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Confirmations: Todd Haskell (Congo), Tulinabo Mushingi (Senegal/Guinea-Bissau), Terry Branstad (China)

Posted: 2:29 am ET

 

On May 18, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nominations of career diplomats Todd Haskell and Tulinabo Salama Mushingi to be the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Senegal/Republic of Guinea-Bissau respectively (see SFRC Hearings: Mushingi (Senegal/Guinea-Bissau), Haskell (Republic Of The Congo).

2017-05-18 PN83 Republic of the Congo
Todd Philip Haskell, of Florida, 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 the Congo.

2017-05-18 PN84 Republic of Senegal/Republic of Guinea-Bissau
Tulinabo Salama Mushingi, of Virginia, 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 Senegal, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Guinea-Bissau.

On May 22, 1017, the U.S. Senate confirmed Iowa Governor Terry Branstad as the next Ambassador to China (see SFRC Hearing: Terry Branstad to be Ambasador to The People’s Republic Of China (Updated)Trump to Nominate Iowa Gov Terry Branstad as U.S. Ambassador to China.

2017-05-22 PN52 People’s Republic of China
Terry Branstad, of Iowa, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the People’s Republic of China.

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@StateDept/USAID Staffing Cut and Attrition: A Look at Real Numbers and Projected Attrition

Posted: 3:32 am ET

 

In late April, Bloomberg reported that Secretary Tillerson is seeking a 9% cut in State Department staffing with majority of the job cuts, about 1,700, through attrition, while the remaining 600 will be done via buyouts.

9% Staffing Cut: A Look at the Numbers

The following is the best numbers we could come up with for the State Department and for USAID. The State Department data is from its HR Fact Sheet as of March 31, 2017, while the USAID data is from the Semi-Annual USAID Worldwide Staffing Report from September 30, 2016.

The 3% personnel cut mentioned in some media reports is if the staffing cut is applied to the entire State Department workforce  (2300/75,555).  If we include USAID’s workforce in this calculation, the staffing cut would be 2.7% (2300/84,048). More than half of the total combined workforce, some 55,148 employees are Foreign Service Nationals, also known as Locally Employed Staff (LES) in over 275 posts around the world. One notable thing about FSNs is their compensation. Almost all of them are paid under local compensation plans. Unless the State Department is slashing FSN positions in high-income economies where local compensations are as high as in the U.S., the savings realized from eliminated local positions would barely register.  The reported staff reduction does not specify if FSNs will be affected.  However, if there are post closures in the next 2-3 years, the likelihood for a reduction-in-force for local employees would inevitably follow. So far, we have not heard of post closures, but we suspect that with the kind of cuts projected in FY2018 funding, and potentially in the fiscal years after that — it will only be a matter of time before this dog bites.

The 9% personnel cut reported by some media outlets is if the staffing cut is applied to the State Department’s U.S. direct-hire employees to include Foreign Service and Civil Service employees only (2300/25,007). If we include USAID’s direct-hire workforce in this calculation, the staffing cut would be 7.9%.

1,700 Through Attrition: A look at the Numbers

The Bloomberg report also says that the personnel cuts which includes 1,700 through attrition may be phased in over two years. We don’t have the attrition projection for USAID but there is one for the Foreign Service which projects the total Foreign Service attrition at 2,450 for the next five years.  The average annual attrition for Foreign Service Officers is 261 and 230 for FS Specialists from FY2016-2020 or 490 per year.

Note that the highest projected attrition for FSOs is in the Political and Economic career tracks. Among FSSs, the highest projected attrition occurs in the security officer, office management, and information management skills group.

So, if the State Department is phasing in this personnel cuts of 1,700 through attrition over two years, the projected attrition for FSOs/FSSs for the next two years is only 980.  That means they have to find the rest of their attrition number of 720 from a combination of State Department Civil Service (and USAID/FS-CS, if USAID is part of the calculation), and Foreign Service Nationals (locally hired employees).  They also have to find 600 who are willing to take a buyout to get to 2,700.

If you know anything more about where this is going, get in touch!

 

Related posts:

Snapshot: Geographic Distribution of Family Member UnEmployment Overseas #notajobsprogram

Posted: 2:01 am ET

 

Via state.gov/flo

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:

1) SCA/South Central Asia (includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh)

2) AF/African Affairs, (oh, where do we start?)

3) NEA/Near Eastern Affairs (includes Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon).

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.

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Related posts:

 

 

@StateDept to Outsource Embassy Life Support, Logistics, Maintenance Services Thru DiPSS

Posted: 3:33 am ET

 

It’s called the Diplomatic Platform Support Services (DiPSS).  On January 10, the State Department’s Office of Acquisition Management (AQM) published a notice for the combined synopsis and solicitation for Diplomatic Platform Support Services. The special focus is on the Middle East and South Central Asia regions but the contract also aims to provide “flexibility to support DoS posts and other U.S. Government activities operating throughout the world.”

The contract requires the Contractor to “support DoS activities and programs that may require DiPSS services in locations outside of the physical boundaries of Embassies and Consulates.”  The types of projects under this contract may include, but are not limited to: “food service, maintenance/repair of facilities, full spectrum operations of man camps, sewage and plumbing operations of facilities, leasing properties, refurbishing properties to include upgrading to meet high security requirements, laboratories, dining facilities and related structures, travel services for personnel, to include medical, limited security as deemed necessary by DoS, and insurance.”

Note that the State Department has already done this to our missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But it looks like DiPSS could be anywhere in the world as the requirement is for operation & maintenance services at various government installations located “in any country where the U.S. Department of State has a presence.”

 

On April 23, the State Department extended the date for submission of offers from May 5, 2017 to June 15, 2017.

