@StateDept Discovers Virtual OnBoarding/Oaths of Office/Training, Classes Will Now Continue

 

On April 5, 2020, Ambassador Ronald Neumann and Ambassador Dennis Jett wrote an op-ed on The Hill about the onboarding issue at the State Department which affected two incoming classes cancelled due to COVID-19:

Imagine the following situation: After a year-long hiring process, you get an offer to start your dream job in government. You quit your current position, terminate the lease on your apartment, pack up the spouse and kids and move to Washington to begin your new life.

But the dream quickly turns into a nightmare. No sooner do you check into your hotel than you are informed that your incoming class of new employees has been canceled because of COVID-19. And since you hadn’t formally started the job, you are not eligible for a paycheck. The only assistance your agency offers is a ticket home — the home that is no longer yours in the town where you are no longer employed.
[…]
That is the situation in which 90 people about to become new Foreign Service officers now find themselves. They were supposed to report for duty at the end of March, but the State Department abruptly told them that for an undetermined length of time they have no job.  

A second class of about an equal number of Foreign Service specialists is equally affected, bringing the total to roughly 175. It didn’t have to be this way. The Office of Personnel Management has advised federal agencies how the “on-boarding process” for new employees can be conducted virtually or remotely.
[…]
State argues, however, that even the first seven-week course that the officers take cannot be done remotely. That is simply not the case; there is no reason such training wouldn’t be as effective.

The Neumann/Jett op-ed has 1137 shares and 134 comments. The comment section, as can be expected these days, is like rumble in the jungle.
On May 1, 2020, DGHR Carol Perez also wrote an op-ed on The Hill, apparently timed for Foreign Affairs Day, to report that the State Department has discovered virtual onboarding, and virtual oaths of office, and that the postponed classes will now continue:

Thanks to our imaginative, committed colleagues, along with new flexibilities granted by the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget, the department is now able to carry out virtual oaths of office, virtual onboarding and virtual training for foreign service officers and specialists starting in May and continuing this summer. 

These new recruits will include candidates from the foreign service classes postponed in March and April. And I am pleased to report we already have virtually onboarded three civil service cohorts.

The Perez op-ed has 202 shares and 28 comments. Also a rumble in the jungle, tho, a smaller jungle.

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@StateDept Suspends All PCS Travel Through May 31

A couple weeks ago, the State Department issued a guidance cable to all Department personnel concerning permanent change of station (PCS) travel and home leave through May 31, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Citing the “myriad uncertainties” and “travel and logistics restrictions”, the State Department  suspended all overseas and domestic PCS travel with very limited exceptions, effective through May 31. Transition from one Washington, D.C. assignment to another does not appear to be affected by this suspension.
This PCS suspension will reportedly be reviewed on May 20 and that this “period may be extended if the situation does not improve.”
The guidance says that exceptions to the suspension of PCS travel may be considered for certain employees like those on curtailments related to health, or mission critical employees (approved by bureau assistant secretary for certain countries, or by the Under Secretary for Management for CDC Level 3 countries or State Department Travel Advisory for Health Level 4 countries), or employees on direct to post transfers.
Diplomatic Security and medical personnel are considered mission critical and those employees are reportedly expected to PCS to their next overseas assignment, unless the Chief of Mission (COM) at the receiving post determines that “health and safety issues outweigh security concerns and prevents their arrival to post.” DS personnel are also told that they should be ready to remain at Post beyond their tour end-date if deemed necessary by their Chiefs of Mission.
The guidance encouraged employees to take their home leave between domestic and overseas assignments. At the conclusion of the home leave, employees are told to “be prepared to telework for their onward assignment at their home leave location.” The guidance further says that all employees are expected to work with their onward post and/or bureau to be assigned suitable duties for telework/remote work following Department protocols. Reiterating a prior cable, the guidance explains what supervisor can grant “weather and safety leave” to U.S. Direct Hires for those regular duty hours for which there is insufficient remote work to assign.
Additional guidance is reportedly expected to be published in the near future.

