13 Going on 14 — GFM: https://gofund.me/32671a27
Rex Tillerson was confirmed and assumed charged of the State Department on February 1, 2017 as the 69th Secretary of State. He was fired on March 13, 2018 and left Foggy Bottom for the last time on March 22, 2018. Below is the comparative look of Foreign Service family member employment numbers inside overseas missions from Spring 2014 to Spring 2018. Overseas missions include over 275 diplomatic and consular posts overseas located in 191 countries.
Posted: 4:18 am ET
SmartBrief is a digital media publisher of targeted business news and information by industry. It publishes more than 200 niche e-mail newsletters in partnership with leading trade associations and professional societies. One of its directors who manages a team of business news writers/editors reached out to us because he was looking for talent in time zones outside the United States and at diplomatic spouses in particular as a potential talent pool. We’re sharing a job post for a full time job below (we are not paid to do this, we’re looking at the possibility of expanding on job leads in the future as a service to our EFM readers). We may be able to share job leads for part-time jobs in the future if there is a good response. Check this out and send us feedback when you can.
Finance Editor (Overnight)
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See the original job post and application page here.
Posted: 2:30 am ET
On February 20, the State Department through its Family Liaison Office published the 2018 Spring/Summer positions available under the Expanded Professional Associates Program (EPAP). EPAP is different from other family member employment opportunities in that it has portfolios similar to Foreign Service entry-level positions. EPAP positions are also centrally funded by the Department of State (not post funded) and are administered by the appropriate Washington regional or functional bureau. Last month, the State Department also released its new qualification standards (PDF), and required previously qualified employees/applicants to re-qualify for these jobs (see @StateDept Releases New Strategery For Diplomatic Spouse Professional Employment #Ugh).
Each of the regional bureaus and IRM are creating a list of EPAP positions that are available now and that are expected to become available through summer 2018. These positions will soon be advertised via a vacancy announcement on USAJOBS.gov. Positions that are not filled through this announcement or that become available in fall/winter 2018 will be advertised at a later date.
Appointment Eligible Family Members (AEFMs) who would like to be considered for one or more positions are required to submit an application. AEFMs may only submit applications for positions that are available at their sponsor’s post of assignment. They must either already be at post or be arriving at post within six months of the EPAP advertisement. AEFMs must be able to work at least one full year in the position from the time of hire.
2018 Spring/Summer Positions
Note: Medical positions for all bureaus outside of NEA and SCA will be added soon. Position lists are subject to change; check back often for updates.
Lists as of February 20, 2018:
Each bureau can only fill up to the number of vacant positions allocated. More positions than the number actually available are advertised to give maximum flexibility to both applicants and bureaus in seeking good matches for the positions.
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:
Posted: 1:33 am ET
On Monday, December 18, the State Department reportedly announced that Secretary Tillerson approved a number of additional personnel actions as follows:
#1. An A-100 class with a start date of March 19, 2018
#2. A Specialist Class with a start date of April 2, 2018
#3. Resumption of Civill Service lateral movement within the Department beginning January 7, 2018
#4. Resumption of internal Civil Service competitive promotions beginning January 7, 2018
#5. Approval of 30 new Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) hires from the 2016/2017 PMF cohorts
#6. Approval of an additional 20 PMF hires from the 2018 cohort
#7. Conversion of 20 pathways interns to full-time Civil Service permanent positions
“The State Department has now confirmed intent to hire only 101 new FSOs (including 55 Pickering and Rangel Fellows) in 2018, down from 366 in 2016…
That hiring target—101—is the lowest in at least a quarter of a century.“ https://t.co/92ILNZVSK8
— Scott Cheney-Peters (@SCheneyPeters) December 16, 2017
In related news, on December 12, Tillerson announced several immediate changes attributed to the redesign at the State Department (see Tillerson Announces “Immediate Changes” From Redesign, USAID is Now in the GAL – Yay?). The number one item on the list of “wins” was the “Expanded Opportunities for Eligible Family Members” and the announcement that the State Department was “lifting the hiring freeze for 2018 EFMs and providing the bureaus with greater placement flexibility.”
We have since learned from two sources that “lifting” the hiring freeze actually means a 50% lift. We understand that Bureaus will be allowed to fill 50% of their EFM jobs, and they will have the authority to make those decisions themselves, instead of those requests going all the way up the godpod.
Also it turns out USAID is also already in the GAL (the last item on Tillerson’s list of immediate changes)? What’s that? Tillerson’s inner circle celebrating the town hall should not do a happy dance? And no cookies either?
But seriously — what process did the redesign teams go through that resulted in this decision to lift, excuse me, lift the hiring freeze for 50% of 2018 EFMs?
What kind of study are they conducting regarding the rest of the EFM jobs?
What was the decision process for imposing this freeze in the first place, we’d really like to know.