Below is the announcement:

The solicitation may result in multiple awards of an Indefinite Delivery-Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) type contract in the third quarter of fiscal year 2017. Task orders will be awarded as any type of cost arrangement authorized under FAR Part 16 as appropriate.

The scope of work requires the Contractor to provide Program Management, Procurement of Critical Items, Life Support Services, Logistics Services, Operation and Maintenance Services, Construction and Renovation Projects to U.S. Department of State facilities, and other U.S. Government facilities overseas. The work to be acquired under this solicitation is for logistical service, life & mission support services, and all other operation & maintenance services at various government installations located in any country where the U.S. Department of State has a presence, with a focus on high threat contingency environments. Types of projects may include, but are not limited to: food service, maintenance/repair of facilities, full spectrum operations of man camps, sewage and plumbing operations of facilities, leasing properties, refurbishing properties to include upgrading to meet high security requirements, laboratories, dining facilities and related structures, travel services for personnel, to include insurance.

This acquisition is set aside for small business. The NAICS number applicable to this solicitation is 561210. The Small Business Administration small business size standard is $38.5 million.

The basic contract period of performance will be for 12 months. Each contract contains nine (9) 12-month options for a maximum period of performance of ten years for each contract. The estimated maximum dollar value for all contracts combined, including the base year and all options, is $5,000,000,000. The estimated maximum value may be divided up among contract awardees. The minimum guarantee for a contract is $10,000, which will be paid during the performance period of the contract. Contractors are not guaranteed work in excess of the minimum guarantee.

The Contracting Officer or his properly authorized representative, who will issue written task orders to the contractors, will determine the actual amount of work to be performed and the time of such performance. The only work authorized under the contract is work ordered by the Government through issuance of a task order. The Government makes no representation as to the number of task orders or actual amount of work to be ordered. Each task order issued under an IDIQ contract may have a performance period of up to five years. Task orders will range between $5,000,000 dollars and $50,000,000 dollars on average with the ability to be awarded for as low as $25,000 Task orders may fall below or above this limit; however, contractors are not obligated to accept such task orders under the general terms of the contract.

Overview:

The U.S. Department of State (“DoS,” “State,” or “the Department”) require Diplomatic Platform Support Services (DiPSS) to provide a full range of services for Life Support Services, Logistics Services (LSS&L), and Operations and Maintenance (O&M) services to DoS and other U.S. Government agencies under Chief of Mission Authority and, under special circumstances, non-Chief of Mission activities across the globe. DoS anticipate a large portion of the contract work will focus on locations in the Middle East and South Central Asia contingency environments; however, DiPSS will be available to other Bureaus, Posts, Missions, and potentially agencies operating in other areas.

Minimum and maximum quantities:

The Government, through issuance of Task Order(s) or otherwise, shall pay a one-time minimum of $10,000.00 (inclusive of all direct costs, indirect costs, and profit/fee) within the contract’s period of performance (base period of one year plus nine option periods consisting of one year each).

The combined maximum quantity for the all contracts’ over the potential ten year period of performance (base period of one year plus nine option periods consisting of one year each) shall be any quantity or combination of supplies and services not exceeding $5,000,000,000.00 (inclusive of all direct costs, indirect costs, and profit/fee).

Background:

The DoS operates approximately 250 posts worldwide at any given time; this number changes as global situations dictate. […] Some posts are located in areas that are considered to have a high threat level; including areas with Department of Defense designated contingency operations.

Over the last five years, the AQM awarded 29 acquisition instruments (contracts, purchase orders, blanket purchase agreements, etc.) for Life Support Services & Logistics (LSS&L) and Operations & Maintenance (O&M) services in Middle East and South Central Asia. Several of the acquisition instruments have been relatively narrowly scoped, country or post-specific contracts.
[…]
The DiPSS contract will create opportunities for DoS to augment U.S. Government staff in situations overseas where demand for services exceeds U.S. Mission capacity to support, as well as capture significant savings; achieve economies of scale and promote efficiencies in back-office operations.

The objectives for the DiPSS contract include:

  1. Acquire LSS&L and O&M service and performance outcomes under broad global contracts supporting diplomatic platforms, with a special focus on the Middle East and South Central Asia regions but provide flexibility to support DoS posts and other U.S. Government activities operating throughout the world.
  2. Remove duplicative and unnecessary variations in U.S. Government requirements and inefficient processes to realize cost savings.
  3. Develop a group of highly reliable LSS&L and O&M Contractors, capable of supporting current and future needs of DoS and U.S. Government agencies and offices overseas.

Scope:

The Contractor shall provide the services identified in section C.2 for DoS and/or other U. S. Government agencies operating from diplomatic platforms falling under Chief of Mission (COM) authority or other U.S. Government facilities, as authorized by the DoS. The Contractor must support DoS activities and programs that may require DiPSS services in locations outside of the physical boundaries of Embassies and Consulates.

The Contractor must provide all personnel, equipment, tools, materials, supplies, transportation, supervision, and other services necessary to accomplish the requirements of this IDIQ contract and requirements of Task Orders awarded under this contract.

The work to be acquired under this DIPSS contract is for logistical service, life & mission support services, and all other operation & maintenance services at various government installations located in any country where the U.S. Department of State has a presence, with a focus on high threat contingency environments. Types of projects may include, but are not limited to: food service, maintenance/repair of facilities, full spectrum operations of man camps, sewage and plumbing operations of facilities, leasing properties, refurbishing properties to include upgrading to meet high security requirements, laboratories, dining facilities and related structures, travel services for personnel, to include medical, limited security as deemed necessary by DoS, and insurance.