Surviving the Outbreak, Reflections on ConGen Wuhan’s Evacuation and Life in Quarantine (Via @StateMag)

 

Featured in the  April 2020 issue of State Magazine (published by the State Department’s Bureau of Human Resources) is an article by Russell J. Westergard, the deputy consular chief at the U.S. Consulate General in Wuhan, China.
Surviving the Outbreak, Reflections on ConGen Wuhan’s evacuation and life in quarantine

By mid-October 2019, the dedicated team at the U.S. Consulate General in Wuhan knew that the city had been struck by what was thought to be an unusually vicious flu season. The disease worsened in November. When city officials began to close public schools in mid-December to control the spread of the disease, the team passed the word to Embassy Beijing and continued monitoring. The possibility of a new viral outbreak was always on the consulate’s radar. Still, the working assumption in every scenario had always been that, as in past outbreaks like H1N1 (known as swine flu), it would appear in rural areas first and then spread to major urban centers across China. 

When the Chinese government announced on December 29th that the new and novel coronavirus (COVID-19) had been identified and traced to a live animal market near the U.S. consulate, it caught the team’s attention. Four hectic weeks later, ConGen Wuhan closed under ordered departure with the consulate team pulling off what some people involved have since described as a minor miracle. Consulate staff found themselves at the airport of a paralyzed city preparing to evacuate family members and other U.S. citizens from what would turn out to be ground zero of a deadly global pandemic.

Fast forward to the second week in February. As the ConGen Wuhan team, family members, and the rest of the 195 passengers on board that first flight from Wuhan concluded their 14-day quarantine at the March Air Reserve Base (ARB) in Southern California, the joy and a collective sigh of relief were audible.

Read in full here.

 

DGHR Notifies HR Employees of Measures to Manage COVID-19 in SA-1  

 

We learned from two sources that State Department DGHR Carol Perez sent out an email notice to HR Employees on “Measures to Manage COVID-19 in SA-1 ” on the evening of March 24.  SA-1 is a State Department annex office located on E Street in Columbia Plaza A & B that includes multiple agency tenants like the HR (now GTM) bureau and the Bureau of Administration.

“GTM was notified today of a presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in SA-1.  The person has been out of the office since the close of business Thursday, March 19.”

The email went on to describe the measures the State Department has undertaken including the A bureau cordoning off “space on the floor where the person works for disinfection.” The DGHR’s email notified HR employees that MED and the Bureau of Administration supervised a vendor conducting “a deliberate and professional disinfection of those spaces.”
“The disinfected spaces will be safe for re-occupation tomorrow, March 25,” the DGHR writes. Her email also told employees that “Areas contiguous to those spaces (hallways, elevators) continue to be safe for use” and that  GTM (HR) “remains operational, and the rest of SA-1 remains open as a worksite. ”
The notice ends with a reminder that employees should be aware of CDC guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19 and says that “ Employees should stay home and not come to work if they feel sick or have symptoms of illness.” Employees are also reminded if they are at work to “wash their hands frequently and employ social distancing” and that “Directorates and Offices should not engage in group events of 10 or more individuals at this time.”
DGHR’s closing line said “The health and safety of our employees remains our top priority.  Please take care of yourselves and each other.”
One source told us that the DGHR message was apparently sent only to those in the HR (GTM) bureau. Sender A asks:

“If someone working in HR was exposed, then, ostensibly, does that not mean that anyone else working in that same building (SA-1) might also have been exposed irrespective of whether or not they work for HR? Or that customers of that HR officer who visited SA-1 might’ve been? I mean, really? Are we REALLY stove piping info like this?!”

