Unemployment Status of @StateDept Family Members Overseas (Fall 2017)

Posted: 4:25 am ET

 

On February 13, Foreign Policy did a piece on Tillerson’s hiring freeze of Eligible Family Members (EFM) at the State Department and how even as the freeze ends, it “left resentment in its wake.”

“It’s been months,” said one department official speaking on condition of anonymity, “and still no one understands what is going on with EFMs.”

The confusion could be cleared up soon with concrete steps Tillerson is expected to take this month. Tillerson has authorized an additional 2,449 EFM positions to the State Department payroll, effectively lifting the prior hiring freeze, a department spokesman said. He also plans to expand a selective pool of jobs for highly educated family members, known as the Expanded Professional Associates Program, from some 200 to 400 positions.

“This should put us back to normal hiring levels” for diplomats’ family members, the spokesman told Foreign Policy.

Read the full piece here.

First, on that EPAP expansion that supposed to expand professional opportunities from some 200 to 400 positions, read our recent post: @StateDept Releases New Strategery For Diplomatic Spouse Professional Employment #Ugh.  Previously qualified applicants must re-qualify to be eligible under the new standards; they will not be grandfathered into the new program. EFMs on EPAP position are taking jobs that are comparable in duties and responsibilities to career FSOs and FS Specialists, but in some cases, the standard required for EFMs to qualify are higher than those required of FSOs/FSSs. We’ve already heard that some posts will not be requesting EPAP positions. We’d be interested to know what is the fill rate of this program by end of FY2018.

Second, the FP piece citing a department spox says that “Tillerson has authorized an additional 2,449 EFM positions to the State Department payroll effectively lifting the prior hiring freeze.”

That “additional” number got our attention because despite years of effort, the number of EFM jobs has always been problematic, and given Tillerson’s track record, we frankly have low expectation that he will expand or provide something “additional” to a situation that he made worse on his first year on the job.

When we asked about this, the reporter told us “State won’t give us a clear answer – in large part because its hard to track exact number as FSOs cycle to new posts. Best we got was its ‘returning to normal levels.’ Rough estimate: 884 EFMs waived by RT + the 2449 new ones = 3333, a bit below Fall 2016 levels.”

So, if there’s one thing the State Department is really, really good at, it is how to track its people overseas. Also there’s absolutely no reason why the State Department could not give FP a clear answer. Unless, of course, the clear answer would indicate that the EFM employment is not/not returning to normal levels.  See, twice a year, the State Department actually releases a report on EFM employment. This happens once in spring, typically in April after the Foreign Service’s winter cycle is done, and again in fall, typically in November, after the summer rotation concludes.

This is the Fall 2017 release. Note that when this report was generated, there were actually more EFMs working outside the mission overseas than inside the mission. This is the first time we’re ever seen this.  Below is the Spring 2017 release (also see Unemployment Status of @StateDept Family Members Overseas (4/2017)). Between April and November 2017, a difference of over a thousand EFM employees. Below is a breakdown of EFM employees by region from 2014-2017. Last year’s 2,373 is the lowest number in four years.  In Fall 2017, there were 11,816 adult family members overseas (this includes State Department, other foreign affairs agencies as well as other USG agencies under chief of mission authority); so 20% EFMs were employed at our overseas posts. In Fall 2016, there were 11,841 adult family members overseas, and 3,501 were employed at our overseas posts or 30 percent. By the way, the overall “not employed” EFM category jumped from 56 percent in April 2017 to 64 percent in November 2017.

The State Department could argue that some more EFMs were hired after the Fall 2017 report. That’s entirely possible. Or if Tillerson’s  additional 2,449 EFM positions” are real numbers, that’s a 96 percent increase to the 2,373 Fall 2017 number.  Really? If FP’s 3,333 number is accurate, it would be 60 less than 3,393 (count released in April 2017); it would also be 168 less than the annual Fall count the previous year at 3,501, and brings the total number closest to the 2015 level.

We’ll have to wait and see, after all, when State announced that it lifted the EFM hiring freeze late last year, it turned out, it was only a 50% lift. So as you can imagine, we have some difficulties digesting this additional number of EFM positions. We’ll have to wait for the Spring 2018 report to see how back to normal this really is. If/When it does return to normal, one still need to shake one’s noggin. This. Was. A useless, needless exercise by thoughtless newbies.