Here is an item on Safeguarding Information:

The Contractor and its employees shall exercise the utmost discretion in regard to all matters relating to their duties and functions. They shall not communicate to any person any information known to them by reason of their performance of services under this contract which has not been made public, except in the necessary performance of their duties or upon written authorization of the Contracting Officer. All documents and records (including photographs) generated during the performance of work under this contract shall be for the sole use of and become the exclusive property of the U.S. Government. Furthermore, no article, book, pamphlet, recording, broadcast, speech, television appearance, film or photograph concerning any aspect of work performed un- der this contract shall be published or disseminated through any media without the prior written authorization of the Contracting Officer. These obligations do not cease upon the expiration or termination of this contract. The Contractor shall include the substance of this provision in all contracts of employment and in all subcontracts hereunder.

On Recruitment of Third Country Nationals:

On contracts exceeding $150,000 where performance will require the recruitment of non-professional third country nationals, the offeror is required to submit a Recruitment Plan as part of the proposal.

 

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Oy! That Rumor About Foreign Service Family Member Employment as “Corporate Welfare”

Posted: 1:39 am ET

 

We posted recently about the hiring freeze, the jobs for diplomatic spouses, and the worries that these jobs could soon be filled not by the U.S. citizen spouses of USG employees overseas but by locally hired employees (see Are #EFM positions literally about to become…extinct under #Tillerson’s watch?).

We have since learned that the Foreign Service community has been roiled by a rumor that the top diplomat of the United States has allegedly called the employment of Foreign Service family members as “corporate welfare” and allegedly said to one of his deputies that this practice is going to stop.

The secretary of state is surrounded by a small number of inner circle staffers like Margaret Peterlin, Christine Ciccone, Matt Mowers and Bill Ingle but his top deputies are currently nowhere in sight in Foggy Bottom as he has no confirmed deputy. Where did this rumor come from?  Was this overheard in the cafeteria, by the water coolers, in Foggy Bottom’s sparkling bathrooms?  We have not been able to trace the origin of this alleged quote, or locate a first hand account of who heard exactly what when.  But since the rumor has raced like wildfire fire within the State Department, and has a potential deleterious effect on morale, we’ve asked the Bureau of Public Affairs via email, and on Twitter to comment about this alleged quote. Unfortunately, we got crickets; we got no acknowledgement that they even received our multiple inquiries, and we’ve seen no response to-date.

Not even smoke signals! Dear Public Affairs, please blink if you’re being held hostage …

via reactiongifs.com

We’ve also asked the Family Liaison Office (FLO), the institutional advocate for Foreign Service family members. The FLO folks also did not respond to our inquiry. Finally, we’ve asked the Director General of the Foreign Service via email. We got a canned response thanking us for our inquiry and advising us that if a response is required, we’ll hear from DGHR within 10 days. Yippee! The DGHR’s office did bother to set up an auto-response and we’re holding our breath for a real response!

H-e-l-p … g-u-l-p …we’re still holding our breath!

Dual Career Households

Foreign Service spouses have similar challenges to military spouses in maintaining dual careers while following their spouses during assignments — have you ever heard our top generals call the jobs for military spouses  “corporate welfare?” Of course not. Why? Because dual career households have been trending up since 1970.  According to a Pew Research Center analysis of Current Population Survey data in 2015, the share of two-parent households in which both parents work full time now stands at 46%, up from 31% in 1970.  “At the same time, the share with a father who works full time and a mother who doesn’t work outside the home has declined considerably; 26% of two-parent households today fit this description, compared with 46% in 1970.” 

So, we were counting on the State Department to set the record straight on what this secretary of state thinks about the family members who serve overseas with our diplomats.  We are unable to say whether this quote is real or not, whether he said this or not but we can tell you that the rumor is doing the rounds and upsetting a whole lot of people.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that a good number of folks within the organization also believe this to be true.

Rumors Uninterrupted. Why?

Well, there are a few reasons we can think of.  One, the White House has now lifted the hiring freeze, but there is no thaw in sight for the State Department until the reorganization plan is approved (see No thaw in sight for @StateDept hiring freeze until reorganization plan is “fully developed”).  Two, we’re hearing all sorts of news about gutting State and USAID budgets and staffing but we have yet to hear about the Secretary of State actually talking to his people in Foggy Bottom or defending the agency that he now leads. And then there’s this: there are apparently over 70 exceptions to the hiring freeze for EFM jobs that have been requested. Only 6 EFM positions for the Priority Staffing Posts (like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan) were reportedly approved by Secretary Tillerson.  PSPs are important to watch as EFMs can only accompany their employee-spouse if they have a job at post. If State only grants exceptions to EFM jobs at PSP posts on the rarest of cases, will employees break their assignments when their EFMs are unable to accompany them?

These EFM jobs, almost all requiring security clearance range from Community Liaison Officers tasked with morale and family member issues to security escorts, minders for the janitorial or repair staff, to mailroom clerks who process mail and diplomatic pouches, to security clerks who process security badges and do other clerical work.  With few exceptions like consular associates who work in the visa sections and professional associates, most of these EFM jobs are  clerical in nature and require no more than a high school education. Some 80% of diplomatic spouses have college degrees but only 29% works inside U.S. missions overseas, 14% works in the local economy and a whopping 57% are not employed.

Let’s pause here for a moment to note that the 57% for the State Department more than double the Pew Research Center analysis of Current Population Survey data from 2015 for two-parent households where the wife does not work outside the home.

Hard Choices Ahead

If the EFM job freeze becomes indefinite, we anticipate that some families with financial obligations for college tuitions or other family obligations may opt for voluntary separation to enable the EFM to keep her/his Civil Service job or stay stateside to keep her/his private sector job. More senior  spouses may also have particular concerns about having jobs/keeping their jobs so we may see an increase in voluntary unaccompanied tours and family separations. Is that something the State Department really wants to do?

Given that the summer rotation is coming up between June and August, how is the State Department going to remedy the staffing gaps at various locations while the EFM hiring freeze is on?  We’ve also asked the State Department this question, but we did not hear anything back, not even a buzz-buzz.  Do you think there is even a plan?