A second source told us that this was the approach the Consular Affairs bureau took in communicating about the positive case of COVID-19 in SA-17
We don’t know if the presumptive positive case is with HR or the A bureau, but if it’s the latter, it would be weird for HR employees to be notified but not the A bureau, hey?
The top official who says “The health and safety of our employees remains our top priority” can do better communicating information about COVID-19 cases within the State Department. We were informed that there is still “no central info on cases department-wide or measures individual embassies are taking to share best practices or information on gravity of situation.” Note that MED said it is tracking cases. See COVID-19 Tracker: State Department and Foreign Service Posts (March 25 Update).
We’re having a hard time understanding that. This is an agency that takes notes about everything but is unable to track this virus in domestic offices and overseas posts?
These are scary times, no doubt but remember the human. I often do yard work these days to keep my anxiety down or I won’t get anything done.  Different folks deal with anxieties, uncertainties and fears differently, except that it gets more difficult to do absent relevant needed information. Do folks really want to see rumors flying around the annexes? As often said, rumors express and gratify the emotional needs of the community. It occupies the space where that need is not meet, and particularly when there is deficient communication.
Valued employees deserve more.

 

Newly Gilded Bureau of Super Talent Talks About Self, Super Heroes on Earth 2

We received a question of which we have no answer:
Sender A asks, “how much time can they dither while the place collapses?”
What are you talking about?
Oops, folks, you were supposed to change your signature blocks as soon as possible, but preferably no later than last Monday!  Yes, yes, this is terribly very serious. You can’t be a bureau of super talent if you don’t have the approved signature block!
Meanwhile on Earth 2:

On the other hand, things are not as peachy on Earth 1:

Also on Earth 1, also not peachy:

@StateDept’s HR Bureau Rebrands as Bureau of Global Talent Management

 

The Director General of the Foreign Service Carol Perez marked the start of her second year as DGHR by announcing the rebranding of the Bureau of Human Resources into the Bureau of Global Talent Management (GTM).

Somebody notes that the name sounds like “a second-rate modeling agency.”

And how do you pronounce the new acronym … “Get’um”? “Git’um”? “Get’m”?

Apparently, DGHR Perez has previously  mentioned during a bureau town hall that the Global Talent Management “better captures the scope and strategic nature” of the  Bureau’s work.  Always great, great when you add the word “strategic” into the fray, makes everything so strategic.  It supposedly also makes two essential features clear — that the bureau is  a global operation, with over 270 posts in over 190 countries around the world, and that the bureau is in “the talent business”, that is, “recruiting, hiring, retaining and cultivating the best people for the mission.”
We were hoping to hear what happens after “cultivating the best people for the mission” but we were disappointed, of course.
She tells her folks: “I know change is never easy, and I don’t expect it to take place overnight. All of the logistics that go into a name change are being executed in-house. This not only saves resources, but also ensures that the effort is led by those who know the bureau best—our own employees. However, it also means that the full roll-out will be gradual. An ALDAC and Department Notice announcing the name change to the wider workforce will go out later this week, but the full transition will be ongoing. I ask for your patience as signage and digital platforms are updated.”
Why is the HR bureau rebranding? The purported reason being “human resources is a critical bureau function, but not the Bureau’s sole function.”  The DGHR says that “the name “Bureau of Human Resources” no longer represents the full scope of our work, and it lags behind current industry standards. This is one small yet symbolic piece of the Department’s larger efforts to modernize.”
Don’t worry, while HR is not the Bureau’s sole function, it remains an integral part of the bureaus work so there will be no/no change in job titles with one exception. Human Resources Officers (HROs) will not/not become Global Talent Officers  (GTOs) and HR Specialists will not/not become Global Talent Specialists. The one exception is the DGHR. Her full title will be Director General of the Foreign Service (DGHR) and now also Director of Global Talent (DGT). 
The full rollout apparently will be gradual and will include updating signage, updating the digital platforms, e-mail signature blocks, and vocabularies.  Folks should be in the lookout for the Strategic (MY.THAT.WORD. AGAIN) Communications Unit (SCU); it will be sending around a checklist, style guide, and templates so everyone can start living loudly under the new brand.
A few bureau offices will also change their names:
HR/REE (Office of Recruitment, Examination, and Employment) will now be known as Talent Acquisition (GTM/TAC).
HR/RMA (Office of Resource Management and Organization Analysis) should now be called  Organization and Talent Analytics (GTM/OTA).
HR/SS  (Office of Shared Services)  will now be known as Talent Services (GTM/TS).
The announcement makes clear that this is not/not a reorganization and there will also be no/no change in core functions!
So they’re changing the bureau’s name and a few offices names, but everything else stays the same. Yay!
The new name is a “symbolic piece” that will make folks think of the department’s “modernization.”
Yay!Yay!
Makes a lot of sense, really. Of all the problems facing the Foreign Service these days, a bureau’s rebranding  should be on top of it. Change is never easy, so go slow, people, make sure the logos, signage and new paint job are done right.