Read more here:

#

Advertisements

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tillerson on Track

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

Projected Attrition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burning Both Ends of the Candle

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

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

The Foreign Service Specialists (FSS) Count

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

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

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

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

Trump’s 2019 Budget and the Next 27% Cut

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Related posts:

#

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marc Clayton Gilkey, of CA

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

Deanna M. J. Ayala, of MN

Darya Chehrezad, of CA

Morgan A. Perkins, of MD

Stanley Storey Phillips, of MT

/4

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

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

Angela P. Aggeler, of DC

Peter H. Barlerin, of MD

Colombia A. Barrosse, of VA

MaryKay Loss Carlson, of VA

Julie J. Chung, of CA

Karen Kaska Davidson, of TX

Kelly Colleen Degnan, of DC

Chayan C. Dey, of FL

John E. Fitzsimmons, of MD

Eric Alan Flohr, of FL

Anthony Godfrey, of VA

Peter T. Guerin, of NM

Lisa Kennedy Heller, of VA

Nicholas Manning Hill, of NY

J. Baxter Hunt III, of VA

Henry V. Jardine, of VA

Lisa A. Johnson, of VA

Steven C. Koutsis, of MD

Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir, of DC

Karin Melka Lang, of VA

Jeanne Marie Maloney, of VA

Ervin J. Massinga, of WA

Brian David McFeeters, of VA

Karen E. Mummaw, of VA

Richard Carl Paschall III, of VA

Lisa J. Peterson, of VA

Jo Ann E. Scandola, of DC

Mark Toner, of MD

Frank J. Whitaker, of SC

Michael L. Yoder, of VA

Andrew R. Young, of CA

David J. Young, of VA

Stephen Arthur Young, of FL

/33

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

Begzat Bix Aliu, of VA

Robert Lloyd Batchelder, of VA

Andrea Renee Brouillette-Rodriguez, of VA

Rachel L. Cooke, of VA

Susannah E. Cooper, of MD

Jason Richard Cubas, of FL

Abigail Lee Dressel, of CT

Marion Johnston Ekpuk, of VA

Jill Marie Esposito, of VT

Daniel J. Fennell, of FL

Eric Vincent Gaudiosi, of MD

William Robert Gill Jr., of VA

Ryan M. Gliha, of AZ

David J. Greene, of DC

Keith Lee Heffern, of VA

Elizabeth K. Horst, of MN

Martin T. Kelly, of FL

Angela M. Kerwin, of VA

William H. Klein, of CA

Kimberly Krhounek, of DC

Christopher A. Landberg, of DC

John David Lippeatt, of VA

Gregory Daniel LoGerfo, of VA

Ian Joseph McCary, of NY

David Ray McCawley, of CA

John W. McIntyre, of TX

Heather Christine Merritt, of VA

Mario McGwinn Mesquita, of VA

Marcus Robert Micheli, of CA

Andrew Thomas Miller, of VA

Mark David Moody, of MO

Joyce Winchel Namde, of VA

Scott McConnin Oudkirk, of VA

Jonathan G. Pratt, of CA

Jose Kieran Santacana, of DC

Jennifer L. Savage, of FL

William Steuer, of TX

Donn-Allan G. Titus, of FL

Christina Tomlinson, of VA

John E. Warner, of VA

Kami Ann Witmer, of PA

/41

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

Paul Avallone, of FL

Philip Karl Barth, of VA

Wade L. Boston, of VA

David L. Duncan, of UT

Vida M. Gecas, of VA

Glenn E. Harms, of VA

Joy D. Herrera-Baca, of VA

Tuan Q. Hoang, of WA

Jason R. Kight, of VA

Jacqueline Levesque, of VA

Luis A. Matus, of VA

Chanda C. McDaniel, of MO

William I. Mellott, of AZ

Thad Osterhout, of VA

Michael C. Ranger, of VA

Paul L. Schaefer, of VA

Robert A. Solomon, of PA

Mark A. Wilson, of VA

Mari Jain Womack, of TX

/19

#

Tom Shannon’s ‘Dear Friends and Colleagues’ Note Announcing His Foreign Service Retirement

