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!