US Embassy Local Employees in the News #Ukraine #Yemen #Belarus

 

U.S. EMBASSY BELARUS

U.S. EMBASSY UKRAINE

U.S. EMBASSY YEMEN

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@StateDept Suspends Operations at the US Embassy in Minsk, Belarus

 

On February 28, 2022, the State Department announced the suspension of operations at the US Embassy in Minsk, Belarus:

The U.S. Department of State has suspended operations at our Embassy in Minsk, Belarus and authorized the voluntary departure (“authorized departure”) of non-emergency employees and family members at our Embassy in Moscow, Russia. We took these steps due to security and safety issues stemming from the unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces in Ukraine. The Department of State continually adjusts its posture at embassies and consulates throughout the world in line with its mission, the local security environment, and the health situation. We ultimately have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens, and that includes our U.S. government personnel and their dependents serving around the world.

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@StateDept Finally Confirmed Expulsion of Embassy Moscow DCM Bart Gorman

 

US Embassy Moscow’s Deputy Chief of Mission Bart Gorman and his family departed Moscow on February 10 after being declared persona non grata by the Russian Federation. This blog learned of that departure on February 10. We posted about it on February 14 (see On Russia’s Diplomats’ Day, Moscow Kicks Out US Embassy DCM).
On February 17, the State Department spox confirmed to the press the expulsion. The State Department called the expulsion “unprovoked” and that the United States  “consider this an escalatory step” and is  “considering” its response.  “DCM Gorman’s tour had not ended; he had a valid visa, and he had been in Russia less than three years.”
According to TASS, the Russian MFA said that this “was done strictly in retaliation for the groundless expulsion of a minister-counselor of our embassy in Washington, contrary to his senior diplomatic rank. Moreover, the US Department of State defiantly ignored our request for prolonging his stay at least until a substitute arrived.”
So the Russian Embassy DCM’s diplomatic tour in DC concluded and the State Department refused to extend his visa. And the Russians were mad that their request was “defiantly ignored” … therefore they kicked out the guy in Moscow whose diplomatic tour and visa are still valid.
The State Department’s statement also includes this part: “We note that Russia’s actions have led to the U.S. mission to Russia being staffed at levels well below the Russian mission to the United States.”
And?

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Congress Requests Review of Mental Health Resources Available to @StateDept and @USAID Personnel Overseas

 

In early February, Rep. Gregory Meeks, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security requested the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a review whether the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are providing adequate mental health services and resources to department and agency employees who live and work outside of the United States.
Chairs Meeks, Maloney, Lynch wrote:
We are concerned that State Department and USAID employees experiencing mental health challenges may not be able to access mental health care services while serving abroad, or may refrain from seeking assistance if they are worried that disclosing personal mental health information will adversely affect their diplomatic careers or ability to hold a security clearance.
It is critical that the State Department and USAID recognize and take steps to address the mental health challenges of their personnel serving abroad. To that end, we request that GAO initiate a review that evaluates the following:
1. What policies, programs, and initiatives do the State Department and USAID have in place to identify, detect, and monitor mental health risks and conditions among Civil and Foreign Service employees serving abroad?
2. To what extent do the State Department and USAID take clinical and non-clinical mental health conditions, either disclosed by an employee or identified by a mental health care provider, into consideration when assigning them to work at an
overseas post?

3. What stress management and mental health services do the State Department and USAID provide to employees serving at overseas posts?
4. What challenges or obstacles to accessing mental health resources and services have been identified by State Department and USAID employees serving at overseas posts?

The three Chairs also requested that GAO include “recommendations, as appropriate, for agency or congressional action” in their evaluation.
The letter to the GAO requesting the review is available to read here.

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U.S. Shuts Down Embassy Kyiv, “Temporarily Relocating” Operations to Lviv

Secretary of State Blinken on US Embassy Kyiv Operations /February 14, 2022 via state.gov:

“I have no higher priority than the safety and security of Americans around the world, and that, of course, includes our colleagues serving at our posts overseas. My team and I constantly review the security situation to determine when prudence dictates a change in posture. With that in mind, we are in the process of temporarily relocating our Embassy operations in Ukraine from our Embassy in Kyiv to Lviv due to the dramatic acceleration in the buildup of Russian forces. The Embassy will remain engaged with the Ukrainian government, coordinating diplomatic engagement in Ukraine.  We are also continuing our intensive diplomatic efforts to deescalate the crisis.

These prudent precautions in no way undermine our support for or our commitment to Ukraine. Our commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering. We also continue our sincere efforts to reach a diplomatic solution, and we remain engaged with the Russian government following President Biden’s call with President Putin and my discussion with Foreign Minister Lavrov. The path for diplomacy remains available if Russia chooses to engage in good faith. We look forward to returning our staff to the Embassy as soon as conditions permit.

In the meantime, I have ordered these measures for one reason — the safety of our staff — and we strongly urge any remaining U.S. citizens in Ukraine to leave the country immediately. U.S. citizens seeking emergency assistance in Ukraine should complete this online form, and the State Department will follow-up, as appropriate.”