Posted: 1:12 am ET

 

Congress first authorized the position of Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs in the Department of State Organization Act of July 30, 1959. Under Secretary Tom Shannon is the 22nd incumbent to the third highest ranking position in Foggy Bottom since 1959. He is only the 16th career diplomat to be appointed as “P”.  He was nominated by President Obama in September 2015 but he did not get confirmed until February 2016. He officially signed his appointment and assumed post in April 2016, so he’s barely two years on the job. We understand that he recently turned 60 years old and wants to set a new direction in his life but we should also note that he is five years short of the mandatory Foreign Service retirement age inscribed in the Foreign Service Act of 1980.

Signed “Warm Regards, Tom Shannon,” the following is the text of the note addressed to friends and colleagues sent by the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs announcing his retirement from the Foreign Service and the State Department:

Yesterday I spoke with the Secretary and informed him of my decision to retire from the United States Foreign Service and the Department of State.  After more than 34 years of service to our great Republic, I have decided that it is time to step aside.  I do so confident in the next generation of Foreign Service leadership, and proud of what we have accomplished across four decades of American diplomacy.

My decision is personal, and driven by a desire to attend to my family, take stock of my life, and set a new direction for my remaining years.

The Secretary has asked me to stay on until my successor is named, and to ensure a smooth transition to the new Under Secretary for Political Affairs.  I have agreed to do so.

I want to express my profound gratitude to the Secretary and the President for the privilege of serving at the highest levels of the Department during this past year.  I have had the honor of serving under six presidents and ten secretaries of state.  All have been extraordinary public servants and great Americans.  As with each of you, my service has been defined by our oath of office and the commitment we make to protect and defend our Constitution, our institutions, and our values.  Underlying this commitment is our deep respect for the will of the American people and a determination to advance the interests and well-being of our nation by ensuring the success of our elected governments.  The sense of duty and obligation that this implies, and the discipline it imparts, has allowed the Department of State and its officers to serve successfully since the earliest days of our Republic.

One of the greatest honors I have been afforded during my career is the opportunity to have worked with all of you.  I am deeply grateful for your friendship and solidarity, and I have been humbled by your generosity of spirit, your courage in confronting the dangers and risks inherent in our profession, and your joyful embrace of a life spent far from home and hearth.

To be an American diplomat is a high calling.  I salute you all, and look forward to having the opportunity to say my farewells to you in the weeks to come.

#

Related posts:

Reactions:

 


Inbox: “State Department absolutely deserves to have a trial by media”

Posted: 1:31 am ET

 

In response to our recent post, Congress Seeks Info on @StateDept Senior Executives Who Are Subjects of Multiple Complaints, we received an email from a reader who gave us permission to share the following, purposely stripped of specific details for obvious reasons:

“I want to comment on your post about the letter Congressman Cummings wrote to Secretary Tillerson. I filed an EEO complaint against the agency and have suffered immensely in my professional and personal life. What struck out to me from your post was this: “victims with no real recourse for redress may decide that talking to the Hill or the press is the only action left for them, no matter the personal consequences.” I can tell you that going to Congress or the press is absolutely something I’m pondering, and it’s precisely for the reason you stated. There is no real recourse or redress. There is zero accountability. The State Department absolutely deserves to have a trial by media. I probably won’t be the one to lead the charge. The State Department has caused enough damage in my life, but it definitely needs to be accountable to SOMEONE. I hope a new era is on the horizon, but I won’t be holding my breath.”

 

#

 


@StateDept’s Mental Health Services Drive Employees with Special Needs #FSKids Nuts

Posted: 12:26 pm ET

 

The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) operates 168 schools in 8 districts located in 11 foreign countries, seven states, Guam, and Puerto Rico. All schools within DoDEA are fully accredited by U.S. accreditation agencies. Approximately 8,700 educators serve more than 73,000 DoDEA students. This is what it says on special education:

Special education is specially designed instruction, support, and services provided to students with an identified disability requiring an individually designed instructional program to meet their unique learning needs. The purpose of special education is to enable students to successfully develop to their fullest potential by providing a free appropriate public education in compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as implemented by DoD Instruction 1342.12, “Provision of Early Intervention and Special Education Services to Eligible DoD Dependents.”

