Posted: 2:01 am ET
Updated: 1:51 pm PT for clarity and a new hashtag
Updated: August 5, 10:17 am PT
Updated: 12:07 pm PT
Update: August 5, 10:17 am PT: The FLO website now has a new August 4 update that says: “The Secretary approved an exemption to the hiring freeze that will allow the Department to fill a number of priority EFM positions that are currently vacant. This exemption gives posts authority to fill critical vacancies supporting security, safety and health responsibilities.” This update has no time stamp but must have come out late on August 4.
We understand that this change relates to CLO coordinator positions at Community Liaison Offices. Embassies (USG has 170 of them) and some Consulates General have one CLO, or have two individuals sharing the position as co-CLOs. We believed that a certain number of CLO positions, not all, were made vacant in the winter and the current rotation cycle of personnel. What we don’t know yet is if Tillerson’s exemption is specific to CLO vacancies only, and if that’s the case, how many positions are actually affected.” End update.
Update: 12:07 pm PT: We’re hearing some other EFM exemptions including consular positions are also being approved but we don’t have clarity on all exempted positions or how many. End Update.
According to the FLO website, the Department of State’s current hiring freeze guidance “remains in effect, including with respect to hiring under a Family Member Appointment (FMA) or Temporary Appointment.”
It also says that Eligible Family Members may continue to apply for any advertised position for which they feel they are qualified and the hiring preference will be applied during the process. However, Appointment Eligible Family Members (AEFM) cannot be offered a position at this time due to the freeze on FMA and temporary appointments.
The stats below is from April 2017. It indicates that 6% or 743 EFMs are pending due the clearance process or the hiring freeze. Even if the security clearance process is done, now that the hiring freeze remains in place, is anyone going anywhere? Of EFMs in South Central Asia, 10% are pending, the highest percentage in the geographic bureaus (SCA includes posts like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India). In terms of actual numbers, EUR and WHA have much larger family member population, and they are at 6% and 5% respectively.
Since the 6% will not be able to work unless the freeze is lifted by Secretary Tillerson or the EFMs are issued waivers, the “Not Employed” Foreign Service family members below is not 56% (6,695) but actually 62% (7,438).
Posted: 3:11 am ET
The GAO recently released its review of the State Department policies and procedures for evacuating overseas posts. The report notes that from October 2012 to September 2016, the State Department evacuated overseas post staff and family members from 23 overseas posts. The evacuation was in response to various threats, such as terrorism, civil unrest, and natural disasters. Overseas posts undergoing evacuations generally have three types of movement: authorized departure (voluntary), ordered departure (mandatory) of specific post staff or family members, and suspended operations (closure).
The report also note that in fiscal years 2010 through 2016, State’s reported costs associated with evacuating from posts on 53 occasions were roughly $25.5 million.
“According to State officials, costs associated with evacuations varied due to several factors, including the number of post staff and family members evacuated. In fiscal year 2014, costs associated with evacuating Embassy Maseru in Lesotho were roughly $20,000, while in the same year, costs associated with evacuating Embassy Sana’a in Yemen were roughly $1.9 million.”
Certainly, a big chunk of that cost has to come from security and transportation. Below are the significant gaps cited by the GAO in the State Department’s crisis and evac preparedness:
U.S. personnel working at overseas posts, along with the family members who accompany them, face a range of threats to their safety and security—such as terrorism, civil unrest, and natural disasters. To help protect them, State has established processes to prepare overseas posts for crises and to conduct evacuations. However, State has significant gaps in implementation of its preparedness processes for crises and evacuations at overseas posts.
➥Overseas posts are not completing required annual Emergency Action Plans (EAP) updates
➥ Diplomatic Security is not identifying incomplete updates in its Emergency Action Plan (EAP) reviews
➥ The EAPs themselves are not readily usable during emergency situations
➥ Although regular drilling is a critical crisis preparedness task, very few overseas posts have completed all required annual drills
➥ Because overseas posts are not submitting required after-action reports containing lessons learned following evacuations, the State Department is missing important opportunities to identify challenges and best practices and to make changes to prepare for future evacuations from overseas posts.
The report concludes that “while State has taken initial actions— including some actions in response to our ongoing work—to improve implementation of its preparedness processes for crises and evacuations, significant shortcomings exist.” It also says that “while each of these gaps is of concern, taken together, they increase the risk that post staff are not sufficiently prepared to handle crisis and emergency situations.”
Other details excerpted from the report:
Late Annual Updates:
In fiscal year 2016, about 1 in 12 overseas posts were late in completing required annual updates. On average, these posts were about 6 months late in completing their EAP updates. For fiscal year 2016, the list of posts that were late in completing their annual EAP updates included 7 posts rated high or critical in political violence or terrorism.