 

Related posts:

Pompeo Talks About the Only Two Active FSOs in Foggy Bottom’s Top Ranks, Yay!

 

The 70th Secretary of State talks about the only two active FSOs in Foggy Bottom’s senior ranks: the Under Secretary for Political Affairs David Hale and the Director General of the Foreign Service Carol Perez  Mr. Pompeo has so much respect for the career service that there are no active FSOs in the geographic and functional bureaus of the State Department.

Via state.gov:

QUESTION:  Last question on these hearings, Mr. Secretary:  A couple of news outlets have attempted to create a narrative that you are at cross purposes with career staff and morale is low at the State Department.  I know morale at the State Department because my son works there.  I always disclose that when I talk to you.  But your support for the career staff has never been in doubt in my mind.  What do you make of these stories?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  More Washington insider-y stuff, a long history of the press reporting about unhappiness at the State Department, especially, frankly, in Republican administrations.  The truth of the matter is my team, my senior team, which includes folks like David Hale and Carol Perez, very capable senior Foreign Service officers, are doing good work investing in the future of the institution, investing in our diplomacy, working hard to deliver good outcomes for the American people.  I’ll leave it to others to characterize morale.  It’s a big organization.  I’m sure there’s lots of different thoughts, but suffice it to say the American people should be comfortable knowing that we are continuing to do the hard work to deliver good policy outcomes for President Trump and the United States.

 

@StateDept’s New “One Team” Award For Employees Includes $10,000 Prize, Certificate, and a Glass Statuette

 

We recently posted about the new ‘One Team’ four-day pilot course at the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute (See Foreign Service Institute Rolls Out Pompeo’s Pursuit – A ‘One Team’ Four-Day Pilot Course For “Everyone”). Early last month, DGHR Carol Perez also tweeted about the new ‘One Team’ Award (sorry, the nominations were due on August 29).
In mid-July, the ‘One Team’ Award was official added to the Foreign Affairs Manual. The FAM says that “This annual award recognizes a current employee or contractor who exemplifies the Departments Professional Ethos, a true champion of American diplomacy and servant of the American people.”
This award is open to employees who are in the Foreign Service, the Civil Service, locally employed staff, non-Senate confirmed political appointees, and contractors. It carries a prize money of $10,000 USD, a certificate signed by the Secretary of State, and a glass statuette. Please note that if the awardee is a contractor, he/she will only receive a certificate and letter of recognition both signed by the Secretary of State and provided to the individual’s company, but no monetary award.
A lucky runner-up will also receive a letter from the Secretary of State. The Department employee recipient will have that letter placed into his/her personnel file.
The Foreign Affairs Manual says that the winning nominee will be chosen by a Selection Committee chaired by the Deputy Secretary or his/her representative and including three other committee members designated by the Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources (Director General). We’ve asked DGHR Carol Perez for the names of the Selection Committee members. Easy question, nothing sensitive, it’s a Pompeo project, and we’ve used please and thanks, you guys. But some folks, you know, pretend we’re just a ghost in space, and can’t hear us. That’s all right, somebody please use a ghost whisperer and let us know who gets the $10K and the glass statuette this year. 