In DoDEA, special education and related services are available to eligible students, ages 3 through 21 years of age. To be eligible for special education: the child must have an identified disability; the disability must adversely (negatively) affect the child’s educational performance; and the child must require a specially designed instructional program. DoDEA recognizes clearly defined categories of disabilities with specific criteria for determining eligibility such as physical, communication, emotional and learning impairment, and development delay.

The State Department does not have its own schools so Foreign Service children go to local schools and avail of local school services. Is the State Department required to meet the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) with regard to the education of special needs children overseas? Here is what state.gov says:

No. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and its 2004 reauthorization, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA), are federal funding laws ensuring a free and appropriate education to children with disabilities in the United States. IDEA/IDEIA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services to eligible children and youth. While existing law does not require DOS to replicate what a public school would provide to a student in the United States, our goal is to approximate what a child would receive in a good US public school system. Per the Overseas Differentials and Allowances Act and the Department of State Standard Regulations (DSSR), the IDEA/IDEIA framework is the basis for the allowable reimbursable services for the Special Needs Education Allowance (SNEA). DOS is committed to assisting employees in meeting the necessary expenses incurred when deployed overseas in providing adequate education for their school-age children. The education allowances are designed to assist parents in defraying those costs necessary to obtain educational services which are ordinarily provided free of charge by public schools in the United States.

Prior to 2013, we understand that the State department took a flexible, supportive approach that ensures support for dependents while creating maximum flexibility for Foreign Service employees to serve overseas. In October 2013, SNEA management was switched to the then newly created Child and Family Programs (CFP).

The Department’s Standardized Regulations or DSSR was also amended to state that “There must be a formal Individual Education Plan (IEP) or equivalent prepared by a professional medical or educational expert which delineates the educational services required to provide for the child’s special needs.  Reimbursement may only be for those services provided for in the IEP which are actually required, as opposed to those services which a parent or school may recommend as desirable.”

Between 2013 and early 2017, we were informed that “SNEA benefits are reined back dramatically.”  Previously authorized uses were  either denied or dramatically restricted.  One parent told us, “No explanations or justifications are provided for the change in policy despite many requests.  At the same time, parents are increasingly challenged by CFP staff, often rudely, about the way in which they plan to educate their children overseas.”  A direct suggestion that the parent curtail his/her assignment was not unheard of.

That suggestion may become more real for parents of approximately 1400 special needs children in the Foreign Service. We understand that in spring 2017, the Office of Allowances formally ruled that 1) based on DSSR language the only dependents who can receive SNEA are those specifically given a MED clearance that allows them to reside full time at post; and 2) No other clearance is sufficient (such as a Class 6 that allows for a child to reside at post outside of the school year in a boarding school situation).

What was the result of this official determination? Apparently, MED started “aggressively” issuing Class 5 clearances to children with educational, mental health and other disabilities even though there are many/many overseas posts where services have been and could be provided to successfully support such children.  It was reported to us that when challenged, MED doesn’t back down, claiming that their decisions are in the best interests of the child since “everyone knows” that only the “mildest” of special needs can be met in an overseas school situation.

Class 5 medical clearance means  domestic only assignment and it is supposedly issued “to those with complex medical conditions.”

For the FS employees with approximately 1400 special needs kids, a Class 5 medical clearance for a family members potentially means 1) DC/domestic assignments for the foreseeable future only; 2) an overseas assignment that leaves the family at home on a voluntary separation, or 3) back to back to back unaccompanied assignment to priority posts while the family stays behind in the United States on a voluntary separation.  We understand that not all these kids are given Class 5 clearance now but as their clearance gets reviewed, families anticipate that the numbers will continue to grow.

“It appears that any child deemed to have “moderate to severe” needs is being given a Class 5 at the time a MED clearance review is triggered.”

When we inquire about potential issues with the SNEA funds, our source speaking on background told us that SNEA has “always been under the administration of MED, and SNEA spending could only be reimbursed after approval by MED authorities.”  We were told that previously, in some cases SNEA was allowed to be used “for therapies that some would argue were either non-traditional or perhaps not fully established as effective” so the source said it is understandable to see the need to standardize the application of SNEA when the Child and Family Programs (CFP) was created and took over management of SNEA. But the source also said “it doesn’t explain the inflexibility CFP staff have employed since” when dealing with families with special needs FS kids.