We should note that not all rotations are created equal.  There are posts that may have a light staff rotation this year, while other posts have larger staff turnovers.  Small posts may be hit particularly hard.  Sections with one FSO supported by a couple of EFMs could potentially lose both EFM staffers and be unable to hire new ones because of the hiring freeze.  Meanwhile, the work requirements including all congressionally mandated reporting go on.

One source told us that the main option for his/her post during rotation is to suck up the extra work, and even temporarily reassign the existing staff to higher priority projects. Which means somethings will not/not get done.  There are already posts where one officer has two-three collateral duties, so those are not going to get any better. Visa officers may need to collect fingerprints as well as conduct visa interviews. Unless their jobs get handed over to DHS (yes, there are rumors on that, too!).   Regional Security Officers may need to process embassy badges, and answer their own phones, as well as attend to mission security, supervise the local guards, review contracts, etc.

An Aside — on Rumors

We once wrote about rumors in a dysfunctional embassy.  It now applies to the State Department.  Rumors express and gratify “the emotional needs of the community.” It occupies the space when that need is not meet, and particularly when there is deficient communication between the front office and the rest of the mission.  In the current environment, the rampant rumors circulating within the State Department is indicative of Mr. Tillerson’s deficient communication with his employees.

If State Really Cares About the Costs

In any case, if the State Department no longer even pretends to care that FS spouses are under-employed or not employed overseas, it still ought to care about costs. These are support employees who already have their security clearances, and require no separate housing. It is estimated that there are about 5,000 EFMs who would qualify for the Foreign Service  Family Reserve Corps. A few years ago, we noted that majority of EFMs employed at US mission, at the minimum, have a “Secret” level clearance. The average cost to process a SECRET clearance has been reported to run from several hundred dollars to $3,000, depending on individual factors. We suspect that the cost is higher for FS members due to overseas travels and multiple relocations.  The average cost to process a TOP SECRET clearance is between $3,000 and about $15,000, depending on individual factors. If State gets rid of EFM jobs (already cheap labor compared to direct-hire), the work will still be there.  Or is it planning on hiring contractors to bridge the gap? If yes, these contractors would all have to get through the security clearance process themselves.  State still has to fund contractors’ travel and housing, etc. How would that be cheaper?  Or … if not, who will do all the work?

Tillerson’s 9% Cut and a Troubling Nugget

The latest news from Bloomberg talks about Tillerson reportedly seeking a 9% cut in State Department staffing with majority of the job cuts, about 1,700, through attrition, while the remaining 600 will be done via buyouts (we’ll have to write about this separately).   Oh, and he’ll be on a “listening tour” sometime soon.  Note that during the slash and burn in the 1990’s, the State Department “trimmed” more than 1,100 jobs at the State Department, 600 jobs at  the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), and had identified for elimination about 2,000 jobs at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

The Bloomberg report also has this troubling nugget:

“Tillerson was taken aback when he arrived on the job to see how much money the State Department was spending on housing and schooling for the families of diplomats living overseas, according to one person familiar with his thinking.”

So next, we’re gonna to be talking about those houses with concertina wire on top of 18 foot walls?

Since there may not be EFM jobs for diplomatic spouses, and we could soon be back to the old days when American diplomats are accompanied overseas by stay-at-home spouses who make no demands on having careers of their own, who’s to say when dependents’ schooling will next be upgraded to allow only homeschooling, when travel will be made only by paddle boats,  and diplomatic housing will be reduced to yurts?

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NOTE: There are a few EFMs who are hired in Civil Service positions and allowed to telecommute from their locations overseas once they go abroad with their spouses . They’re officially on DETO status (domestic employee telecommuting overseas).  We understand that last year,  one bureau had “pushed out” its EFM employees on DETO status. The employees either had to resign their CS jobs or return to DC to report to work.  In these DETO cases, the spouses can either stay at post with no jobs, or return to Washington, D.C. and endure the family separation. While this predates Tillerson’s arrival, we’d like to see how many other bureaus have now done away with DETO employees. Email us.

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No thaw in sight for @StateDept hiring freeze until reorganization plan is “fully developed”

Posted: 4:17 pm ET

 

Via the Daily Press Briefing | April 13, 2017:

QUESTION: There is an internal memo that went around as well as something that was updated online that even though the OMB lifted the hiring freeze, the federal hiring freeze, that the Secretary Tillerson, that the State Department was going to maintain its hiring freeze. Do you know what led to that decision?

MR TONER: Sure. So OMB —

QUESTION: And what is it about?

MR TONER: Okay. So the OMB on Wednesday announced the lifting of the hiring freeze, as you noted, and provided also extensive further guidance to all the various federal agencies on the implementation of and requirements pursuant to the OMB memorandum which is called, I think, Comprehensive Plan for Reforming the Federal Government and Reducing the Federal Civilian Workforce, which is a mouthful. I apologize.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR TONER: And this document, this memo, provides guidance on new requirements on the presidential memorandum that was initially issued on January 23rd.

QUESTION: Correct.

MR TONER: This was the one that issued the hiring freeze, as well as the executive order issued on March 13th that required a comprehensive plan to reorganize all the executive branch departments and agencies.

So as part of that process, the department and this Secretary are going to be undertaking a reorganization later in the year, and the decision was taken that the hiring freeze will continue until that plan is fully developed and agreement is reached on its implementation.

And this is just part of prudent planning. We can’t be onboarding people when we don’t know what our reorganization is ultimately going to look at – look like. But until then – and this is an important point – the Secretary does retain authority to waive the ruling – or the hiring freeze and will do so in instances where national security interests and the department’s core mission and responsibilities require. So he does —

QUESTION: So it doesn’t break any federal law that he’s done this?

