Foreign Service 2013 Promotion Results — Gender, Ethnicity, Race Stats Still Behind the Great Firewall

— Domani Spero
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The State Department’s trade publication State Magazine publishes annually the promotion results from the Foreign Service Selection Board. Here is an excerpt from the June 2014 issue:

The Bureau of Human Resources compiled the 2013 Foreign Service Selection Board results by class for generalists and specialists, placing the data into tables that show promotion numbers, promotion rates, average time in class and average time in service for each competition group. The bureau also analyzed and compared certain 2013 promotion rates and levels to the 2012 results and the five-year averages. While the Department promoted more generalists and specialists in 2013 than in 2012, the total number of employees eligible for promotion increased at a faster rate. The overall 2013 promotion rate for all eligible Foreign Service employees was 22 percent, slightly lower than the 2012 rate of 23 percent and the five-year average of 24 percent.

In June 2012, State Magazine said it published the promotion statistics by gender, ethnicity and race for the first time. We were hoping it would make the data public this year. Unfortunately, the 2013 promotion results, the statistics that offer detailed breakouts by grade level for each generalist cone and specialist skill group can only still be found behind the Great Firewall at

The State Department has an Office of Civil Rights. Apparently, it is the first cabinet-level agency to appoint a Chief Diversity Officer with oversight authority to integrate and transform diversity principles into practices in the Department’s operations. The office touts diversity as not just a worthy cause:

At the Department of State, diversity is not just a worthy cause: it is a business necessity. Diversity of experience and background helps Department employees in the work of diplomacy. The Secretary believes that diversity is extremely important in making the State Department an employer of choice.

We’re curious — if indeed, diversity is a business necessity for the agency,and we have folks who are proponents of diversity management issues there, why is the promotion composition of the Foreign Service by gender, race and ethnicity  considered “sensitive but unclassified” (SBU) and still behind the Great Firewall?  And if State Magazine won’t make this data available publicly, why isn’t this information available on the website of the  Office of Civil Rights?

State Mag is under State/HR but S/OCR — whoa! —  reports directly to Secretary Kerry’s office.  So, well, let’s go ahead and ask them why it should not be made available to the general public: Office of Civil Rights, S/OCR, Room 7428, Department of State, Washington, DC 20520, Email:;  Tel: (202) 647-9295 or (202) 647-9294; Fax: (202) 647-4969.


















Advancement for Women at the State Department: Learning From Best Practices

— Domani Spero

On March 8, we posted Women in the Foreign Service — go own the night like the Fourth of July!. We only recently discovered FSO Margot Carrington’s paper on Advancement for Women at State: Learning From Best Practices which was written during a sabbatical sponsored by the Una Chapman Cox (UCC) Foundation and the State Department.  Ms. Carrington was the 2010-2011 Una Chapman Cox Sabbatical Fellow.

Ms. Carrington writes, “When I look at the leadership of my organization, I still see too few women. And, as many have noted, it appears that many women who do make it to the top are single or childless. Women who have successfully sustained a career and a family appear to be few and far between.”

What do you see?

See pages 26-29 for a Summary of Recommendations. Should be interesting to see how many of the recommendations here have been considered and implemented by State.  Thanks for Ms. Carrington and the Cox Foundation for permission to share this paper here.

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State Dept’s Employee Discrimination and Reprisal Statistics May Boggle Your Mind, Or Not

— Domani Spero

On May 15, 2002, then-President Bush signed into law the Notification and Federal Employee Anti-Discrimination and Retaliation (No FEAR) Act to increase federal agency accountability for acts of discrimination or reprisal against employees. This act requires that federal agencies post on their public Web sites certain summary statistical data relating to equal employment opportunity complaints filed against the respective agencies.  This data is updated quarterly.  The report ending on September 30, 2013 is posted below. This data is maintained and published by State/OCR and originally posted at here.

We should note that the Secretary of State has delegated both tasks of advancing diversity within the Department and ensuring equal opportunity to all employees to the Director of the Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR), an office headed by   John M. Robinson since March 3, 2008.

The total final finding of discrimination from 2008 to-date at the State Department has been one case of reprisal in 2011 out of 133 complaints, one case on race in 2012 out of 133 complaints and one case based on sex discrimination out of 152 complaints in the current year. Three cases of discrimination in favor of the complainant (two with a hearing and one without a hearing) in the last six years?  Single digit finding for the plaintiffs is not unheard of, is it?