Who’s doing this and why? Families are pointing at the MED/MHS (Mental Health Services), which oversees the Child and Family Programs (CFP) in the State Department’s MED org chart.  That office is headed by Dr. Kathy Gallardo, the former Deputy Director and now Director in MED/MHS. She reports to Dr. Charles Rosenfarb who is currently the Medical Director of the Bureau of Medical Services. Dr. Rosenfarb reports to the Under Secretary of Management, an office that sits currently vacant and is overseen by the “M Coordinator” and Acting DGHR Bill Todd, who in turn reports to somebody inside Secretary Tillerson’s 7th Floor bubble.

As to why? Well, no one seems exactly sure why. The State Department does not talk to this blog anymore for juvenile reasons but we cannot overlook the elephant in the room. The State Department is looking to cut cost across the board. We expect that it will be looking at everything and inside every cupboard to come up with its desired 37% cuts.  How many families will endure the separation with employees deploying overseas, and families staying behind because their special needs children are not authorized to be overseas?  Last year, Bloomberg  reported that Secretary Tillerson was 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.

So in the case of the special needs FS kids, the State Department is potentially hitting two birds with one big rock? Anyone at State/MED wants to chat, we’re happy to talk and update this post.

#

@StateDept Tells Employees There’s “Enough Time” and It’s Updating Contingency Plans For “Orderly Shutdown”

Posted: 9:59 am PT
Updated: Jan 22, 2018; 3:12 pm PT

 

Update: Late January 19, the State Department released its Guidance on Operations during a Lapse in Appropriations which supersedes the previous guidance issued December 9, 2017. USAID’s guidance released at 7:30 pm on January 19 is available here

Related to our prior post — As Govt #Shutdown Looms Large, @StateDept Still “Reviewing All Available Options” #MissingGuidance — we’ve learned that Acting DGHR and “M Coordinator” Bill Todd sent out a message to State Department employees this morning concerning planning for a potential lapse in appropriations.

He tells employees that “The Administration strongly believes that a lapse in funding should not occur. There is enough time to prevent a lapse in appropriations.”

He talks about “prudent management” and working on updating the agency’s contingency plans for “executing an orderly shutdown” should there be a lapse in appropriations:

“… prudent management requires that we be prepared for all contingencies, including the possibility that a lapse could occur. A lapse would mean that a number of government activities would cease due to a lack of appropriated funding, and that a number of employees would be temporarily furloughed. To prepare for this possibility, we are working to update our contingency plans for executing an orderly shutdown of activities that would be affected by a lapse in appropriations.”

The potential shutdown is tonight and Tillerson’s godpod people are still working on guidance that should have been out a week ago?

For posts whose workday doesn’t start on Monday but starts tomorrow and Sunday, what are they supposed to do with less than 12 hours to go? The December 2017 guidance says that “Posts that normally operate on Saturdays or Sundays will immediately commence procedures.”

But … but … what procedures are they supposed to commence immediately if/when the shutdown happens tonight?

The message from A/DGHR and M Coordinator Bill Todd ends with “The uncertainty of the current circumstances puts our workforce in a difficult situation, and should a lapse occur, it could impose hardships on many employees as well as the people that we serve every day.”  Apparently, he also expressed commitment to providing employees “with updated and timely information on any further developments.”

Uh-oh.  Remember how many folks were furloughed in 2013?

We’ve heard that there are overseas posts already telling employees to just show up on Monday and that they will be told then who will be furloughed. We have not heard yet what will happen to posts that opens tomorrow and Sunday. Are we going to see updated guidance at 11:59 pm tonight? Will folks be working on those furlough lists/letters after midnight tonight?

Related posts:

#


SFRC Clears Brownback, Poblete, Grenell, Evans, Danies, Trujillo, Plus Four Foreign Service Lists

Posted: 1:07 am ET

 

On January 18, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee cleared some State Department nominees recently renominated by the White House, as well as four Foreign Service lists (see White House Sends @StateDept Renominations to the Senate).

