@StateDept Spox Talks Foreign Service Retirement Numbers, Paris vs. Pakistan

Posted: 5:02 am ET

 

According to a State/HR workforce document, the actual retirements and retirement projections for the Foreign Service are as follows:

  • FY2015: 186 FSOs/178 FSSs retirements (or a total of 364) – actual
  • FY2016: 229 FSOs/185 FSSs (or 414 total, average 34 retirements/month) – projection
  • FY2017: 219 FSO/187 FSSs  (or 406 total/ave 34 retirements/mo) – projection
  • FY2018: 195 FSOs/193 FSSs (388 total/ave of 32 retirements/mo) – projection

For non-retirement separations (including resignations), the actual number for non-retirements separation and non-retirement separation projections for the Foreign Service are as follows:

  • FY2015: 93 FSOs/82 FSSs (a total of 175) – actual
  • FY2016:  61 FSOs/43 FSSs (104 or 9 ave separations/month) – projection 
  • FY2017: 56 FSOs/39 FSSs (95 or  8 ave separations/mo) – projection
  • FY2018: 57 FSOs/36 FSSs (93 or 8 ave separations/mo) – projection

The spokesperson gave the press an update on retirements, but the numbers did not include non-retirement separation (this includes resignations, transfers, and deaths, as well as “selection out” of tenured employees and non-tenured decisions for entry level FS employees).  If journalists simply ask for the resignation number, that number would only be one component of the non-retirement separation data.

The State Department’s DGHR has the actual numbers of retirements/non-retirement separations of Foreign Service officers and specialists for FY15, FY16, FY17, and FY18-todate. It should release those numbers. It will allow us to get a comparative view of attrition in the State Department. It will also allow us to see if the retirement/non-retirement separations are within the projected numbers made by its HR professionals in late 2016. Why? Because the agency’s own HR folks projected that the average annual FS attrition over the next five years will essentially mirror the average annual attrition of the previous five years. Obviously, that will no longer be the case with the looming staff reduction and buyouts but FY16-FY17 would still be useful markers to look at.

Since the State Department has pushed back on the narrative that the State Department has been gutted, here is its chance for some real show and tell. Somewhere in DGHR’s bullpen, somebody has these numbers and can potentially see a trend if there is one. But if we have those numbers, we, the public can also look for ourselves and decide if the “sky is falling” or if this is just a normal part of the plan.

But you know, even if the numbers show that State is not “gutted” now, even if the numbers are at par with last year’s, at some future time when the staff reduction and buyouts are fully in effect, over 2000 positions will still be eliminated from the State Department. We understand that State/HR has been sending “some serious signaling” — making reps available, sending links to necessary forms for retirements, transfers or reassignments, links to retirement courses at FSI, contact info for employee benefits, etc. So we can talk about retirement numbers all we want, that staffing reduction plan is marching on.

The State Department needs about 1,700 employees to leave through attrition, and some 600 to leave via buyouts. If the spokesperson is right, that the retirement in 2017 is “roughly on par with the number that retired in 2016” then … wait — does that mean that it’s staff reduction plan has not moved the needle?  Which is it? Can’t have it both ways, folks.

Via DPB, December 12, 2017:

QUESTION: — I was interested in listening to hear for updated figures, if you all have them, about retirements, resignations over the course of the past 11 months. He didn’t really address that. There was one brief mention of the size of the Foreign Service being roughly the same as it was at this point last year.

MS NAUERT: I do have some numbers for you, some updated numbers for you. But I want you all to keep in mind that these numbers are constantly changing. As people make decisions about retiring, we may see some new changes – or some new numbers in the coming weeks. But I do have an update for you. But go ahead, finish – if you want to finish the question —

QUESTION: Well, that’s – I just —

MS NAUERT: That’s it? Okay. So —

QUESTION: I’d like one more, but that’s the – but not about the numbers.

MS NAUERT: Okay. All right. I’ll take the numbers first and then we’ll go to your next one and get to everybody else. In terms of our career Foreign Service officers and specialists, here are some of the preliminary accounts that we have – counts, pardon me. From February the 1st to October the 31st of 2017, 274 career Foreign Service officers and specialists have retired during that time period. That is roughly on par with the number that retired in 2016. That number was 262. So 274 this year, up till October the 31st, that same time period last year was 262.

QUESTION: What about resignations?

MS NAUERT: Uh, let’s see. Retirements – I’m not sure that I have anything on actual resignations.

QUESTION: Well, you’re probably aware that in recent days there’s been a flurry of new reports about the – about mid- to lower-level people resigning out of frustration, anger —

MS NAUERT: I saw one news article about —

QUESTION: — disappointment.

MS NAUERT: — a woman who retired in Africa, or decided to step down.

QUESTION: Well, she didn’t retire; she resigned.

MS NAUERT: She resigned; pardon me.

QUESTION: So I’m curious to know about numbers of resignations rather than retirements because if you look – if someone resigns rather than retires, and doesn’t have benefits, is not vested, that’s – it’s a little bit different than a retirement. So I’d be curious, if it’s possible, to get the numbers of resignations of —

MS NAUERT: I will – I will certainly check in with our human resources people and see what I can find for you in terms of the number of resignations that we’ve had.