MR TONER: It does not. It’s his decision to maintain this hiring freeze.

QUESTION: Even though that – even though the Congress has – the appropriations has approved money for it, or even if the Congress has said that that’s fine to lift it. So there is a law, a federal law, that if appropriations has moved on some kind of spending or whatever —

MR TONER: Right.

QUESTION: — and he says, “No, I’m not going to touch that,” isn’t that against a law?

MR TONER: My understanding is that he has the jurisdiction to – basically to keep this freeze in place as we go about this presidentially mandated reorganization.

QUESTION: Are we talking about Civil and Foreign Service officers, political appointees? What —

MR TONER: Across the board.

QUESTION: So he’s – wait a minute. So he’s not going to hire any political appointees —

MR TONER: I —

QUESTION: — before the reorg?

MR TONER: I believe it’s a hiring freeze across the board. I don’t know about political appointees. I’ll check on that.

QUESTION: Could you check on that? So what are you – yeah, I mean —

MR TONER: I can check on that.

QUESTION: That would – essentially, if that’s true, what you’re saying, that there’s a hiring freeze across the board, that you would not be hiring any assistant secretaries —

MR TONER: I will check on political appointments. I’m not sure about political appointments.

QUESTION: — under secretaries, a deputy secretary of state.

MR TONER: Yeah, I’m not sure about political appointments.

QUESTION: That can’t be right.

MR TONER: Yeah, I’ll check on that.

QUESTION: So effectively he’s put this on, the freeze, until he’s done the reorganization. Have those plans actually started? And how are they going to be fleshed out? Does —

MR TONER: I believe they have started. As to how they’re going to be fleshed out, I don’t have any more details.

QUESTION: I mean, it’s going to go on for the rest of the year?

MR TONER: I don’t know if there’s a time, date. I don’t have any kind of timeframe for you. If I get one, I’ll let you know.

QUESTION: And I gather that he would have got White House or congressional approval for this?

MR TONER: Yes, I would imagine he would.

QUESTION: I just want to point out something that —

MR TONER: On the political appointees, though, it’s a good question.

QUESTION: Yeah, no, because I mean Foreign Minister Lavrov even said yesterday that – I mean, we can consider the source, but other diplomats from other —

MR TONER: No, I’m not responding, I’m just —

QUESTION: I understand, but other diplomats from other countries have also said that the lack of staff at the State Department has become an impediment to having interlocutors to deal with, whether it’s long-term foreign policy cooperation, short-term foreign policy crises. So I mean, I would really like some clarification on that. Because if you’re saying that there’s a hiring freeze across the board, I really would say that suggests that that will continue to be a problem.

MR TONER: It’s a fair question.

QUESTION: Related to this, though, Mark, you said that he has the – he retains authority to waive it, right?

MR TONER: Yeah, authority. Thank you. Yes, he does. Yeah. In instances where national security interests and the department’s core mission —

QUESTION: Has he?

MR TONER: — responsibilities – I would assume that political appointees in high positions would fall under the department’s core mission responsibilities.

QUESTION: Do you think that would apply to the – do you think that would apply to the newly nominated deputy? You think he’d get away with it?

MR TONER: I would think that would apply.

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Related posts:

Are #EFM positions literally about to become…extinct under #Tillerson’s watch?

Posted: 3:20 am ET
Updated: April 22, 2:13 pm ET

 

On April 12, 2017, the State Department posted a statement indicating that the current hiring freeze guidance remains in effect particularly as it affects the hiring of Foreign Service family members.

At this time, the Department’s current hiring freeze guidance remains in effect, including with respect to hiring under a Family Member Appointment (FMA) or Temporary Appointment. The Family Liaison Office will continue to distribute any updates on the hiring freeze as soon as it receives them. FLO shares family member concerns regarding the current situation and communicates to Department of State management the many helpful suggestions and insights that it receives from the field. In the meantime, please be assured that FLO continues to actively represent the interests and concerns of family members.

The current guidance says that “hiring activities may resume for positions that are or most recently have been filled by employees on Personal Services Agreements (PSAs).”  This authority to hire apparently does NOT extend to any locally employed staff, Family Member or Temporary Appointments as those are still subject to the hiring freeze. “Positions that are or become vacant that have been most recently filled using a mechanism other than a PSA may not be filled at this time.”  Also that “Circumventing the hiring freeze by using a PSA to employ family members who would normally be hired on an FMA is not permitted.” 

Available now, contract jobs with no USG service credit!

PSAs are typically designed for a non-U.S. citizen spouse on the travel orders of a Foreign Service, Civil Service employee, or uniformed service member assigned to a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. This is also the hiring mechanism for Members of Household (MOH) overseas who are not on the employee’s travel orders.

Most notable, PSAs are subject to government contracting authorities and do not/do not confer retirement benefits or USG service credit.

Eligible Family Members (EFMs) may apply for jobs, but no job offers 

“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 use of FMA and temporary appointments. Any position where an AEFM would have been selected absent the hiring freeze must be referred to the Office of Overseas Employment (HR/OE) in Washington at  HR-OE-Freeze@state.gov.”

With the summer transfer season just months away, this means that FS family members who currently have jobs, will be jobless once more when they transfer to their new posts. And because there is a hiring freeze, they will be able to apply for jobs at their next posts, but they won’t be hired into new jobs even if they have current security clearances and even if their new posts need them. Think of mailroom jobs, security escorts, facility escorts, admin assistants, community liaison officers to name a few.

EFMs who work in Civil Service positions (via)

Due to the federal civilian hiring freeze, EFMs who are working in Civil Service (CS) positions and who are planning to accompany their sponsoring employee abroad may not join the Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC) at this time. The processing of a CS employee into the FSFRC requires the issuance of a new Family Member Appointment (FMA). Unless an exemption has been granted, all direct hire appointments (including Family Member Appointments) are currently subject to the federal civilian hiring freeze.