 

STATE DEPARTMENT

The Honorable Samuel Dale Brownback, of Kansas, to be Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.

Dr. Yleem D. S. Poblete, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Verification and Compliance).

 

AMBASSADORS

Mr. Richard Grenell, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Federal Republic of Germany.

Mr. James Randolph Evans, of Georgia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Luxembourg.

Mr. Joel Danies, of Maryland, 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 Gabonese Republic, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe.

The Honorable Carlos Trujillo, of Florida, to be Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the Organization of American States, with the rank of Ambassador.

 

FSO LIST:

PN1433 FOREIGN SERVICE nominations (6) beginning Marc Clayton Gilkey, and ending Mark A. Myers, which nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record of January 8, 2018.
PN1434 FOREIGN SERVICE nominations (90) beginning Alyce S. Ahn, and ending Michele D. Woonacott, which nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record of January 8, 2018.
PN1435 FOREIGN SERVICE nominations (118) beginning Priya U. Amin, and ending Erik Z. Zahnen, which nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record of January 8, 2018.
PN1436 – 1 FOREIGN SERVICE nominations (93) beginning Angela P. Aggeler, and ending Mari Jain Womack, which nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record of January 8, 2018.

#

Snapshot: @StateDept’s Professional Development Program Principles For #FSOs

Posted: 3:49 am ET

 

Related to our previous posts on the State Department’s new FSO Professional Development Program (see @StateDept Rolls Out New FSO Development Program, and Promotion Rules to Get Into the Senior Foreign Service and AFSA: FSOs Will Now Compete in a “Scavenger Hunt” to Be Considered for Promotion Into the Senior Foreign Service), see a snapshot of the new PDP principles rolled out by the State Department on the last working day of 2017:

The Professional Development Program (PDP) is designed to enhance leadership and adaptive capacity, fuel professional development, and develop the experience and skills of employees over the length of their careers. It is also designed to meet Service needs at various grade levels. Service needs continue to evolve based on U.S. interests, international challenges, and the evolution of diplomacy to encompass inter-agency and “crisis response” responsibilities. The principles outlined below encompass this dual objective of employee and Service needs. No single career path — no specific set or sequence of assignments, no particular promotion timing — determines success. Professional growth and career advancement come from taking on challenges and demonstrating accomplishments across an array of Service-needs assignments to broaden experience, widen perspective, deepen expertise and language proficiency, and amplify leadership and adaptive capacity. Employees should use assignments and training opportunities to challenge themselves and to integrate competencies and skill sets for positions of greater responsibility irrespective of rank or grade.

The PDP has four principles that an officer must develop and demonstrate over the course of his or her career, from entry through tenure and up to consideration for promotion at the Senior Threshold. Officers considered for entry into the Senior Foreign Service should demonstrate:

1) Operational effectiveness, including a breadth of experience over several regions and functions;

2) Leadership and management effectiveness;

3) Professional language proficiency; and

4) Responsiveness to Service needs.

 

OPERATIONAL EFFECTIVENESS

Mandatory Requirement | A minimum of 15 years in the Foreign Service, to include service in a mix of completed domestic and overseas assignments with demonstrated regional and substantive expertise, including service in two separate bureaus after tenure. Those entering the Foreign Service after January 1, 2017, must serve at least one tour in a global affairs bureau or in a global affairs position.

(Note: Superhard language training held in-region may be counted toward regional expertise. “Domestic assignments” refers to Department positions in Washington and elsewhere in the United States, not details or long-term training.)

Mandatory Requirement: Completing one of the following two electives

1) Professional Development (one tour/one academic year, cumulative, after tenure). Such assignments would be drawn from the annual list of training opportunities and details managed by the HR Bureau’s Professional Development Unit (HR/CDA/PDU), including long-term training opportunities such as Senior Training programs at the War Colleges; academic study; Transatlantic Diplomatic Fellowships; Commands and Staff Colleges; Inter-American Defense College; National Intelligence University; and details such as NSC; DHS; Pearson Fellowships; USTR; Treasury; and USTDA.

2) Out-of-Cone Assignment (one year, after tenure). Such assignments would include a position with a skill code other than your primary skill code.