QUESTION: Okay. And then the last one, which will be also very brief, was that the Secretary, in response to some question, I believe, made a mention of how staffing at posts, some posts in Europe – and I think he named London, Paris, and Rome – might go down as people are repositioned. I’m wondering if this is in any way analogous to what former Secretary of State Rice put in place with this – her concept of transformational diplomacy, where she also talked about shifting significant numbers of diplomats from European capitals to places of – India, Indonesia, Pakistan, rising places. And if it is analogous, how? Because it – her initiative was not combined with a goal of reducing staffing by 8 percent.

MS NAUERT: Okay. Well, first of all, I wouldn’t compare what the Secretary mentioned today to what Secretary Rice had done in the past. And I say that because the Secretary now – Secretary Tillerson – has looked at some of our posts, some of our very, very well-staffed posts in places like Paris and London and elsewhere, and certainly they do great work there. But we also have posts where perhaps more people are needed, where there are perhaps issues that are very pressing that need a lot more attention.

So I think as the Secretary looks at some of these bigger posts in very well-off countries, industrialized countries where the issues aren’t as grave as in other places, he’s looking to maybe see if we can reconfigure things to put more people in posts where there may be more people needed.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MS NAUERT: So that’s why I wouldn’t compare it to Secretary Rice’s. Yeah, hi, Nick.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, he said that there would be no office closures. Does – is he saying now that there will be no closures of consulates in countries in Europe as part of this shift in resources?

MS NAUERT: I don’t think so. I think – and we’ve spoken about this in the past. I think he’s just looking at it, saying, hey, look. Look at Paris. Look at London, where – I don’t know what the numbers are, and you know we don’t announce those numbers anyway. But they’re – it’s a huge staff in some of these places. And if you look at that and compare it to – and this is just me saying this – if you compare it to a place like Pakistan, they might need more people in Pakistan. They might need more people in Venezuela. They might need more people elsewhere than they have in these beautiful postings like Paris.

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Dear Secretary Tillerson: What Are You Going to Do About This? #16Days

Posted: 3:40 am ET
 

 

A new mail in our inbox:

“In reference to a blog posting dated August 8th, you reported on a woman who was raped and stalked by a supervisory special agent.  This employee is still employed and he has struck again.  Why is he still employed yet still committing offenses?”

The new case includes a petition for temporary restraining order/injunction filed on November 13, 2017. It appears that the petitioner in this case did testify but the injunction hearing is scheduled for April 2018.

Back in August, we blogged about an individual who asserted that she was raped and stalked by a supervisory Diplomatic Security agent assigned to one of Diplomatic Security’s eight field locations in the United States:

She said that was interviewed by Diplomatic Security’s  Office of Special Investigations (DS/DO/OSI) in November 2014. She also said that she provided a Victim Impact Statement to DS/OSI in December 2015. The investigation reportedly concluded in February 2016 with no disciplinary action. She informed us that during one telephonic conversations with a Supervisory Special Agent, she felt pressured to say that “I was pleased with the DoS handling of this case.” She presumed that the call was recorded and refused to say it.  She cited another case that was reported around the same time her case was investigated in 2014.  She believed that there were multiple police reports for the employee involving different women for similar complaints.

We’ve asked the Bureau of Diplomatic Security for comments about this case, and whether this was reported to the Office of Inspector General. To-date, we have not received an acknowledgment to our inquiry nor a response to our questions despite ample time to do so.

Read more: A Woman Reported to Diplomatic Security That She Was Raped and Stalked by a DS Agent, So What Happened?

We are aware of at least three different incidents allegedly perpetrated by the same individual who has law enforcement authority. One of these three identifies herself as “Victim #4”.

Per Department of State Authorities Act for Fiscal Year 2017:

1 FAM 053.2-6  Required Reporting of Allegations to the OIG (CT:ORG-411;   04-13-2017)

a. Effective December 16, 2016, section 209(c)(6) of the Foreign Service Act of 1980, as added by section 203 of the Department of State Authorities Act, Fiscal Year 2017 (22 U.S.C. 3929(c)(6)), provides:

REQUIRED REPORTING OF ALLEGATIONS AND INVESTIGATIONS AND INSPECTOR GENERAL AUTHORITY.—

(A) IN GENERAL.—The head of a bureau, post, or other office of the Department of State (in this paragraph referred to as a ‘Department entity’) shall submit to the Inspector General a report of any allegation of—

(i) waste, fraud, or abuse in a Department program or operation;

(ii) criminal or serious misconduct on the part of a Department employee at the FS–1, GS–15, or GM–15 level or higher;

(iii) criminal misconduct on the part of a Department employee; and

(iv) serious, noncriminal misconduct on the part of any Department employee who is authorized to carry a weapon, make arrests, or conduct searches, such as conduct that, if proved, would constitute perjury or material dishonesty, warrant suspension as discipline for a first offense, or result in loss of law enforcement authority.