Because unless Tillerson is planning on some post closures, these EFM jobs are needed at our overseas posts whether there’s a redesign or not, whether it’s now or later. The work will still be there: community liaison, mailroom clerk, security escort, security office assistant, general service assistant, etc. Are they going to come back after the “redesign” is completed and say go ahead, you may now hire the other 50% because we’ve figured out posts need them afterall? Or are they going to lift the other 50% the next time Tillerson gets into a dire press patch, and needs another “win”.
So you know, it’s good that 50% of diplomatic spouses waiting for jobs overseas will now be able to fill some jobs but this still doesn’t make sense. To us, this still feels capricious.
Posted: 12:25 am ET
All Foreign Service posts in Africa receive post hardship differential, that is, an allowance meant to provide “additional compensation of up to 35 percent over basic compensation for the majority of employees officially stationed or detailed to a mission with extraordinarily difficult living conditions, excessive physical hardship, or notably unhealthful conditions.” More than half of all AF posts have been designated “Historically Difficult to Staff” meaning fewer than three at- grade/in-skill-code bids were received in three of the last four summer bidding cycles. Of all AF posts, 47 percent (24 posts) have also been designated ” Service Need Differential” that is, 20 percent hardship differential/standard 2 year tour of duty gets a 15 percent bump in pay if employees agree to serve a third year.
According to State/OIG, the AF Bureau’s FY2017 staffing includes 1,147 American Direct Hire overseas, 572 local staff, 140 reemployed annuitants (retired Civil Service or Foreign Service employee rehired on an intermittent basis for no more than 1,040 hours during the year), and 14 rover-employees based overseas who go where they are needed. State/OIG also says that the AF bureau relies on 399 eligible family member employees for its overseas staffing. The 399 EFM employees are not specifically excluded from the State/OIG 1,147 count; we calculate that family member employees encumbering direct-hire positions constitute 34 percent, or a third of the bureau’s overseas workforce. If the 399 employes are in addition to the 1,147 count, the number would be 25 percent, or a quarter of the bureau’s overseas workforce.
To be sure, staffing the AF Bureau’s posts has suffered from longstanding difficulties. Unfortunately for everyone with few exceptions, the 69th Secretary of State sure made it worse.
On January 23, 2017, President Trump ordered a freeze on the hiring of Federal civilian employees to be applied across the board in the executive branch (see OMB Issues Initial Guidance For Federal Civilian Hiring Freeze (Read Memo); President Trump Freezes Federal Hiring Regardless of Funding Sources (Read Memo).
In April, while the OMB lifted the hiring freeze, the State Department with very few exceptions continued with its self-imposed freeze (see No thaw in sight for @StateDept hiring freeze until reorganization plan is “fully developed”). On April 12, 2017, the State Department posted a statement indicating that the current hiring freeze guidance remained in effect particularly as it affected the hiring of Foreign Service family members (see Are #EFM positions literally about to become…extinct under #Tillerson’s watch?).
During the first week of August, amidst cascading bad press of his stewardship of the State Department, Secretary Tillerson quietly “approved an exemption to the hiring freeze that will allow the Department to fill a number of priority EFM positions that are currently vacant. This exemption gives posts authority to fill critical vacancies supporting security, safety and health responsibilities.”
The hiring freeze snared folks who transferred between January and July (FLO April data says 743 jobs were pending due to security clearance or hiring freeze). Deputy Secretary Sullivan told members of the press on August 8 that “almost 800 EFMs [that] have been approved since this – the hiring freeze was imposed.” So, that’s like everyone who’s been waiting since January. And we were all so happy to see folks granted the exemptions that we forgot to ask who’s the “bright” bulb who started this mess. And if these EFM jobs were finally filled in August (a month before the end of the fiscal year), these employees could not all show up to work the following week, given all the paperwork needed and security investigations required.
Freezing EFM jobs never made sense. We’re still floored that it lasted that long and no one told S “But that’s nuts!” Despite Mr. Tillerson slip of the tongue (“we’re styling as the redesign of the State Department”), we can’t imagine the “redesign” resulting in zero jobs for diplomatic spouses overseas, not only because EFM jobs makes sense and help post morale, but also because it is the cheaper option. Unless, of course, 1) the “employee-led” redesign teams are proposing that embassies hire third country nationals for mailroom, escort, fingerprinting, and all support services for post overseas, too (yes, we heard North Korean labor imports are way cheaper). Or 2) this is part of the strategery to reduce the FS workforce without going through a reduction-in-force, while maintaining a goal of a 3 for 1 in attrition.