 

LEADERSHIP EFFECTIVENESS

Mandatory Requirement | Significant and substantial leadership responsibility (one tour, after tenure). Such assignments would include positions that assign work, develop and set priorities, counsel employees, evaluate performances, resolve disputes, effect minor disciplinary measures, interview and recommend candidates for positions within a unit, and supervise other employees who perform such responsibilities. Positions such as Deputy Chief of Mission, section heads, unit chiefs, and office (or deputy office) director positions could be examples of positions that fulfill this requirement. Leadership effectiveness entails executing and achieving policy and programmatic results through people.

Mandatory Requirement | In accordance with the Procedural Precepts, FS-03s must complete Basic Leadership Skills (PK245) for promotion to FS-02; FS-02s must complete Intermediate Leadership Skills (PT207) for promotion to FS-01; and FS-01s must complete Advanced Leadership Skills (PT210) for promotion into the SFS.

(Related post: Burn Bag: Does @StateDept Really Care About Leadership Training?)

 

LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY

Mandatory Requirement | One language at the 3/3 level (or at the 3/2 level for a hard or superhard language) tested after tenure, or one language at the 4/4 level (tested either before or after tenure).

 

SERVICE NEEDS

Mandatory Requirement | A completed tour at a 25% or greater hardship differential post from entry into the Foreign Service OR a completed tour at an unaccompanied post from entry into the Foreign Service AND

Another completed tour at a 20% or greater hardship differential post after tenure.

Note: The standard definitions for “tour completion” apply:

10 months for a 12-month TOD

20 months for a 24-month TOD

30 months for a 36-month TOD

 

The term ‘global affairs bureau’ means any bureau of the Department that is under the following —

  •  Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and Environment (E);
  • Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Affairs (T);
  • Under Secretary for Management (M);
  • Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs (IO);
  • Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R); or
  • Under Secretary for Civilian, Security, Democracy, and Human Rights (J)

Global affairs positions refers to diplomatic policy and support: components funded under this category are the bureaus and offices of the following:

  • Administration;
  • Arms Control, Verification and Compliance;
  • Budget and Planning;
  • Chief of Protocol;
  • Comptroller and Global Financial Services;
  • Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor;
  • Economic and Business Affairs;
  • Energy Resources;
  • Information Resource Management;
  • Intelligence and Research;
  • International Criminal Justice;
  • International Security and Nonproliferation;
  • Legal Adviser;
  • Legislative Affairs;
  • Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs;
  • Political-Military Affairs; Population and International Migration;
  • Public Affairs;
  • Secretary of State;
  • Under Secretary for Management;
  • Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

#


@StateDept Releases New Strategery For Diplomatic Spouse Professional Employment #Ugh

Posted: 6:01 am ET
Updated: 10:30 am PT (fixed headline)

 

During his town hall with employees on December 12, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced the lifting of the hiring freeze in 2018 for Eligible Family Members (EFM). Actually, it turned out to be a 50% lift but State won that news cycle; no one came back to correct that it was not a full lifting of the hiring freeze (see Tillerson Issues New Personnel Actions, But What’s That About Lifting the EFM Hiring Freeze?).

During that speech, Tillerson also announced the expansion of the Expanded Professional Associates Program (EPAP) for Foreign Service spouses (see Tillerson Announces “Immediate Changes” From Redesign, USAID is Now in the GAL – Yay?). He promised:

To take care of our people, we will:

–Diversify and improve the quality of professional opportunities for Eligible Family Members by increasing the number of EPAP positions, from 250 to 400.

–Support EFMs in EPAP positions by offering increased training opportunities for them at the Foreign Service Institute.

 

The Department’s Family Liaison Office also says that “The Department of State is committed to supporting its employees and their families as they balance their service with the needs of family life.”

Recently, the State Department released its new guidance on Preparing for the 2018 Spring/Summer EPAP Vacancy Announcement. Via state.gov/flo:

The Expanded Professional Associates Program (EPAP) provides U.S. citizen Eligible Family Members (EFMs) serving overseas with 200 professional-level Foreign Service full-time positions in Economics, Financial Management, General Services, Human Resources, Management, Office Management, Political, Public Diplomacy, and Registered Nurse areas. The program also provides up to 50 positions in the Information Management area. These positions are centrally funded. Each regional bureau and the Bureau of Information Resource Management (IRM) is authorized a specific number of positions as determined by the Under Secretary for Management. Individual posts may also create post-funded ICASS positions with approval from their regional bureau.