(B) DEADLINE.—The head of a Department entity shall submit to the Inspector General a report of an allegation described in subparagraph (A) not later than 5 business days after the date on which the head of such Department entity is made aware of such allegation.

b. Any allegation meeting the criteria reflected in the statute should immediately be brought to the attention of the relevant head of a bureau, post, or bureau-level office. (Bureau-level offices are entities on the Department’s organizational chart as revised from time to time, see Department Organizational Chart.)

c.  The first report by any Department entity should cover the period beginning December 16, 2016 (the day the law went into effect), and ending not later than five business days before the date of that report. Thereafter, any additional reportable information is due not later than the five-business day deadline stated in the statute. 

See more: @StateDept Now Required to Report Allegations and Investigations to OIG Within 5 Days

The case of the individual in the August blogpost occurred before the Department of State Authorities Act for Fiscal Year 2017 became law. But this latest case was filed on November 13, 2017.

We’ve asked Diplomatic Security for comment but despite ample time to do so, we only hear radio silence.

NADA

We’ve inquired from State/OIG if DS officially reported this case to them, and we got the following response:

“In response to your inquiry, it is best addressed by the Department.”

What the what?! So we end up asking our dear friends at the State Department’s Public Affairs shop:

We recently received information that the same individual is now alleged to have committed similar offenses in another state. This is not the first nor the second allegation. Since DS never acknowledged nor responded to our request for comment, and State/OIG told us we should direct this question to you, we’re asking if you would care to make a comment. What is the State Department’s response to this case involving an individual, a supervisory DS agent with multiple allegations who remains a member of the agency’s law enforcement arm?

Apparently, our dear friends are still not talking to us.  As of this writing we have not received any acknowledgment or any response to our inquiry.  Should we presume from this silence that the State Department hope that we just get tired of asking about this case and go away?

Anyone care that there is potentially a serial offender here?

In 2014, a woman (identified herself as Victim #4) reported that she was raped and stalked by a supervisory agent of Diplomatic Security.

In April 2015, a case was filed for Domestic Abuse-Temp Rest Order against the same person.  The case was closed. Court record says “The court did not issue an injunction against the respondent in this case. The reasons were stated on the record and may be explained in the final order. No adverse inference should be drawn against the respondent when an injunction is denied or a case dismissed. The fact that a petition was originally filed means nothing.” 

On November 6, 2017, another case for “Harassment Restraining Order” was registered against the same individual and closed. The court sealed the name of the complainant. The court record says  “The court did not issue an injunction against the respondent in this case. The reasons were stated on the record and may be explained in the final order. No adverse inference should be drawn against the respondent when an injunction is denied or a case dismissed. The fact that a petition was originally filed means nothing.”

On November 13, 2017, a “Domestic Abuse-Temp Rest Order” was filed against the same individual, and this case is scheduled for an injunction hearing on April 30, 2018.

2014. 2015. 2017.

A source speaking on background explained to us that once Diplomatic Security completes the investigation, its Office of Special Investigations (OSI) sends the case report to the Bureau of Human Resources Conduct, Suitability, and Discipline Division, Office of Employee Relations (HR/ER/CSD).  This office is under the responsibility of the Director General of the Foreign Service, or in the absence of a Senate-confirmed appointee, under the authority of Acting DGHR William E. Todd, who reports to the Under Secretary for Management (currently vacant), who in turn reports to the Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan.

“The most concerning cases can take years and remember, the employee is waiting from CSD to hear proposed discipline. Almost everybody appeals that initial decision. Then they appeal the next decision to the FSGB which, not infrequently, dismisses cases or reduces disciplinary action for timeliness. Each step in the process can take multiple years and DS can’t do anything other than remove law enforcement authority when appropriate.”

This one via State/OIG (ISP-I-15-04):

The Bureau of Diplomatic Security, OIG, and/or the Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR) may initially investigate misconduct involving both Foreign Service and Civil Service employees, depending on the nature of the allegation. If an investigation suggests a possible disciplinary issue, the case is forwarded to the Bureau of Human Resources Conduct, Suitability, and Discipline Division, Office of Employee Relations (HR/ER/CSD). Similarly, when a bureau without delegated disciplinary authority or post management determines that misconduct by an employee warrants more than admonishment, they forward documentation to HR/ER/CSD for consideration of disciplinary action. HR/ER/CSD, which has eight staff members, receives about 240 referrals per year.

“Preponderant Evidence” vs “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” Standard via State/OIG:

HR/ER/CSD and bureaus with delegated disciplinary authority are responsible for determining whether disciplinary action is warranted and for developing disciplinary proposals.