In any case, as we’ve pointed out in May, when the EFMs leave posts during the transfer season, their positions would not have been filled (with very few exceptions) due to the hiring freeze; and they could not be hired at their next posts because of the same hiring freeze. And that’s exactly what happened. In the oral history of the State Department, this will be remembered as that time when the Secretary of State created/produced/delivered one bureau its “most significant management challenge.” We don’t think this is limited to just the AF Bureau but it’s the only one reported on by State/OIG at this time.
Via State/OIG (PDF):
Four previous OIG reports over the past 20 years have highlighted challenges in staffing AF’s overseas posts. OIG found that these challenges persist, despite reforms to Foreign Service bidding and career development processes intended to promote service in hardship posts and bolster bureau efforts to improve recruitment. Hardships at AF’s overseas posts include ethnic violence, deteriorating local infrastructure, evacuations, health risks, high crime, limited recreation opportunities, physical isolation, political instability, pollution, poor medical facilities, severe climates, and substandard schools. All 51 AF posts receive post hardship differential, 27 posts were included in the Historically Difficult to Staff program, and 24 were Service Need Differential posts.
AF’s difficulties in filling its overseas positions were profound. For the 2017 summer bidding season, AF attracted, at most, only one Foreign Service bidder on 37 percent of its positions, leaving 143 of 385 total positions potentially unfilled. The bureau used a broad range of alternative and sometimes costly personnel mechanisms to fill vacancies and short-term gaps. It relied on 399 eligible family member employees, a roster of 140 reemployed annuitants, 14 rovers based overseas, and approximately 50 senior locally employed staff members to fill staffing gaps and support essential services. AF also filled about 25 percent of its 2017 positions with entry-level employees. AF overseas management officers who responded to an OIG survey cited concerns about eligible family member employment as their most significant management challenge. Because of the Department-wide hiring freeze, these positions could not be filled as they became vacant. These vacancies are of concern because, as explained by the Government Accountability Office in 2009, staffing and experience gaps place at risk diplomatic readiness, particularly for high-threat environments such as those in which AF operates.
For readers who are not familiar with the Foreign Service and spouse employment — say you and your spouse arrived at a 2-year assignment at a post in Africa in late October 2016. You found an embassy job in December 2016 but was not officially hired prior to January 22, 2017, so you would have been included in the hiring freeze. When the EFM exemptions were granted on August 4, you would have already waited some eight months to start on that embassy job. Wait, but you needed a security clearance or an interim security clearance which could also take a few weeks to 90 days (or longer). By the time you officially start work, you have some 12-14 months to do the job (maybe less). And then you move on to your next post and do this process all over again. Now, imagine doing this every 2-3 years, that’s the arc of the working life of a diplomatic spouse.
Posted: 2:58 am ET
So our blogpost last April Fools’ Day which made Secretary Tillerson’s inner circle throw a hissy fit (see Inside @StateDept: Leaked Cable Provides Guidance For ‘America First’ Cost Savings Initiatives) includes “lunchies” with the Secretary of State in Foggy Bottom’s cafeteria.
The Secretary is determined to get to know the men and women of this agency, and to that end he plans to eat lunch in the cafeteria once a week when he is not traveling. S/ES is currently working on a lottery that would allow a random employee to be included in the Secretary’s table during the weekly lunches. Lottery guidance will be posted at a later date at https://www.fbu.state.gov/s/es/slottery/.
So now here is real life: Secretary Tillerson, with Chief of Staff Margaret Peterlin having lunch with 4-5 State Department employees presumably to help shore up rock bottom morale in Foggy Bottom. It’s going to take more than a few lunches to do that. But anyway, we understand that the lunches are apparently monthly, and darnit, the lunch companions are not selected via lottery. Well, at least not yet. We estimate that if S is having monthly lunches with 5 employees, that’ll be 60 employees/year. If the CoS gives up her chair, that will be be 84 employees.
“Do you need some Wicked Wasabi with that sushi?” we imagined somebody asked during lunch.
“Be careful, that chili is nasty,” says a familiar warning that would have been issued to every Secretary of State.
Had they added John Sullivan (D), and Tom Shannon (P), it would have been a lunch meeting with the entire State Department leadership.
But seriously, if we can suspend belief for now that this is all theater, this is not a bad start, though a bit late. But given the size of the building and the time demands on Tillerson, they probably can find other activities with a better return for his investment in time and energy — offsite meetings with senior managers (except he has yet to appoint most of them), townhalls where employees can ask questions, or hey, why not an ‘Ask Me Anything’ on Reddit for a couple hours?
But more than words, actions speak louder than words. Like the exemption to the hiring freeze of a number of priority EFM positions issued last Friday (see Unemployment Status of @StateDept Family Members Overseas (4/2017) #ThanksTillerson). Whether the State Department is successfully reorganized or not, there will remain a need for community liaison coordinators, security escorts, consular associates, mailroom clerks, security coordinators, etc. at our overseas posts (also see Are #EFM positions literally about to become…extinct under #Tillerson’s watch?). So the freeze on these jobs did not make a whole lot of sense in the first place. But it did make life at overseas posts more difficult for employees who have to cover for these unfilled positions, and make for distressed diplomatic spouses who already suffer from extended under employment when they go overseas.