If you are an employee with a possible EEO case, this FY2013 statistics is not hopeful.

Number of complaints: 152

Top five (complaints by basis):
reprisal (75), race (50), sex (40), disability (40)
age (36), national origin (21)

Top five (complaints by issue):
harassment/non-sexual  (55)
evaluation/appraisal (25)
promotion/non-selection (21)
disciplinary action (20)
assignment of duties (19)

Total Final Agency Action Finding Discrimination: 1

The average number of days in investigation is 276.89 days, the average number of days in final action is 259.14. When hearing was not requested, the average number of days in final action is 319.50 days.  Take a look.

The State Department has 13,787 Foreign Service employees and 10,787 Civil Service employees working domestic and 275 overseas missions as of March 2013. The S/OCR data does not include a breakdown of cases by employee type.

Also we were curious how other agencies handle this No Fear Act statistical requirement.  We found the Department of Treasury quite more elaborate in its reporting than the State Department. For instance, in FY2012, Treasury closed 61 EEO complaints with monetary corrective actions, totaling $792,477 in back pay/front pay, lump sum payments, compensatory damages, or attorney’s fees and costs.  The monetary component in the State Department’s  report is not even discussed.  At one point we were following the litigation between  FSO Virginia Loo Farris and the State Department (See  Farris v. Clinton: Race/Gender Discrimination Case Going to Trial).  On March 12, 2009,  United States District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina granted the defendant’s (Clinton/State Department) renewed motion for summary judgment with respect to Virginia Loo Farris’ retaliation claims but denies it with respect to the her discrimination claims. In October 2010, the case was dismissed after a settlement was reached between Ms. Farris and the State Department. Details of the settlement were not released.

Anyway, check out the FY2012 report from the Treasury Department here, the year-end data for the five previous fiscal years for comparison purposes actually are quite informative and includes real numbers besides zeros and ones.  It also includes the number of judgement for plaintiff (2), number of  employees disciplined for discrimination, retaliation, harassment, or any other infraction under the cited law (33), analysis of the complaints, data on counseling and alternative dispute resolution. The State Department’s No Fear Act report is absolutely bare bones, although it’s not alone in doing so.

If State/OCR has submitted a separate report to Congress detailing more fully its handling of EEO complaints in the State Department, including monetary corrective actions, we would like to see that information available to the public.


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Related posts:

Snapshot: State Department’s Permanent Workforce Demographics

Snapshot: State Dept Discrimination and Reprisal Complaints FY2008-FY2013

SBU Foreign Service 2011 Promotion Statistics Officially Published, Color Specialist Gets an “F”

Remember our blog post about the promotion statistics cable that was classified as SBU?  In March, a Foggy Bottom nightingale informed us that the State Department had released its promotion statistics internally. We have not seen a copy of the cable.  We were told that the promotion stats are now protected by the following authorities:

Privacy Act of 1974 – which is terribly funny because the Privacy Act of 1974 purposely has a line that says “(B) but does not include–    (i) matches performed to produce aggregate statistical data without any personal identifiers;”

So then, somebody wrote here and asked, “How does the Privacy Act apply to a bunch of numbers?” And we had to confess that we actually have no idea — unless — a bunch of numbers are now people?

Three months later, the promotion statistics which was released in an SBU cable was published by State Magazine; this is something that the magazine does every year, by the way. Only this year, it was months late.

Why bother classifying it SBU in the first place? We did an in-depth research and finally got answers!  Simply put, cables are boooring, repeat, boooring.  DGHR wanted to release the promotion statistics in a full color spectrum; except that their Color Specialist used more dark earth tones on the 8-page spread.  What’s with that? It’s summer time, forgodsakes! Next time use something cheerful like Queen Elizabeth fluroescent lime green.  Take our word for it, it’ll get everyone’s attention. Below is the extracted stats from the magazine.

If you are not able to view the document embedded below, click here to read it on ScribD in full screen.

Domani Spero

On the Infamous Q21, PTSD (Again) and High Threat Unaccompanied Assignments

The OIG has released its inspection report dated July 2010 on  the State Department’s support for high stress, high threat, unaccompanied posts.  Some interesting details excerpted below. I have also republished the full report in ScribD for easy access (read below).

The Stigma of Seeking Mental Health Care:

The Department of Defense, led by the Secretary of Defense, has undertaken a campaign to reduce or eliminate this stigma. The Department also has made an effort in the past but can do more. The Department, as have the Department of Defense and other federal government agencies, now exempts mental health consultations relating to service in a military combat environment (i.e., Iraq and Afghanistan) from being reported on employees’ security clearance forms (it still has to be reported on medical clearance forms). That is just one, though important, step.