The “preponderant evidence” standard is used rather than the higher standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” used in criminal cases.4 The Department is additionally required to establish a nexus between the disciplinary action and the promotion of the efficiency of the service.5 For both Civil Service and Foreign Service disciplinary cases, a proposed penalty is based on the review of similar past discipline cases and the application of the Douglas Factors…”

The Office of the Legal Adviser, Employment Law (L/EMP), and DGHR’s Grievance Staff, along with the Office of Medical Services, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, OIG, DGHR’s Office of Career Development and Assignments, and domestic bureaus or overseas posts, as necessary, cooperate in developing a factual basis for a disciplinary case. HR/ER/CSD and L/EMP clear proposed disciplinary actions from the bureaus with delegated disciplinary authority that involve suspension, termination, or reduction in pay grade for Civil Service employees.

In the 2014 State/OIG report, HR/ER/CSD staff members acknowledge that timeliness is one of their primary challenges and that the case specialists are consistently unable to meet their performance target of 30 days from receipt of a complete referral package to proposal finalization. “The OIG team’s analysis of 891 discipline cases between 2010 and May 2014, for which timeliness data could be extracted from the GADTRK database, revealed that the average time from case receipt to decision letter was 114 days.”

Our source speaking on background elaborated that the reason State/DS has an adverse action list is because it takes so long for the Department to discipline employees, Diplomatic Security “needed a tracking mechanism.” (see Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s “Naughty List” — What’s That All About?).

But. 2014. 2015. 2017.

How many is too many?

How long is too long?

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Ten Ex-Directors General Call on the SFRC to Oppose Stephen Akard’s Confirmation

Posted: 2:30 pm PT

 

We previously blogged about the nomination of Stephen Akard as Director General of the Foreign Service and personnel chief of the State Department.

To-date, we have not heard from AFSA, the professional association and labor union of the United States Foreign Service, or its position on this nomination that has roiled the career service.

On December 8, ten former Directors General publicly opposed the confirmation of Mr. Akard as Director General. They have sent individual letters to each member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and call on the Senators not to confirm the nominee. We are publishing the text and the names of the signatories below:

We, the undersigned, served as Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources at the Department of State and all of us had previous service as ambassadors before assuming that position. Our service as Directors General spans over a quarter century. 

We write today to urge you to vote against the nomination of Stephen Akard for the Director General position. In doing so, we are not questioning the right of the President to nominate a person of his choosing to this position nor do we question the legality of the nomination. We have no personal animus toward Mr. Akard and believe that Mr. Akard might well be suitable for other senior positions in the State Department. Rather, we write out of deep concern that he is not qualified for the enormous responsibilities of this position.

The Director General is at the apex of the Department’s personnel system, responsible for maintaining the professionalism of employees to whom we entrust the security and well-being of the United States in the global environment. The DG provides oversight and guidance as Chair of the Board of the Foreign Service to the entire Foreign Affairs community. He or she must be conversant with the vast array of laws and procedures that serve as a basis for the personnel system. For that reason, the Foreign Service Act stipulated that the incumbent had to come from the professional Foreign Service.

While the nominee meets the definition of the law, Mr. Akard does not have the experience, hence the knowledge, required to perform in this position. We honor the nominee’s eight years in the Foreign Service at the entry and lower midlevel ranks of the Service. However, service at that level gives the person no experience at the level of senior management where critical decisions are made. The Director General fulfills a position equivalent to a military Service Chief. This nomination would be like nominating a former, out of the army, captain to replace the four-star Chief of Staff of the Army.

Service in senior positions and first-hand experience become critical when the Director General is called upon to advise ambassadors, undersecretaries and assistant secretaries on personnel matters. While staff can advise on the rules it is up to the Director General to advise on exceptions. This is precisely the kind of judgment for which the nominee lacks the relevant background.

In addition, personnel in the Department of State include Civil Service and locally employed staff as well as Foreign Service. Civil Service employees work under a different system than Foreign Service while performing critical functions in support of the conduct of U.S. foreign policy. Locally employed staff have yet different rules. The nominee has no relevant experience managing multiple personnel systems.

A significantly important attribute for successful service as Director General is the regard that employees have for the individual serving in the position. The Director General must be well respected, admired for his or her leadership and honesty and integrity. Employees, many of whom have or are serving in dangerous positions must have confidence that the incumbent understands their concerns, most likely has seen or experienced the same or similar situations as that of the employee, and thus will make fair and just decisions. He or she must deal daily with the many factors affecting recruitment including increasing the diversity of the Department, promotion, discipline, family issues, and retirement. The Director General must have the knowledge and experience to advise the Secretary of State and the Undersecretary for Management on the realities of the global personnel system. The nominee has no experience that would reassure State employees that he understands the personnel system or will stand for them when the inevitable crises occur.

The ability to counsel is central to an effective Director General. All of us devoted considerable care in mentoring employees. This mentoring occurs at all levels in the personnel system, from ambassadors facing issues in their embassy to entry level officers seeking guidance on their careers. The nominee may be gifted in interpersonal relationships, but that is undermined if the incumbent cannot relate to those seeking his advice.

In conclusion, we ask that you not advance this nomination. A strong professional personnel system is vital to the nation’s security. It must be led by a person who has risen through the ranks to senior positions enabling the incumbent to make vital decisions both for the Department at large and the individuals as well.