 

New EPAP Qualification Standards

FLO also announced new qualification standards for EPAP applicants:

Previously Qualified EPAP Employees/Applicants Must Must Re-Re-Re-Qualify!

Here’s the howler: everybody starts from scratch. Previously qualified applicants must re-qualify to be eligible under the new standards; they will not be grandfathered into the new program.

Because the qualification standards were revised in 2018, the process of prequalification in one or several EPAP areas has been replaced with the new Qualification Standards. As of January 1, 2018, prior EPAP employees or EPAP prequalified applicants will need to meet the eligibility requirements listed in the new Qualification Standards. To be eligible for each position, applicants must submit an application package with all required documents.
[…]
The application must specifically address both the education and specialized experience requirements listed in the new Qualification Standards. Global Employment Advisors (GEA) can provide tips on preparing a federal resume; email GEI@state.gov.

Refer to the following documents: •    New EPAP Qualification Standards  •    Checklist: How to prepare required documents for the 2018 Spring/Summer Centralized Vacancy Announcement

 

Education Requirements

State/FLO says that EPAP pay grades range from FP-07 to FP-04 as determined by the regional bureaus and IRM. Each advertised position will show the minimum and maximum grades (full performance grade) at which a candidate may be hired.

And yet, the New EPAP Qualification Standards for Financial Management EPAP lists FP-03 as an EPAP grade, with Ph.D. in Business or Public Administration (with a concentration in Accounting or Finance) as an educational requirement, with “none” listed for specialized experience.

Folks, the announcement for a Foreign Service Financial Management Officer (FMO) says that “applicants with finance-related higher education and specific experience in financial management or accounting are preferred” but the education requirement for applicants does not even require a master’s degree, or for that matter, a “Ph.D. in Business or Public Administration with a concentration in Accounting or Finance as an educational requirement”.

Education: Applicants must possess at least a Bachelor’s degree with a minimum of 24 semester hours (36 quarter hours) in accounting or finance earned at the undergraduate or graduate level from an accredited school. Professional certifications such as CPA (certified public accountant) or graduate degrees from an accredited in business, government, or public administration are preferred with concentrations in accounting or finance.

Financial Management Officer

Stitching a Checkered Work Experience to Qualify For Specialized Experience

The Public Diplomacy EPAP with an FP-06 grade requires BA/BS or above in non-related field and 5 years specialized experience in management, oversight and provision of media, marketing, communications, public relations, educational, cultural or journalistic services.

Unless a spouse has that experience already when he/she joined/married into the Foreign Service, it will be a challenge to get that specialized experience after entry.  FS spouses typically take what jobs are available to them at the posts their spouses are assigned to. So they could be working at Public Affairs one tour, at the Consular Section another tour, or as a security escort at yet another post. Which makes it hard to have 5 years specialized experience in specific tracks.

Similarly, Political EPAP requires BA/BS or above in non-related field and 5 years specialized experience in research, monitoring and analysis of political, social, or related conditions and trends, write reports and make recommendations on same. Oh hey, also negotiate policy.

How many folks think this is a new strategery to get to that crucial staffing cuts without a RIF?

Training, Oh, Training – Still on Space A

Selected candidates are encouraged to take related training courses while in Washington, DC during home leave, R&R or personal travel. Financial support for training is not currently available prior to starting a position. However, if a candidate is working and post wishes to fund travel costs and per diem for him/her to take courses at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) or a regional training center, salary will continue to be paid during the training period from central funds. Individuals selected for this program will generally have priority over other EFMs for language and functional training enrollment on a space available basis. Email FLOASKTraining@state.gov for more information.

Is the State Department serious?

It would review its policy of “space available” training for spouses. And it needs to provide internship opportunities for spouses to obtain specialized experience. We know some spouses who went back to school while in the Service but lack the specialized experience due to their inability to find work while posted overseas.

Send us comments if you care. This is a very late night, um morning now for me, and I need to get to bed. Will probably update this later when I am more awake.

#