There is still a lack of clarity as to what employees must report on the security clearance form. For example, does a discussion between an employee and a health professional on how to manage stress have to be reported even if it does not involve diagnosis and treatment of a mental disorder? Opinions differ on that point. However, if such “preclinical” discussions have to be reported, that will ensure that fewer will take place, even if the Department is more successful than in the past in reducing the stigma. This would undercut the Department’s efforts to build resiliency among its employees.

The Department needs to address the overall issue of the stigma. The next step should be a message from the Department’s leadership to all employees making some of the following points (which have been made to the OIG team by MED and DS):

  • The Department encourages its employees to seek mental health care. It is a positive act and a normal part of maintaining one’s health and preparedness.
  • Employees could be more likely to put at risk their clearances and job performance when they do not seek such care.
  • Only two employees have lost their security clearances over the past fi ve years because of mental health issues (which did not involve PTSD).
  • Of the 517 cases concerning mental health issues that DS referred to MED during 2009, not one resulted in denial of a security clearance for mental health reasons.

Two years ago, we called for such a high level message from Secretary Rice in On the Infamous Q21, PTSD and the Wholeness of People in the Foreign Service(May 2008): 

Considering that State has its own clearance process and is a separate agency from DOD, I’m waiting for revised guidance for State Department personnel from Secretary Rice herself. Uhm, no offense intended; the guidance from “M” or “DGHR” or “DS” is fine but I don’t think that really cuts the cake here.

I’d like to see the Department of State, at the highest level of the 7th Floor, affirm and strongly endorse the practice of seeking professional help to address all health related concerns, including mental health. The press guidance above only refers to service in Iraq and Afghanistan, but what about service in the rest of the FS hardship assignments? The emotional toll of constant moving and relocation coupled with dangerous and challenging assignments is not something that we can or should ignore.

We’re a small fly in a thick soup, of course; that did not go anywhere.  Secretary Clinton as far as we are aware has not issued a message similar to Secretary Gates’ message

This report by the way, notes that “In the past five years, 18 employees have been formally diagnosed with PTSD. Of these, 10 had served in posts other than Iraq or Afghanistan.” So there are more posts at play here than just the war zones. 

Leadership and Stress:

In practically any conversation about the causes of stress and inefficiency in the Department or at overseas posts, the issue of inadequate leadership/management comes up. For some employees, this is a greater problem than danger and hardship. Good leadership can do a great deal to create high morale and effectiveness at difficult posts. Poor leadership, of course, can be a problem at any post or bureau, but it can be especially harmful at a high stress, high threat post. In the OIG survey, leadership problems were cited by 45 percent of the respondents as a source of stress for them or their colleagues. As noted above, this was less than the percentage citing danger, workload, and separation from families, but leadership problems generated more passionate comments than any other issue. That is probably because, unlike danger and separation, employees feel that something can and should be done about leadership.

This is not to say that poor management is widespread at high stress or more “normal” posts. In fact, OIG inspections have found that at a substantial majority of posts, the top leadership is doing fairly to very well. Also, inspections have found that inexperienced personnel have put an additional burden on top leadership as well as middle managers. (See section below on whether the right people are being assigned.) However, recent inspections have found too many cases of managers at the top and middle levels who cause unnecessary stress and inefficiency and thus impair the morale and smooth functioning of their post, bureau, office, or section.

Are the right people on the right bus?

The OIG survey asked whether the Department generally was assigning employees with the necessary skills, experience, and temperament to high stress, high threat posts. Over 60 percent of respondents said no. In their comments, those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and answered in the negative made observations such as: there are too many people who are there just for the money, their next assignment, or to save a failing career. There are people who do not have the necessary experience or the mental and physical resiliency to be effective; such people make work more difficult for the others. There was a feeling that taking virtually anyone who volunteers has a negative impact on the post.

Lessons not learned, again:

Care should be taken in setting numerical staffing targets. A smaller, higher quality staff can usually do a better job. The OIG inspection of Embassy Baghdad found that many employees thought that staffing levels were too high as a result of the “civilian surge,” even taking into account the need to compensate for the absence of staff because of rest and recuperation leave (R&R) and other factors. The OIG inspection of Embassy Kabul found that the Baghdad experience was being repeated, with staff added before functions were identified and job descriptions developed.