EFMs may request Leave Without Pay (LWOP) status, but Uncle Sam may still say “nooooooo!”  (via)

EFMs who are currently working in Civil Service positions, who are preparing to join their sponsoring employee abroad may want to request consideration of being placed into Leave without Pay (LWOP) status when they finish working in their CS position. LWOP is a temporary non-pay status and approved absence from duty that may be granted at the discretion of the Bureau’s Executive Director. (Please note that a Bureau’s Executive Director may not be able to approve LWOP requests based on a variety of factors.)

Holymoly macaroni! They won’t even let you stay on the rolls even on non-pay status?  The notice did not include the “variety of factors” what would cause the disapproval of a LWOP request.  We should note that 3 FAM3500 is clear that the authorization of LWOP is a matter of “administrative discretion.” Which means that an employee cannot demand leave without pay as a matter of right except as provided by 3 FAM 35303 FAM 35123 FAH-1 H-3513, and 3 FAH-1 H-3514.  Which makes us wonder — if a family member is a Civil Service employee accompanying his/her FS spouse overseas but is not allowed to join the FSFRC and could not be granted LWOP status, what option is there for the employee short of going AWOL or quitting his/her job?

What happens to the Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC)?

Remember in mid-2016 when the State Department launched the Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC) “to more quickly mobilize family members to fill available positions in missions overseas?”  At that time, the State Department notes that the FSFRC will become the exclusive hiring program for Appointment Eligible Family Members (AEFM) into Family Member Appointments (FMA). Its FAQ says that “After open enrollment commences, which we estimate to be 18 to 24 months from now, the Department will announce the initiation of a new hiring preference.” The Department estimated that in excess of 5,000 family members are eligible to apply to join the Reserve Corps (see @StateDept Launches Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC)).

Last year, the State Department said that “at full implementation (by 2018), the FSFRC will improve efficiency in the hiring process for Appointment Eligible Family Members (AEFMs).”

But what happens if/when there are no jobs?

Foreign Service Family Member Employment

Jobs for diplomatic spouses are supposed to enhance quality of life overseas, and is an important part of the agency’s effort to recruit and retain Foreign Service employees who, like the rest of America, have come increasingly from two-profession households.

The creation of the Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC) is part of that effort, as well as various programs and initiatives through the years like EPAP, GEI, SNAP, Professional Associates program, etc. In 2003, there was even a proposed three-year pilot program to establish a Family Member Cost Equalization Fund, which the Office of Overseas Employment was to manage. With funds in place, posts would have been able to make specific requests to fund the salary gap when a qualified EFM was selected to fill a job previously filled by a locally employed staff (LES). The 2006 OIG report says that “Despite the apparent support for the concept, in the course of three successive years the Department has not funded the initiative.” It further states that if no funding is available, that “Department management may need to acknowledge that it cannot give a high enough priority to this particular program.”  The OIG noted then that “Maintaining rhetoric on the program in communications with posts overseas and in briefings of incoming officer classes creates expectations that, when not met, negatively affect morale and retention of entry-level officers.”

11 years on, and the 50% target remains beyond reach

One of the agency’s performance goals in FY 2005 was a 50%  increase in the percentage of family members employed overseas.  The State Department previously noted that the 50% “was not intended to be a one-year goal but rather a multi-year goal.” The target was developed with the expectation that “the Department would steadily work towards the 50 percent spousal employment rate.” Its justification was that this contributes to increased retention rates of Foreign Service and Civil Service employees.

According to state.gov, statistics from an earlier survey from the Family Liaison Office indicate that even though 83 percent of Foreign Service family members have college degrees (29 percent have advanced degrees), the majority of positions they fill while serving abroad are clerical in nature.  These jobs typically pay in the low to mid-$30Ks.

As of November 2016, there are 11,841 total adult family members serving overseas with their FS employees. About 3,500 or 30% works inside an embassy or consulate, about 1,650 or 14% works outside the U.S. mission, while more than half — 6,688 or 56% are not working.

So 11 years on, and that 50% target is still beyond reach. And it looks like things are about to get harder not better.

Rumor #1: EFM Hiring Freeze Till 2018?

Internal State Department circles are ripe with rumors about the future of eligible family member (EFM) positions. There are talks that the EFM hiring freeze may last until 2018. Or beyond. No one is sure. No one is authorized to discuss it. You will find nothing about it anywhere online. Not on a FLO website or anywhere else, for that matter.

The State Department is clear that EFM positions are affected by the Federal hiring freeze.  However, if this becomes a permanent directive, it will have sobering repercussions not only in the operation of over 280 posts overseas, but also in the retention of FS employees.  Note that the last time the State Department had a hiring freeze and the agency was hiring at 50% below attrition, diplomatic spouses ended up getting hired because the Department could not hire direct-hire USG employees. We still don’t know what will happen to the September FS classes, but IF it turns out that State will not be able to hire FSOs and specialists even at attrition, and also won’t be able to hire EFMs, then embassies and consulates overseas will be in a real pickle (also see  @StateDept Gets Exemption From Trump Federal Hiring Freeze, March Classes Are On).

Rumor #2: Locally Employed Staff for EFM Positions?

One of the few times when the State Department was forced to hire family members and US contractors for local jobs was in Moscow back in the 1980’s when 260 Soviet employees were withdrawn from the embassy.

Now, rumors are circulating that locally employed (LE) staff could replace EFM positions at our overseas posts.  While this might be cheaper in some countries, it will be more expensive in others.  For example, at the US Embassy in Japan,  the public affairs section allocated 68 percent of its FY 2014 budget of $8.5 million to LE staff salaries.  And in Germany, LE procurement agent salaries in Frankfurt are among the highest in the world at $74,700.  So hey, you can probably hire two EFMs for the price of one LE staffer in Frankfurt, unless you want to hire local staff in Asia or in Africa. But then, of course, since you want to save money on housing and travel of local nationals working at U.S. embassies, you need to teleport them to the various posts that requires their services. Good luck with that teleportation scheme with Captain Kirk.