3 FAM 4832.25 The One Team Award

3 FAM 4832.25-1 Description

(CT:PER-952; 07-18-2019)
(State Department)
(Applies to Foreign Service, Civil Service, Locally Employed Staff, non-Senate confirmed political appointees, and Contractors)

a. This annual award recognizes a current employee or contractor who exemplifies the Departments Professional Ethos, a true champion of American diplomacy and servant of the American people. The award recognizes an employee or contractor whose exceptional professionalism, integrity, responsibility and leadership enabled results-producing teamwork, particularly in the face of challenging circumstances.

b. Department employee recipients will receive $10,000, a certificate signed by the Secretary of State, a glass statuette which is a miniature of the large One Team Award, and a letter from the Secretary of State for his/her official personnel file.

c. Contractor recipients will receive a certificate and letter of recognition, both signed by the Secretary of State and provided to the individuals company in appreciation of the contractors performance, in coordination with the contracting officer.

d. A runner up will be selected and will receive a letter from the Secretary of State. For Department employee recipients, the letter will be placed into his/her personnel file.

3 FAM 4832.25-2 Eligibility

(CT:PER-952; 07-18-2019)
(State Department)
(Applies to Foreign Service, Civil Service, Locally Employed Staff, non-Senate confirmed political appointees, and Contractors)

All current Department of State employees serving in the Foreign Service, Civil Service, as Locally Employed staff, or as non-Senate confirmed political appointees, and current contractors are eligible for nomination and consideration. Only employees are eligible to receive the monetary award and statuette. Contractors are not Department employees.

3 FAM 4832.25-3 Criteria

(CT:PER-952; 07-18-2019)
(State Department)
(Applies to Foreign Service, Civil Service, Locally Employed Staff, non-Senate confirmed political appointees, and Contractors)

Selection is based on exceptional leadership by an individual who:

(1) Demonstrates and communicates a clear understanding of the link between individual and team contributions, and the importance of working together with a shared mission and sense of purpose;

(2) Takes ownership and accepts responsibility for his/her actions and decisions, and projects uncompromising personal and professional integrity, as exemplified in the Departments Professional Ethos Statement;

(3) Fosters effective collaboration within and across office, Bureau, and mission lines that produces outstanding results; and

(4) Respectfully guides and supports teams to enable them to overcome challenging circumstances and achieve Department objectives.

3 FAM 4832.25-4 Nominating and Approval Procedures

(CT:PER-952; 07-18-2019)
(State Department)
(Applies to Foreign Service, Civil Service, Locally Employed Staff, non-Senate confirmed political appointees, and Contractors)

a. Any current employee may nominate an eligible individual who they think meets the award criteria.

b. Nominations do not require endorsement or supervisory approval.

c. Nominations should be submitted using the one-page nomination submission form available on the HR/PE website.

d. The winning nominee will be chosen by a selection committee chaired by the Deputy Secretary or his/her representative and including three other committee members designated by the Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources (Director General). Members of the selection committee must recuse themselves if they have any financial interest in or personal ties to any nominated contractor or contracting company under consideration for the award.

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Inbox: “One rule for me, one rule for thee”

 

Sender A writes:

“So the new *DG has served five overseas tours — two in Spain, two in Italy, and one in Chile as Ambassador. Yet, all I get is emails and cables from the DG’s office telling me about how I’ll need multiple *PSP tours to make Senior Foreign Service and a post now has to be 20% to be fair share. I’m not sure she’s the best one to be making these arguments. Do as I say and not as I do. One rule for me, one rule for thee.”

*

  • *DG: Director General of the Foreign Service
  • *PSP: Priority Staffing Post

 

Via reactiongifs.com

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@StateDG Perez Swears-In Career Diplomat Lynne Tracy as US Ambassador to Armenia

Posted: 3:52 am EST

 

On August 26, 2008 gunmen ambushed FSO Lynne Tracy’s vehicle in Peshawar, Pakistan, riddling the car with bullets. She survived the attack. Her Award for Heroism reads: “In recognition of your brave service as Principal Officer in Peshawar, Pakistan from September 2006 to August 2009. Despite a violent kidnapping attempt and threats against your life, you remained at this critical post to complete your mission with steadfast courage and gallant leadership.” See HRC Presents Heroism Award to Lynne Tracy

On February 19, she was sworn-in as the new Ambassador to the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan, Armenia.