Thank you for your serious consideration of our concern and your support for a strong professional and well-trained team at the State Department to carry out the vital mission of promoting and protecting America’s interests around the world.

The letter above was signed by the senior officials listed below. These are ten of the last twelve Directors General with tenures that spanned from 1989 to 2013. The two DGHRs who are not signatories are Harry Keels Thomas Jr.  who served from 2007–2009, and is currently the U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe, and Arnold A. Chacon who served as DGHR from 2014-2017 (see DGHR Arnold Chacón Steps Down, One More @StateDept Office Goes Vacant).

Ruth A. Davis
Director General (2001-03)
U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Benin (1992-95)

Edward W. Gnehm, Jr.
Director General (1997-00)
U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait (1991-94), USUN (1994-97), Australia (2000-01), and Jordan (2001-04)

Marc Grossman
Director General (2000-01)
U.S. Ambassador to Turkey (1994-1997)

Genta Hawkins Holmes
Director General (1992-95)
U.S. Ambassador to Namibia (1990-92) and Australia (1997-00)

W. Robert Pearson
Director General (2003-06)
U.S. Ambassador to Turkey (2000-03)

Edward J. Perkins
Director General (1989-92)
U.S. Ambassador to Liberia (1985-86), South Africa (1986-89), United Nations (1992-93), and Australia (1993-96)

Nancy J. Powell
Director General (2009-11)
U.S. Ambassador to Uganda (1997-99), Ghana (2001-02), Pakistan (2002-04), Nepal (2007-09), and India (2012-14)

Anthony C.E. Quainton
Director General (1995-97)
U.S. Ambassador to Central African Republic (1976-79), Nicaragua (1982-84), Kuwait (1984-87) and Peru (1989-92)

George M. Staples
Director General (2006-07)
U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Rwanda (1998-01), and to the Republics of Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea (2001-04)

Linda Thomas-Greenfield
Director General (2012-13)
U.S. Ambassador to Liberia (2008-12)

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Snapshot: @StateDept’s Civil Service and Foreign Service Retirements, January-October 2017

Posted: 1:33 am ET
Updated: 11:01 am PT
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The following are clips with the names of Civil Service and Foreign Service employees who retired from the State Department from January to October this year. The names were published in the monthly trade magazine of the State Department. It looks like there are three non-career appointees included in the lists below. Political ambassadors conclude their appointments at the end of their tours, they do not “retire” from the Foreign Service as they are not career members. (Correction: We understand that if, at the time of conclusion of the non-career appointment, the person has sufficient federal government service (in various capacities during an entire career) and is otherwise eligible for federal retirement benefits, then the person can, in fact, “retire.” We do not know if they get Foreign Service retirement). We’ve asked if these names come from the Bureau of Human Resources but we have not received a response as of this writing. An unofficial source told us that these names come from HR but that there is typically a lag of a couple of months from actual retirement to publication of the name in State Magazine.

The *June and *July/August lists are particularly problematic due to some duplication of names on both lists but we’re posting these here for a snapshot of the departures. This does not include non-retirement separations. Based on these imperfect lists, the total retirements for the first 10 months of 2017 are at least a couple hundred employees each for the Civil Service and the Foreign Service. And we still have a couple months to go.

However, since the federal government manages its records by fiscal year, DGHR should already have the retirements and non-retirement separation data for FY2017 that ended on September 30, 2017. The State Department has always been proud of its low attrition rate, if our HR friends want to tout the FY2017 attrition data, let us know.

January 2017 – CS-24; FS-14

February 2017: CS-10; FS-45

March 2017: CS-47; FS-25

April 2017: CS-43; FS-25

May 2017: CS-16; FS-4

*June 2017: CS-54; FS-56


*July/August 2017: CS-41; FS-57
September 2017: CS-17; FS-34

October 2017: CS-11; FS-22


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@StateDept Needs a Better Defense Than This Nominee’s Management of a “Large State Govt Agency”

Posted: 4:25 am ET
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Foreign Policy recently did a piece on the Stephen Akard appointment as DGHR, calling him a “Pence pal”:

A State Department spokesman pushed back on the criticisms, saying his nomination is “an indication of how committed the Trump administration is to improving how the federal government operates and delivers on its mission.” […] Akard “has a unique background in both foreign affairs as well as a successful track record managing a large state government agency,” the State Department spokesman told FP. “If confirmed, we believe his experience will benefit the men and women of the State Department,” the spokesman added. Akard left the foreign service in 2005 to work for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

The State Department spox told FP that Akard’s “unique background” and “successful track record managing a large state government agency” will “benefit” the State Department.

So hey, that got us curious about just how big is the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) where Mr. Akard previously worked as ” chief of staff, vice president and general counsel, and director of international development” from 2005 -2017. We asked IEDC how may employees support the state corporation but we have not received a response as of this writing.

