs with Counselor rank). See PDF.

This is our best guess at this time given the published numbers available and the congress.gov data.

2018-01-30 PN1434 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Alyce S. Ahn, and ending Michele D. Woonacott, which 90 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 8, 2018.

2018-01-30 PN1435 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Priya U. Amin, and ending Erik Z. Zahnen, which 118 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 8, 2018.

2018-01-30 PN1433 Foreign Service |Nominations beginning Marc Clayton Gilkey, and ending Mark A. Myers, which 6 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 8, 2018. (5 PROMOTIONs)

The following-named Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service of the Department of Agriculture for promotion within the Senior Foreign Service of the United States of America, Class of Minister-Counselor:

Marc Clayton Gilkey, of CA

The following-named Career Members of the Foreign Service for promotion into the Senior Foreign Service, as a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service of the United States of America, Class of Counselor

Deanna M. J. Ayala, of MN

Darya Chehrezad, of CA

Morgan A. Perkins, of MD

Stanley Storey Phillips, of MT

/4

2018-01-30 PN1436-1 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Angela P. Aggeler, and ending Mari Jain Womack, which 93 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 8, 2018. (93 PROMOTIONS)

The following-named Career Members of the Senior Foreign Service of the Department of State for promotion within the Senior Foreign Service of the United States of America, Class of Minister-Counselor:

Angela P. Aggeler, of DC

Peter H. Barlerin, of MD

Colombia A. Barrosse, of VA

MaryKay Loss Carlson, of VA

Julie J. Chung, of CA

Karen Kaska Davidson, of TX

Kelly Colleen Degnan, of DC

Chayan C. Dey, of FL

John E. Fitzsimmons, of MD

Eric Alan Flohr, of FL

Anthony Godfrey, of VA

Peter T. Guerin, of NM

Lisa Kennedy Heller, of VA

Nicholas Manning Hill, of NY

J. Baxter Hunt III, of VA

Henry V. Jardine, of VA

Lisa A. Johnson, of VA

Steven C. Koutsis, of MD

Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir, of DC

Karin Melka Lang, of VA

Jeanne Marie Maloney, of VA

Ervin J. Massinga, of WA

Brian David McFeeters, of VA

Karen E. Mummaw, of VA

Richard Carl Paschall III, of VA

Lisa J. Peterson, of VA

Jo Ann E. Scandola, of DC

Mark Toner, of MD

Frank J. Whitaker, of SC

Michael L. Yoder, of VA

Andrew R. Young, of CA

David J. Young, of VA

Stephen Arthur Young, of FL

/33

The following-named Career Members of the Foreign Service for promotion into the Senior Foreign Service, as a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service of the United States of America, Class of Counselor:

Begzat Bix Aliu, of VA

Robert Lloyd Batchelder, of VA

Andrea Renee Brouillette-Rodriguez, of VA

Rachel L. Cooke, of VA

Susannah E. Cooper, of MD

Jason Richard Cubas, of FL

Abigail Lee Dressel, of CT

Marion Johnston Ekpuk, of VA

Jill Marie Esposito, of VT

Daniel J. Fennell, of FL

Eric Vincent Gaudiosi, of MD

William Robert Gill Jr., of VA

Ryan M. Gliha, of AZ

David J. Greene, of DC

Keith Lee Heffern, of VA

Elizabeth K. Horst, of MN

Martin T. Kelly, of FL

Angela M. Kerwin, of VA

William H. Klein, of CA

Kimberly Krhounek, of DC

Christopher A. Landberg, of DC

John David Lippeatt, of VA

Gregory Daniel LoGerfo, of VA

Ian Joseph McCary, of NY

David Ray McCawley, of CA

John W. McIntyre, of TX

Heather Christine Merritt, of VA

Mario McGwinn Mesquita, of VA

Marcus Robert Micheli, of CA

Andrew Thomas Miller, of VA

Mark David Moody, of MO

Joyce Winchel Namde, of VA

Scott McConnin Oudkirk, of VA

Jonathan G. Pratt, of CA

Jose Kieran Santacana, of DC

Jennifer L. Savage, of FL

William Steuer, of TX

Donn-Allan G. Titus, of FL

Christina Tomlinson, of VA

John E. Warner, of VA

Kami Ann Witmer, of PA

/41

The following-named Career Members of the Foreign Service for promotion into the Senior Foreign Service, as a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, and a Consular Officer and a Secretary in the Diplomatic Service of the United States of America:

Paul Avallone, of FL

Philip Karl Barth, of VA

Wade L. Boston, of VA

David L. Duncan, of UT

Vida M. Gecas, of VA

Glenn E. Harms, of VA

Joy D. Herrera-Baca, of VA

Tuan Q. Hoang, of WA

Jason R. Kight, of VA

Jacqueline Levesque, of VA

Luis A. Matus, of VA

Chanda C. McDaniel, of MO

William I. Mellott, of AZ

Thad Osterhout, of VA

Michael C. Ranger, of VA

Paul L. Schaefer, of VA

Robert A. Solomon, of PA

Mark A. Wilson, of VA

Mari Jain Womack, of TX

/19

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SFRC Clears Eric M. Ueland (M), and Peter H. Vrooman (Rwanda)

Posted: 3:37 am ET

 

On February 7, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee cleared the nomination of the next “M” and the career nominee as the next U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda:

  • Eric M. Ueland, of Oregon, to be an Under Secretary of State (Management), vice Patrick Francis Kennedy
  • Peter Hendrick Vrooman, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Rwanda.

Below is a clip from Mr. Ueland’s hearing from last fall:

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Trump Nominates Texas Judge Edward C. Prado to be U.S. Ambassador to Argentina

Posted: 2:18 am ET

 

On January 17, the WH announced the President’s intent to nominate Texas judge Edward C. Prado to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Argentina. The WG released the following brief bio:

Edward C. Prado of Texas, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Argentine Republic.Judge Edward Charles Prado is a distinguished Federal jurist having served as a United States judge for almost 35 years.  The first 19 years, he served as a district judge for the Western District of Texas, and for the past 14 years, he served as an appellate judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  Judge Prado was appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court to serve as chair of the Criminal Justice Active Review Committee, the board of Federal Judicial Center, and on the Defender Services Committee and Judicial Branch Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States.  Prior to becoming a judge he served as the United States Attorney for the Western District of Texas.  During his term as United States Attorney, he was appointed to serve on the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee.  Judge Prado also served as a state district judge, an assistant Federal public defender, and an assistant State district attorney.  He served in the United States Army Reserves (1972-1987), retiring as a captain.  Judge Prado received his B.A. and J.D. from the University of Texas at Austin.  He speaks fluent Spanish.

Judge Prado’s nomination is currently pending in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with no announced schedule for his confirmation hearing.

If confirmed, Judge Prado would succeed another political appointee Noah Bryson Mamet (1969–) who served as Ambassador from 2015-2017. The last career diplomat appointed to Argentina was Ambassador Earl Anthony Wayne (1950–) who served from January 2007–April 2009.

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Trump Nominates San Francisco Entrepeneur Trevor Traina to be U.S. Ambassador to Austria

Posted: 2:01 am ET

 

On January 22, the WH announced the President’s nomination of Trevor Traina to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Austria. The WH released the following brief bio.

Trevor Traina of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Austria. Mr. Traina is a technology entrepreneur and philanthropist based in San Francisco. He is founder and CEO of IfOnly, a company that allows buyers to purchase unique life experiences and donate a portion of the proceeds to charity. Mr. Traina has held non-profit advisory positions at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Haas School of Business, and the Princeton University Art Museum. Mr. Traina earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and a special diploma in social studies from Saint Catherine’s College at Oxford in the United Kingdom. Mr. Traina also received a master’s degree in business administration from the Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley.

As of this writing the nomination is still pending at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with the confirmation hearing yet to be announced/scheduled.

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