DS Does Not Fully Review Key Sections of EAPs Submitted by Overseas Posts
The FAH directs DS to review each EAP submitted by an overseas post during the annual EAP review cycle to ensure that EAPs include updated information needed by State headquarters and other agencies to monitor or assist in responding to emergency situations at posts.22 To conduct these annual reviews, DS Emergency Plans Review Officers in Washington use a list of 27 key EAP sections that the Emergency Plans Review Office has determined should be updated each year.23 According to DS officials, Emergency Plans Review Officers spot check these 27 key EAP sections to review and approve each EAP. In addition, DS officials told us that Review Officers consider forms included in key EAP sections that they spot check to meet the annual update requirement if the forms were updated up to 3 years prior to the check.24
DS does not document its annual EAP review process. We requested the results of the Emergency Plans Review Officer reviews, including data on who conducted them and what deficiencies, if any, were found. Federal internal control standards call for agency management to evaluate performance and hold individuals accountable for their internal control responsibilities.25 However, DS was unable to provide copies of the reviews completed because the Emergency Plans Review Officers do not document these results.
Emergency Action Plans Are Viewed As Lengthy and Cumbersome Documents That Are Not Readily Usable in Emergency Situations
While officials from State headquarters and all six posts we met with told us that EAPs are not readily usable in emergency situations, officials at five of the six posts we met with also said there is value for post staff to participate in the process of updating EAPs to prepare for emergencies. The process of updating the EAP, they noted, includes reviewing applicable checklists and contact lists before an emergency occurs, which can help post staff be better prepared in the event of an emergency. Officials at two of the six posts we met with also observed that EAPs contain large amounts of guidance because it is easier for responsible staff at post to complete required updates to their specific sections if all the guidance they need is directly written into each EAP.
The GAO reviewers were told that EAPs are often more than 800 pages long. “Our review of a nongeneralizable sample of 20 EAPs confirmed this; the 20 EAPs in our sample ranged from 913 to 1,356 pages long,” the report said.
One other footnote says that “while each major section, annex, and appendix of an EAP had its own table of contents, the full EAP lacked a single, comprehensive table of contents or index.”
A new system sometime this year?
The State Department is reportedly in the process of developing a new electronic system for overseas posts to draft and update their EAPs to address issues with the current system, according to State headquarters officials. According to the report, the State Department plans to launch the new system in the second half of 2017.
Absent a functioning lessons learned process …
The GAO reviewers talk about lessons not learned:
We learned of several challenges that posts faced in different evacuations in discussions with officials from the six posts with whom we met. Different posts mentioned various challenges, including disorganized evacuation logistics and transportation, unclear communication with local staff, confusion surrounding the policy for evacuating pets, problems with shipment and delivery of personal effects, difficulty tracking the destination of staff who were relocated, poor communication with senior State leadership regarding the post’s evacuation status, difficulties getting reimbursement for lodging or personal expenses related to the evacuation, and other similar challenges.
Absent a functioning lessons learned process, State’s ability to identify lessons learned and to share best practices from staff that have experienced evacuations may be constrained.
Back in 2009, Rep Howard Berman sponsored H.R. 2410 during the 111th Congress to provide for the establishment of a Lessons Learned Center for the State Department and USAID under the Under Secretary for Management. That bill made no specific provision as to staff composition of the Center or its funding, and it also died in committee (H.R. 2410: Lessons Learned Center, Coming Soon?).
In 2016, the State Department and the Foreign Service Institute marked the opening (reportedly after two years of preparation) of its Center for the Study of the Conduct of Diplomacy. Then D/Secretary Tony Blinken said that the Center ensures “that we apply the lessons of the past to our conduct and actions in the future.” Some media outlet called it a ‘lessons learned’ center but its aim is on the study and analysis of diplomatic best practices to study how to effectively apply policy.
- Crisis Management Exercise – Also Known as “Just More of That FSI Crap”
- USCG Erehwon’s New Year’s Resolutions For Disaster Preparedness
- Question of the Day: Wait, the Emergency Action Plan (EAP) has a flood section?
- Earth Embassy Ganymede Administrative Notice #04-010103: Morale, WD-40, Duct Tape
- Top Ten Signs Your Embassy Might Be Dysfunctional … or Just Plain Dreadful
Posted: 1:19 am ET
- FSGB and MSPB: Majority of the Grievance Cases Do Not Prevail Dec 2016
- FSGB 2015 Annual Report: Grievance Processing Reduction — From 41 Weeks to 34 Weeks May 2016
- Judicial Actions Involving Foreign Service Grievance Board (FSGB) Rulings in 2015 May 2016
- Foreign Service Grievance Board Annual Report 2014 — Noteworthy Cases April 2015
- Snapshot: Foreign Service Grievance Board Annual Report 2014 – Statistics April 2015
- 2009 FS Grievance Board Annual Report, Fresh from the Oven Mar 2010
- 2008 Annual Report on Foreign Service Grievance Now Online Apr 2009
Posted: 2:01 am ET
A couple of things we’d like to note here. One, the State Department’s “listening tour” survey only includes “employed family members.” If the survey only includes employment inside/outside U.S. missions, that would include 44% of family members overseas and excludes more than half the family member overseas population. If it only includes current employment inside U.S. missions, that effectively excludes 70% of family members overseas. Family members may be employed at one post and be unemployed at the next one. A prior job at one embassy is not an assurance that that they will have jobs at the next one.