WSJ reports that the State Department “ordered the destruction of networking equipment and computer workstations and the dismantling of the embassy telephone system” citing  U.S. officials familiar with the matter and internal communications reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.  “Those moves render the Kyiv embassy inoperable as a diplomatic facility.”
Remember that photo we posted about the closure of US Embassy Tripoli as they prepared to evacuate post in 2011? (see Photo of the Day: Sledgehammer Workout, No Joke). That’s that.
The Regional Security Officer and two Assistant Regional Security Officers destroy electronics at U.S. Embassy Tripoli on February 24, 2011 as they prepare to evacuate the post. (Photo from Diplomatic Security 2011 Year in Review)

The Regional Security Officer and two Assistant Regional Security Officers destroy electronics at U.S. Embassy Tripoli on February 24, 2011 as they prepare to evacuate the post. (Photo from Diplomatic Security 2011 Year in Review)

FS Posts: Year of the Tiger🐯! Happy Lunar New Year!

 

 

 

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Snapshot: Geographic Distribution of @StateDept Family Member Employment (Fall 2021)

Via State/FLO (FAMER)

 

Related posts:

Snapshot: Family Members Employed at US Missions Overseas by Bureau 2018-2021

 

Via State/FLO-FAMER

Related posts:

Snapshot: Unemployment Status of @StateDept Family Members Overseas (Fall 2021)

 

Via State/FLO:

Related posts:

Modernizing @StateDept Workforce and Winning Talent – See What’s Glaringly Missing?

 

On January 25, DipNote posted a new piece by Deputy Secretary Brian McKeon on Modernizing Our Workforce and Winning the Competition for Talent. He talked about recruiting the next generation, focusing on retention and building critical skills for the State Department. Excerpt below:

Recruiting the Next Generation

      • Our Recruitment Division conducted more than 3,000 recruiting activities, including over 900 events specifically targeting DEIA prospects. These DEIA-focused recruiting events engaged over 15,000 individual prospects.
      • We established a 500-person Volunteer Recruiter Corps with representation from all affinity groups, which participated in more than 150 events. These groups mirror the makeup of our workforce and help strengthen and support its diversity.
      • We streamlined the security clearance review process, reducing the average time it takes to finalize a clearance for new and transferring employees.
      • Looking ahead, we will continue to urge Congress to authorize and fund paid internships.

A Focus on Retention

      • We are focusing on creating and sustaining workplace flexibilities, to support our people and their families, modernize our performance management system, and promote professional development and career mobility for all our employees. In the last year, we have:
      • Expanded remote work and telework eligibility. The Department needs to keep pace with the private sector in enabling greater flexibility, and we are committed to enhancing and institutionalizing many of the changes we have implemented in response to the pandemic.
      • Expanded student loan repayment eligibility criteria.
      • Established the first Veterans Services Coordinator position, to better support our more than 5,000 veterans at the Department.
      • Created a Retention Team. In addition to reviewing the data and talking with the workforce to understand why people stay and why they leave, the Retention Team will develop the first Department-wide retention strategy.
      • These steps are important and are intended to support positive change across the Department. But we are not finished. In early 2022, in addition to announcing performance management reforms, we expect to roll out new professional development opportunities as well as long overdue initiatives aimed at helping our Civil Service employees build rewarding careers.

Building Critical Skills

      • As we reorient U.S. foreign policy to focus on 21st-century challenges that most directly affect Americans’ lives, we need to build our capacity and expertise in areas critical to our national security. To that end, we have:
      • Established a Talent Sourcing Unit to more effectively identify, reach, and target individuals for recruitment, especially in fields requiring specialized skills.
      • Conducted our first Department-only career fair, focused on STEM-and engaging diverse candidates.
      • Established new Foreign Service climate diplomacy positions in all geographic regions and key overseas missions and embassies.
      • Eliminated degree requirements for Foreign Service IT specialists and hired for several Civil Service data scientist positions.
It is shocking to see that this new modernization plan does not even mention family members anywhere.  Take a look at the following numbers:
Out of 11,840 total adult family members overseas, 75% (8,838) are female and 25% (3,002) are male.
Only 40% (4,761) adult family members are employed, while 60% (7,079) are not employed.  Of the 40% employed, only 24% or 2,900 worked for Uncle Sam inside our embassies and consulates while 16% (1,861) worked outside the US missions performing telework, running home businesses, or working in the education field.
According to BLS, the percentage of dual-income households in the United States was fairly stable between 1998 and 2017, ranging from 52 to 58 percent.
That’s not the case for FS households overseas. 
60% of FS adult family members overseas are unemployed. While unemployed, a good number are most likely not contributing to a retirement system. Sporadic and employment gaps while overseas could translate into a retirement wage gap; the same gap that helps push up the poverty rate for older women in this country.
We think that’s an important point to note since 75% of FS spouses overseas are female.
Something else to note when looking at these numbers.  In 2020, the average life expectancy of women at birth in the US was 80.5 years; 75.1 years for men.
So on average,  female FS spouses with chequered careers and with less retirement security than their regularly employed spouses are expected to live five years longer than their male spouses. According to WISER, the average annual Social Security benefit received by women age 65 and older is approximately $14,000, which is unlikely to cover all retirement expenses.
Would the female spouses in a modern State Department continue to give 20-30 years of their lives to life overseas as accompanying partners, only able to work now and then, and putting their financial future in their old age in great peril? How many employee-spouses would opt to leave mid-careers to give their accompanying spouses opportunities to pursue their own careers and build financial independence?
Also read: WISER: Retirement Planning for Stay-At-Home Moms

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