So right now, apparently, many are wondering – if Locally Employed Staff members replace EFMs, will this replacement be permanent? Are EFM positions literally about to become…extinct under Secretary Tillerson’s watch?

“Hire American” except at US Embassies?

Somebody should really ask the new State Department management how this would work with Trump’s new “Hire American” policy.

The Foreign Service Act of 1980 (FSA) ties LE staff salaries to prevailing wages and compensation practices for corresponding types of positions in the host country. The OIG review of local compensation back in 2009 notes that the FSA does not require that wage adjustments be associated with inflation and cost of living changes, and the Department does not link LE staff compensation adjustments to variations in inflation or cost of living. This has its own problems and issues due to persistent underfunding. The 2015 OIG report on US Mission Japan indicates that the LE staff there received their last pay increase in 1995. Yup. 1995. (see State Dept on Embassy Workers Unionization: Yo! Could Put U.S. National Security at Risk).

Local compensation plans are, of course, not created equal.  Some plans like the one in Germany authorizes a year of maternity leave and 6 weeks of annual leave a year. Separation costs in Western Europe are also very high, often exceeding 2.5 years of salary for long-term employees. But we also need to add that a 2009 OIG report cited at least 27 U.S. missions which presented “compelling arguments that their lower grade employees fall short of minimal living standards.” (Don’t look now but about 200 local guards working for a security contractor at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya have staged a demonstration over low wages.  The local guards protecting an embassy that had been bombed previously are reportedly paid “peanuts” according to one guard rep).

Oh, leadership in action! 

We’ve asked the State Department for comments on these reports a week ago.  Following the April Fools’ Day take down sent to this blog, it looks like the um … our friends at the Bureau of Public Affairs no longer acknowledge inquiries from this blog, or bother to actually answer their emails.  Milk cartoons, anyone?

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Tillerson Responds to North Korean Missile Launch With a 23-Word Statement 👀

Posted: 12:49 am ET

 

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Inbox: “Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.”

Posted: 12:19 am  ET

 

We received the following in our inbox:

Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.

Be careful what you complain about, somebody might listen.

One month in, the new Administration already provides unprecedented opportunities for foreign policy professionals to demonstrate their value to the American people.

Non-career Ambassadors overseas – they’re all gone, with only a handful on the way.  If you’re the chargé d’affaires, you’re in
charge.  Take charge!

In Washington, the Obama White House’s overstaffed National Security Council is no more; good riddance.  Too many political appointees at State, at lower and lower levels?  They’re all gone, with not even a new “D” en route.  If you’re in charge, take charge!

That means demonstrating to President Trump your loyalty to whatever he determines is U.S. foreign policy.  Career diplomats in the Foreign Service, and career professionals in the Civil Service, should pick up the baton, get to work, and not wait for further appointments, unless specifically advised to the contrary.  Fill the vacuum on your own.

This is career public servants’ opportunity.  Thank you.

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Snapshot: @StateDept Presidential Appointee Positions Requiring Senate Confirmation

Posted: 12:48 am  ET

 

POTUS44 nominated Hillary Clinton as the 67th Secretary of State in December 2008. She assumed office on January 21, 2009.  Rex Tillerson had to wait a couple of weeks to get to Foggy Bottom after inauguration day but finally assumed office on February 1, 2017.  Susan Rice was nominated as Ambassador to the UN in December 2008 and assumed post on January 26, 2009. Nikki Haley was confirmed on January 24, 2017.

By January 28, 2009, Jack Lew was at the State Department as Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources (D/MR). The following day, Jim Steinberg had also assume post as Deputy Secretary of State (D). To-date, no deputy secretary has been announced and we understand that the D/MR position will not be filled.

The under secretaries in the Obama first term were at post by the following dates:

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs: Burns, February 29, 2008
Under Secretary of State for Management:: Kennedy, November 15, 2007 (retained)
Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment: Hormats, September 23, 2009
Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs: McHale, May 26, 2009
Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs: Tauscher, June 26, 2009
Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights: Otero, August 10, 2009

The Obama White House rolled out its first dozen ambassadors in May 2009; the announcement includes the chief of mission positions for Argentina, Brazil, France, UK, Denmark, Rome, Iceland, India, Japan, Kosovo, and Sri Lanka (see White House Rolls Out First Dozen Ambassadors). The nominees for Sweden, Croatia, Belgium, Switzerland, Belize, etc, were not announced until mid June 2009.

To-date, the Trump White House has announced two ambassadorships (China, Israel). Below is a list of State Department positions, with a link to ambassador positions that require Senate confirmation.

Via CRS:

Full-Time Positions

Department of State 
Secretary – Rex Tillerson (confirmed 2/1/17)
Deputy Secretary
Deputy Secretary—Management and Resources
Under Secretary—Arms Control and International Security
Under Secretary—Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs Under Secretary—Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Under Secretary—Management
Under Secretary—Political Affairs Tom Shannon (confirmed 2/12/16)
Under Secretary—Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs
Assistant Secretary—African Affairs (Although not guaranteed, most recent Assistant Secretaries—African Affairs also held the advice and consent part- time position as a member of the Board of Directors of the African Development Foundation)
Assistant Secretary—Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
Assistant Secretary—Budget and Planning/*Chief Financial Officer (The chief financial officer (CFO) may be appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate, or may be designated by the President from among agency officials who have been confirmed by the Senate for other positions (31 U.S.C. §901(a)(1)).
Assistant Secretary—Conflict and Stabilization Operations
Assistant Secretary—Consular Affairs
Assistant Secretary—Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Assistant Secretary—Diplomatic Security/Director—Office of Foreign Missions112 Assistant Secretary—East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Assistant Secretary—Economic, Energy and Business Affairs
Assistant Secretary—Educational and Cultural Affairs
Assistant Secretary—European and Eurasian Affairs
Assistant Secretary—International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Assistant Secretary—International Organization Affairs
Assistant Secretary—International Security and Nonproliferation
Assistant Secretary—Legislative Affairs
Assistant Secretary—Near Eastern Affairs
Assistant Secretary—Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Assistant Secretary—Political-Military Affairs
Assistant Secretary—Population, Refugees and Migration
Assistant Secretary—South and Central Asian Affairs
Assistant Secretary—Western Hemisphere Affairs Ambassador-at-Large—Coordinator—Counterterrorism Ambassador-at-Large—Global Women’s Issues
Ambassador-at-Large—Director—Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Ambassador-at-Large—International Religious Freedom
Ambassador-at-Large—War Crimes Issues
U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States
U.S. Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Coordinator—Reconstruction and Stabilization
Coordinator—U.S. Global AIDS
Director General—Foreign Service – Arnold Chacon (confirmed 12/12/14)
Chief Financial Officer
Inspector General – Steve Linick (confirmed 9/17/2013)
Legal Adviser
Chief of Protocol

Ambassadors
China – Terry Branstad (nominated)
Israel – Friedman David M. (February 2017) pending at SFRC
Republic of Congro – Haskell, Todd Philip (January 2017) pending at SFRC
Republic of Guinea-Bissau – Mushingi, Tulinabo Salama  (January 2017) pending at SFRC

Full list of diplomatic missions below:

Foreign Service Officers (numerous commissions and promotions)

U.S. Mission to the United Nations
U.S. Permanent Representative and Chief of Mission—United Nations: Nikki Haley (confirmed 1/24/17)
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative—United Nations
U.S. Representative—United Nations Economic and Social Council
U.S. Alternate Representative—Special Political Affairs in the United Nations U.S. Representative—United Nations Management and Reform
U.S. Representative—European Office of the United Nations (Geneva)
U.S. Representative—Vienna Office of the United Nations (also serves as a representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency)
U.S. Representative—International Atomic Energy Agency
U.S. Deputy Representative—International Atomic Energy Agency
U.S. Representative and Alternate Representatives to sessions of the General Assembly and other United Nations Bodies—numerous positions (terms of office depends on length of session)

U.S. Agency for International Development 
Administrator
Deputy Administrator
Assistant Administrator—Sub-Saharan Africa Assistant Administrator—Asia
Assistant Administrator—Europe and Eurasia Assistant Administrator—Food Safety Assistant Administrator—Global Health
Assistant Administrator—Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance Assistant Administrator—Latin America and Caribbean
Assistant Administrator—Middle East
*Assistant Administrator—Legislative and Public Affairs
Assistant Administrator—Policy, Planning and Learning
Assistant Administrator—Economic Growth, Agriculture, and Trade
Inspector General

European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
U.S. Executive Director

International Broadcasting Bureau, Broadcasting Board of Governors
Director

International Joint Commission, United States and Canada
Commissioner—three positions

International Monetary Fund
U.S. Executive Director (two-year term of office)
U.S. Alternate Executive Director (two-year term of office)

Inter-American Development Bank
U.S. Executive Director (three-year term of office—The incumbent of this position also serves as U.S. Executive Director for the Inter-American Investment Corporation.)

U.S. Alternate Executive Director (three-year term of office—The incumbent of this position also serves as U.S. Alternate Executive Director for the Inter-American Investment Corporation.)

U.S. Trade and Development Agency
Director

Organizations with Full- and Part-Time Positions

African Development Bank
U.S. Executive Director (five-year term of office; full-time)
Governor and Alternate Governor (five-year terms of office; part-time)

Asian Development Bank
U.S. Executive Director (full-time) Governor and Alternate Governor (part-time)

International Bank for Reconstruction and Development
U.S. Executive Director (two-year term of office; full-time—The incumbent also serves as U.S. Executive Director for the International Finance Corporation and the International Development Association.)

U.S. Alternate Executive Director (two-year term of office; full-time—The incumbent also serves as U.S. Alternate Executive Director for the International Finance Corporation and the International Development Association.)

Governor (same individual as the International Monetary Fund Governor; five-year term of office; part-time—The incumbent also serves as Governor for the International Finance Corporation and the International Development Association.)

Alternate Governor (five-year term of office; part-time—The incumbent also serves as Alternate Governor for the International Finance Corporation and the International Development Association.)

Millennium Challenge Corporation

Chief Executive Officer (full-time)
*Member, Board of Directors—four (of nine total) positions (part-time; three-year terms of office)

Overseas Private Investment Corporation

President/Chief Executive Officer (full-time)
Executive Vice President (full-time)
*Member, Board of Directors—8 (of 15 total) positions (part-time; three-year terms of office)

Peace Corps

Director (full-time)
Deputy Director (full-time)
*Member, National Peace Corps Advisory Council—15 positions (part-time; political balance required; two-year terms of office)

Part-Time Positions

Advisory Board for Cuba Broadcasting (political balance required)
*Member—eight positions (three-year terms of office)

African Development Foundation, Board of Directors (political balance required)
*Member—seven positions (six-year terms of office)

African Development Fund

Governor and Alternate Governor

Broadcasting Board of Governors (political balance required)
Member—eight (of nine total) positions (three-year terms of office)

Inter-American Foundation, Board of Directors (political balance required)
*Member—nine positions (six-year terms of office)

U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy (political balance required)
*Commissioner—seven positions (three-year terms of office)

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