However, based on the State of Indiana Employee Directory (PDF here, pages not numbered, so use the “find” function), there are some 15 offices within IEDC.  These offices include Account Management with seven employees; Communications with  three staffers; Policy with five employees, and the largest office in IEDC, Business Development has 16 staffers. About 80 state employees are listed as working in the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC). How many of these employees did Mr. Akard actually managed? And even if he did manage the entire IEDC and its over 80 employees — c’mon spoxes –the DGHR manages over 75,000 Foreign Service, Civil Service and locally employed staff. Good grief!

The spox needs a better argument on why they think this nominee is the best individual to lead DGHR; the defense they currently have — citing the management of “a large state government agency” with less than a hundred employees is  just plain pen-pineapple-apple-pen-silly.

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American Academy of Diplomacy Opposes Nomination of Stephen Akard as @StateDept Personnel Chief

Posted: 2:10 am ET
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In a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) Chairman Bob Corker and Ranking Member Ben Cardin, released publicly on October 30, the American Academy of Diplomacy (AAD) requests that the senators oppose the nomination of Stephen Akard to be Director General of the Foreign Service:

The American Academy of Diplomacy requests that you oppose the nomination of Stephen Akard to serve as Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources at the State Department. We have concluded that voicing our concerns with Mr. Akard’s nomination is required if the Academy is to meet its most important mission: to promote and protect America’s interests in a dangerous world by supporting an effective American diplomacy based on a strong Foreign Service and a strong Civil Service.

It looks like the AAD requested to meet with the nominee but had not been successful. The letter authored by former senior diplomats Ambassadors Tom Pickering and Ronald Neumann on behalf of the group says about Mr. Akard, “We hold no personal animus toward him.”  But added that ” … we have concluded that Mr. Akard lacks the necessary professional background to be the Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources at the State Department. His confirmation would be contrary to Congress’s long standing intent and desire to create a professional American diplomatic service based on merit.

The letter further adds: “While Mr. Akard is technically eligible for the position, to confirm someone who had less than a decade in the Foreign Service would be like making a former Army Captain the Chief of Staff of the Army, the equivalent of a four-star general.”

The full letter is available to read here (pdf).

We’ve previously blogged about the Akard appointment on October 17 (see Trump’s Pick For @StateDept Personnel Chief Gets the Ultimate “Stretch” Assignment).

With the exception of noting this nomination on Twitter, and separately urging FS members “to embrace their roles as stewards of the institution”, we have not seen any public position on this nomination by the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), the professional association and labor union of the Foreign Service since 1924.

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Trump’s Pick For @StateDept Personnel Chief Gets the Ultimate “Stretch” Assignment

Posted: 12:01 am PT
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On October 10, President Trump announced his intent to nominate former FSO Stephen Akard to be the next Director General of the Foreign Service. This position is typically not just the Director General of the Foreign Service but also the head of Human Resources for the State Department (DGHR).

Stephen Akard of Indiana to be Director General of the Foreign Service, Department of State. Mr. Akard has served as a senior advisor in the Office of the Under Secretary for Economic Growth, U.S. Department of State since January, 2017. Previously, he was chief of staff, vice president and general counsel, and director of international development for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation from 2005 -2017. From 1997 to 2005, Mr. Akard was an officer in the foreign service at the Department of State, with assignments in India, Belgium, and as a special assistant in the Executive Secretariat. He earned his B.A., M.B.A., and J.D. degrees from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis(IUPUI). While at the State Department, Mr. Akard received two Meritorious Honor awards. He also received a distinguished alumni award from IUPUI in 2000.

According to its website, “the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) is the State of Indiana’s lead economic development agency. The IEDC was officially established in February 2005 to replace the former Department of Commerce. In order to respond quickly to the needs of businesses, the IEDC operates like a business. Led by Indiana Secretary of Commerce Jim Schellinger and IEDC President Elaine Bedel, the IEDC is organized as a public private partnership governed by a board of directors.” The IEDC Board of Directors is chaired by the Indiana Governor. Mr. Akard has previously traveled with then Governor Mike Pence in trade missions to: Japan, Germany, Israel, Japan, and China (not an exhaustive list).

The Kelley School of Business at Indiana University lists Mr. Akard as part of the Advisory Board and has additional details of his prior assignments in the State Department; it does not mention being “a special assistant in the Executive Secretariat” as the WH-released bio, but as “a special assistant to Secretary of State Colin Powell”:

Akard oversees Indiana’s overseas economic development offices and works to attract international investors to the state as vice president and general counsel for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC). Previously, Akard served as a career foreign service officer with the U.S. Department of State, holding positions as a special assistant to Secretary of State Colin Powell; political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Brussels, Belgium; and as a consular officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Mumbai.

Mr. Akard’s name appears on congress.gov’s list of appointees as Consular Officers and Secretaries in the Diplomatic Service of the United States of America submitted in October 1997, and confirmed by Senate voice vote on March 6, 1998 (see PN793). He is also on a list of Foreign Service Officers of Class Four, Consular Officers confirmed by Senate voice vote on July 11, 2001 (see PN508). If there are other records, we have so far been unable to locate them.