An ALMOST “fitness for duty” policy:

OIG would support the Department’s developing a stronger “fitness for duty” policy that would be fair not just to the individual, but also to his or her colleagues, and that would maintain the effectiveness of a high stress, high threat post. Administrative and legal barriers, however, limit the Department’s options. In a recent review of the issue of physical fitness for high threat posts, the Department concluded that providing employees with the information to make an intelligent self-assessment of their capabilities was the best available means of handling this problem.

Finally, in Recycling News:

Care should also be taken in reviewing the skills and experience of employees hired under the 3161 authority for Iraq and Afghanistan, both for fi rst-time hires and re-hires. A number of people in the OIG survey expressed concern that 3161 employees who did not do very well in Iraq were being hired to go to Afghanistan, and many more thought that 3161 personnel in general needed greater knowledge of the objectives and operations of the Department and other government agencies to be effective in their jobs.

The original OIG report is posted here (OIG Report No. ISP-I-10-44 – Review of Support for High Stress, High Threat, Unaccompanied Posts – July 2010).

New Visa Fees Take Effect Today

The new visa fees take effect today, June 4, according to the interim final rule published in the Federal Register.

(22 CFR Part 22 | [Public Notice: 7018] RIN 1400–AC57
Schedule of Fees for Consular Services Department of State and Overseas Embassies and Consulates
AGENCY: Bureau of Consular Affairs, State.
ACTION: Interim final rule.

To summarize quickly:

  • Most NIVs and adult BCCs: $140
  • Petition-based NIVs (H,L,O,P,Q,R): $150
  • K category: $350
  • E category: $390

Read more below, it’s quite interesting for nerdy bits like me:

According to the published rule, the Department contracted for an independent cost of service study (CoSS), which used an activity-based costing model from August 2007 through June 2009 to provide the basis for updating the Schedule. The results of that study are the foundation of the current changes to the Schedule. The CoSS concluded that the average cost to the U.S. Government of accepting, processing, adjudicating, and
issuing a non-petition-based MRV application, including an application for a BCC, is approximately $136.93 for Fiscal Year 2010.

I understand that interested folks are still looking for that Cost of Service Study (CoSS) document which has not been released publicly. I think this is exactly the kind of stuff that means something in terms of transparency when shared with the public, especially during the public comment period.

Check out the official Fees for Visa page at at

Foreign Service 2009 Promotion Statistics

If you’ve been promoted the last go around, congratulations. If your name was not on that list last year, you most probably have seen the published stats already.  If you are just joining the Service or looking to join, you might be interested in the conal promotion stats. If you’re wondering if the pyramid shrinks at the top, yes it does.  Take a look. 

Foreign Service 2009 Promotion Statistics | Extracted from State Mag April 2010

Quickie: Starting the “New Gender Agenda” at Home

Why Secretary Clinton needs to begin in Foggy Bottom
The February issue of the Foreign Service Journal is out. FS spouse, Amanda Fernández assigned in Quito with her husband pens the Speaking Out column. The writer is a former humanitarian worker who has lived and worked in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Angola, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. She currently works for a USAID contractor. Excerpt below:
When I heard that Hillary Rodham Clinton had been confirmed as Secretary of State, my first thought was that her appointment would be a turning point for Foreign Service spouses. What better leader to empathize with State Department spouses overseas, most of whom are women (81 percent, according to the Family Liaison Office) living in the shadow of their husbands’ careers? Due to constant relocation and other difficulties, many have put on hold their own professional ambitions.
Why are 61 percent of Foreign Service spouses overseas unemployed when U.S. embassies report being chronically understaffed?
In spite of the Family Liaison Office’s best efforts to combat the practice, many local-hire job descriptions at U.S. embassies are written in ways that preclude spouses from qualifying for them. At one post where I served, a position for a nurse (to serve Americans) opened in our health unit, to the delight of a recently arrived spouse who was a registered nurse. However, the position called for a 4/4 level of Spanish, something not required even of consular officers at the post. She took her concerns to the management counselor, who defended the language in the job description. Again, if State is serious about EFM employment, all local embassy jobs, with rare exceptions, should be potentially available to them.
Sec. Clinton has extolled the benefits to our foreign policy of meaningful employment among women. She can take the first step toward transforming her words into action by focusing on the (mostly female) spouses of U.S. embassy employees overseas.

Check out the new issue of FSJ here.  Read Amanda’s piece here.