Two, the regional bureaus where we find the highest number of family members employed at U.S. missions are in areas that are challenging and have traditionally been hard to staff:
2) AF/African Affairs, (oh, where do we start?)
According to the November 2016 data, about 300 positions in SCA, 560 positions in AF, and almost 400 positions in NEA are eligible family member positions. When these EFMs leave their posts during the upcoming transfer season, these positions will not be filled (with very few exceptions) due to the hiring freeze; and they can’t be hired at their next posts because of the same hiring freeze.
Embassies and consulates will have to make do without their RSO Security Assistant/Escorts (escorts all non-cleared laborers and other service personnel in or adjacent to controlled access areas (CAAs) where classified materials is stored, handled, processes, or discussed), without Mailroom Clerks (who run the unclassified mail and diplomatic pouch facility at post), without Make Ready Coordinators (who prepare vacant housing units for occupancy), and without Residential Security Coordinators (who conducts security surveys, and coordinate/verifies residential security upgrade work is scheduled and completed, and ensures residential security hardware is installed properly and functioning) — to name a few of the jobs that EFMs perform overseas. The jobs will still need to be done but if folks think that the USG will be saving money, then these folks have a lot to learn.
Imagine the Regional Security Officers (RSO) doing the security escort jobs until the hiring freeze is lifted.
Or let’s have the Information Management Officer do mailroom clerk duty until the hiring freeze is done.
Instead of paying $13/hour for an EFM to do the job, the USG will be paying premium pay for a US-direct hire employee to do the same job. And no, you can’t outsource these jobs to Third Country Nationals from Nepal or to an Indian BPO. The end.
- Are #EFM positions literally about to become…extinct under #Tillerson’s watch?
- Oy! That Rumor About Foreign Service Family Member Employment as “Corporate Welfare”
- With Reported Proposal to Cut 2,300 @StateDept Jobs, Tillerson Set to Survey Employees
- @StateDept “Listening Tour” Survey Leaks, So Here’s Your Million Dollar Word Cloud
Posted: 2:53 am ET
Secretary Tillerson will reportedly address State Dept employees Wednesday morning. Since almost 60,000 of the State Department employees are located overseas, we hope the address is available online. Bears watching, too, if employees will be afforded opportunities to ask questions or if this is a one way talk. Below is the latest workforce data for the State Department.
Posted: 2:21 am ET
Nonimmigrant visas are used for travel to the United States on a temporary basis. Click here for the categories of nonimmigrant visas. Note that visas are used to make application to enter the United States. The validity of the visa is not a permit to stay. Having a visa does not guarantee entry to the United States, it does indicate a consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad has determined you are eligible to seek entry for that specific purpose. DHS/CBP inspectors are responsible for admission of travelers to the United States, for a specified status and period of time.
Posted: 2:38 am ET
Via the Congressional Budget Office, February 2017:
Discretionary Spending is spending that lawmakers control through annual appropriation acts. Below is a breakdown of discretionary spending for FY2016 (October 1, 2015 – September 30, 2016).
- $1.2 Trillion | Discretionary spending by the federal government in 2016
- $584 Billion ($0.6 Trillion) | Spending on national defense, which accounted for nearly half of the discretionary total, in 2016
- $52 Billion | International Affairs, which accounted for the smallest nondefense spending
Posted: 3:06 am ET
Under the FY2016 request, top foreign assistance recipients would not differ significantly from FY2014 (FY2015 country data are not yet available). Israel would continue to be the top recipient, with a requested $3.1 billion (level with FY2014) in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) funds, followed by Afghanistan, for which $1.5 billion was requested (a 28% increase from FY2014). Egypt would receive $1.5 billion (-3% from FY2014), largely in FMF to support shared security interests, and Jordan would get $1.0 billion (-1% from FY2014) to promote security and stability in the region as well as address economic and security strains related to the crisis in Syria. Pakistan would get $804 million (a 10% cut from FY2014), to continue ongoing efforts to increase stability and prosperity in the region. Other top recipients include Kenya ($630 million), Nigeria ($608 million), Tanzania ($591 million), and other African nations that are focus countries for HIV/AIDS programs. A new addition to the top recipient list under the request would be Ukraine, for which $514 million was requested (snip).
Below is the proposed FY2016 foreign operations budget allocations by region and country.
Funding allocation among regions would change slightly under the FY2016 request compared with FY2014 (FY2015 regional data are not yet available), with Europe/Eurasia and the Western Hemisphere increasing their share by 2% each as a result of proposed funding for Ukraine and Central America. Africa’s share of aid funding would decline by about 5% from FY2014 estimates.