The May 1998 issue of State Magazine also noted Mr. Akard’s pre-assignment training to Mumbai, India, as was the practice in those days, but that’s about it from State’s official rag.  Talented and up and coming FSOs typically do end up as special assistants to the secretary of state, the top ranks at the State Department or the Executive Secretariat; or it used to be that way, not sure if they’re asking for blood oath these days.  Secretary Powell left State in January 2005, and he was succeeded by Secretary Condi Rice in 2005. We have not been able to find a notice of Mr. Akard’s 2005 departure from the Foreign Service but it looks like he joined the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) on the same year that he left the Foreign Service.  We understand that he left the Service because “he was offered a great job working for Indiana.”  Somebody who knew him way back when told us “he is a super nice guy.”

Mr. Akard would not be the first member of the Foreign Service to resign from the Service and return to Foggy Bottom under a new appointment. The most recent example is the current Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Carl Risch (see Ex-FSO Who Once Advocated Moving Visas to DHS May be the Next Asst Secretary For Consular Affairs).  Both the afsa.org tracker and history.state.gov lists Mr. Risch as a non-career appointee. If Mr. Risch who served approximately three years, and one overseas tour is considered a non-career appointee, would Mr. Akard who served eight years with two overseas, and department tours also be considered a non-career political appointee? More importantly, is Mr. Akard considered a former career member of the Foreign Service?

Below is the relevant part of Section 208 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 (22 U.S.C. 3928) is amended to read as follows:

§3928. Director General of Foreign Service

The President shall appoint, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, a Director General of the Foreign Service, who shall be a current or former career member of the Foreign Service. The Director General should assist the Secretary of State in the management of the Service and perform such functions as the Secretary of State may prescribe.

(Pub. L. 96–465, title I, §208, Oct. 17, 1980, 94 Stat. 2080Pub. L. 103–236, title I, §163, Apr. 30, 1994, 108 Stat. 411.)

Last month, the Academy of American Diplomacy wrote a letter (PDF) to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that includes the following part that we thought curious at that time.:

We believe the key positions of the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, the Director General, and the Dean of the Foreign Service Institute should be career Foreign Service Officers. The Director General, a position established by the Act, should be appointed from those that have the senior experience and personal standing to guide the long-term future of the staff needed for effective diplomacy. We respectfully ask that Congress get clarification as to whether it is the Department’s intention to nominate an appropriately senior serving or retired Foreign Service Officer for the position of Director General.

So now we know why the group of former senior diplomats sought that clarification.

One source points out that a “career member of the Foreign Service” is anyone who has been appointed as such, meaning “any tenured Foreign Service member.” The source also said that Mr. Akard’s appointment “though troubling in that his FS experience is limited and he clearly chose not to make it his career – would not violate” the Foreign Service Act.

Another keen observer of the Foreign Service explains that the Foreign Service Act of 1980 says “current or former career member” but he/she is not aware that anyone has previously tried to define those terms. Does that mean any former tenured member of the service? Does that mean any current FS member regardless of rank? Does that mean any member of the FS who retired, resigned, or anyone who voluntarily left for other reasons? And if an appointee is considered a former career member, does that mean the appointment is subject to the reappointment regs under the Foreign Affairs Manual, and also subject to its limitations?

Folks we talked to notes that the Akard appointment, if confirmed by the Senate, would certainly end the interpretation and practice that the Director General position be a senior career Foreign Service Officer of distinction.  To be clear, the language of FSA of 1980 does not destinguish between foreign service officers and foreign service specialists or make any mention of ranks.  But the observer points out that the spirit of Section 208 suggests that the intent was that the Director General be a senior Foreign Service Officer, active or retired, but someone who served a full career, to enable him/her to “assist” the Secretary of State in the “management of the Service.” A full career typically would mean service of at least 20 years. This point appears to be true in tradition and practice when we look at the appointees to the DGHR position going back to 1946 — all are senior career FSOs with significant experience. Prior appointees to this position include Ambassador Nancy Jo Powell who was appointed four times as ambassador prior to her appointment as DGHR; Ambassador Anthony Cecil Eden Quainton was also a four-time ambassador and twice an assistant secretary; Ambassador Alfred Leroy Atherton Jr. was NEA Assistant Secretary and twice an ambassador; Ambassador Nathaniel Davis was three times an ambassador before becoming DGHR; Ambassador Waldemar John Gallman was ambassador to Poland, South Africa, and Iraq before becoming DGHR, and on and on.

One could argue that the career diplomats previously appointed as DHGR were primarily diplomats and not personnel/organizational development experts. But it does not appear that the current nominee has personnel or organizational development expertise either to compensate for the gaps in his diplomatic/organizational experience: a former FSO who previously worked one tour (normally two years for junior officers) as a political officer, and another tour as a consular officer, if confirmed by the U.S. Senate, will need to manage a 75,000 global workforce that is facing not only funding cuts, demoralization, but also organizational transformation.

To borrow the Foreign Service parlance, this is the ultimate “stretch” assignment but it is likely that this nomination will get confirmed by the Senate. While the Senate’s confirmation process has at times been described as a “knife fight”, no executive nominations have been returned to this President or disapproved by the Senate during the current Congress. Senator Corker still runs the SFRC, but despite the tit-for-tat on Twitter with POTUS, the confirmation process has been humming along. We’ll be in the lookout for Mr. Akard’s confirmation hearing.

A side note here — for the first time, the White House this year has reportedly refused to submit an FSO’s name recommended for promotion by the Promotion Board for Senate confirmation this year. We understand that this specific case is winding through the grievance process, but we suspect that it could also end up in litigation. That case could have repercussions for Foreign Service members whose promotions and appointments are subject to White House concurrence and Senate confirmation.

Below via history.state.gov:

Congress created the position of Director General of the Foreign Service in the Foreign Service Act of 1946 (P.L. 79-726; 60 Stat. 1000). Between 1946 and 1980, the Secretary of State designated the Directors General, who held rank equivalent to an Assistant Secretary of State. The Director General became a Presidential appointee, subject to the advice and consent of the Senate, under the Foreign Service Act of 1980 (Oct 17, 1980; P.L. 96-465; 94 Stat. 2071). Since Nov 23, 1975, under a Departmental administrative action, they have concurrently held the title of Director of the Bureau of Personnel.

 

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Burn Bag: 2017 S-III Selection Board – Who Volunteers … Who Volunteers as Tribute?

Via Burn Bag:

“Given the lack of action by either the DG, HR/PE or AFSA, it is evident all support cronyism and undue influence on the 2017 S-III Selection Board given that a single individual has been chosen by HR/PE to represent DS 50% of the time over the past 6 years. This, despite other qualified candidates volunteering time & again. This wreaks of favoritism, undue influence and undermines the credibility of the Foreign Service promotion process.”

via giphy

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Related item:

3 FAM 2326.1 Selection Boards
3 FAM 2326.1-1 Composition:
f. All selection board members must be approved by the Director General and must not serve on a selection board for two consecutive years.

 

 

DGHR Arnold Chacón Steps Down, One More @StateDept Office Goes Vacant

Posted: 2:41 am ET
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We’ve learned from our sources late Friday that Ambassador Arnold Chacón, the Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources at the State Department has tendered his resignation. Ambassador Chacón, a member of the Career Senior Foreign Service, was sworn in on December 22, 2014. He heads the bureau with 800 Civil and Foreign Service employees “who carry out the full range of human resources activities essential to recruiting, retaining and sustaining” the State Department’s 75,000+ workforce.  Prior to his appointment as DGHR, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala from 2011-2014. He previously served as Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Madrid from 2008-2011, and has served as the Department of State’s Deputy Executive Secretary.

One source later told us that Ambassador Chacón’s email recalled that he had tendered his resignation January 20, and that it had been accepted as of June 1 (also see Patrick Kennedy, Other Officials Step Down – Yo! That’s Not the “Entire” Senior ManagementRecipe For Disaster Transition @StateDept: Situation AltNormal, All Fucked Up).

Ambassador Chacón reportedly talked about “looking forward to a next assignment.” Since he is a career diplomat, it is likely that he will rotate to a new assignment after he steps down as DGHR. Whether he gets another ambassadorial apost or another State Department assignment remains to be seen.

Since there is no public announcement on who will succeed Ambassador Chacón, we are presuming at this time that the next highest ranking official at his office will be in an acting capacity until a new nominee is announced and confirmed by the Senate. That appears right now to be Ambassador Jo Ellen Powell who is the Principal Deputy Secretary of State (PDAS) at the DGHR’s office. Prior to her appointment at DGHR, she was the U.S. Ambassador to Mauritania from 2010-2013. Her other prior assignments include serving as Director of the Office of Employee Relations and assignments in the Executive Secretariat and the European Bureau Executive Office.

Perhaps, the notable thing here is that Ambassador Chacón steps down from his post (as did other career officials who were let go last February), with no successor officially identified or nominated (also see Patrick Kennedy, Other Officials Step Down – Yo! That’s Not the “Entire” Senior ManagementRecipe For Disaster Transition @StateDept: Situation AltNormal, All Fucked Up).  Given that a long list of top posts at the State Department has been vacant since February, a Senate-confirmed DGHR position could remain empty for months.

So now the State Department not only has no DGHR who manages personnel and assignments, its Under Secretary for Management slot also remains vacant.  Folks, we gotta ask — who’s going to be Assistant Secretary for personnel and everything — the new Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, or Secretary Tillerson’s chief of staff Margaret Peterlin? This is a chief of staff so enigmatic, the State Department has kept her biographic page in Morse code (one looong dash, one dot). See Bloomberg’s profile of Tillerson’s “enigmatic” chief of staff.

With the State Department reorganization gearing up between June and September, and with workforce reduction looming large in Foggy Bottom and at overseas posts (with a real potential for a reduction-in-force), it is nuts to remove the top HR official and one of the last Senate-confirmed officials still at post — with no successor in the pipeline. We gotta wonder, what were they thinking?

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

Posted: 1:39 am ET
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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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