He can certainly do a lot more, but will he?
Meanwhile Derek Chollet has a new piece on FP about how future Secretaries of State will study Tillerson’s first 6 mos for lessons of what not to do: Why Has Rex Tillerson Belly-Flopped as Secretary of State? Ouch!
Posted: 2:01 am ET
Updated: 1:51 pm PT for clarity and a new hashtag
Updated: August 5, 10:17 am PT
Updated: 12:07 pm PT
Update: August 5, 10:17 am PT: The FLO website now has a new August 4 update that says: “The Secretary approved an exemption to the hiring freeze that will allow the Department to fill a number of priority EFM positions that are currently vacant. This exemption gives posts authority to fill critical vacancies supporting security, safety and health responsibilities.” This update has no time stamp but must have come out late on August 4.
We understand that this change relates to CLO coordinator positions at Community Liaison Offices. Embassies (USG has 170 of them) and some Consulates General have one CLO, or have two individuals sharing the position as co-CLOs. We believed that a certain number of CLO positions, not all, were made vacant in the winter and the current rotation cycle of personnel. What we don’t know yet is if Tillerson’s exemption is specific to CLO vacancies only, and if that’s the case, how many positions are actually affected.” End update.
Update: 12:07 pm PT: We’re hearing some other EFM exemptions including consular positions are also being approved but we don’t have clarity on all exempted positions or how many. End Update.
According to the FLO website, the Department of State’s current hiring freeze guidance “remains in effect, including with respect to hiring under a Family Member Appointment (FMA) or Temporary Appointment.”
It also says that Eligible Family Members may continue to apply for any advertised position for which they feel they are qualified and the hiring preference will be applied during the process. However, Appointment Eligible Family Members (AEFM) cannot be offered a position at this time due to the freeze on FMA and temporary appointments.
The stats below is from April 2017. It indicates that 6% or 743 EFMs are pending due the clearance process or the hiring freeze. Even if the security clearance process is done, now that the hiring freeze remains in place, is anyone going anywhere? Of EFMs in South Central Asia, 10% are pending, the highest percentage in the geographic bureaus (SCA includes posts like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India). In terms of actual numbers, EUR and WHA have much larger family member population, and they are at 6% and 5% respectively.
Since the 6% will not be able to work unless the freeze is lifted by Secretary Tillerson or the EFMs are issued waivers, the “Not Employed” Foreign Service family members below is not 56% (6,695) but actually 62% (7,438).
Posted: 2:01 am ET
A couple of things we’d like to note here. One, the State Department’s “listening tour” survey only includes “employed family members.” If the survey only includes employment inside/outside U.S. missions, that would include 44% of family members overseas and excludes more than half the family member overseas population. If it only includes current employment inside U.S. missions, that effectively excludes 70% of family members overseas. Family members may be employed at one post and be unemployed at the next one. A prior job at one embassy is not an assurance that that they will have jobs at the next one.
Two, the regional bureaus where we find the highest number of family members employed at U.S. missions are in areas that are challenging and have traditionally been hard to staff:
2) AF/African Affairs, (oh, where do we start?)
According to the November 2016 data, about 300 positions in SCA, 560 positions in AF, and almost 400 positions in NEA are eligible family member positions. When these EFMs leave their posts during the upcoming transfer season, these positions will not be filled (with very few exceptions) due to the hiring freeze; and they can’t be hired at their next posts because of the same hiring freeze.
Embassies and consulates will have to make do without their RSO Security Assistant/Escorts (escorts all non-cleared laborers and other service personnel in or adjacent to controlled access areas (CAAs) where classified materials is stored, handled, processes, or discussed), without Mailroom Clerks (who run the unclassified mail and diplomatic pouch facility at post), without Make Ready Coordinators (who prepare vacant housing units for occupancy), and without Residential Security Coordinators (who conducts security surveys, and coordinate/verifies residential security upgrade work is scheduled and completed, and ensures residential security hardware is installed properly and functioning) — to name a few of the jobs that EFMs perform overseas. The jobs will still need to be done but if folks think that the USG will be saving money, then these folks have a lot to learn.
Imagine the Regional Security Officers (RSO) doing the security escort jobs until the hiring freeze is lifted.
Or let’s have the Information Management Officer do mailroom clerk duty until the hiring freeze is done.
Instead of paying $13/hour for an EFM to do the job, the USG will be paying premium pay for a US-direct hire employee to do the same job. And no, you can’t outsource these jobs to Third Country Nationals from Nepal or to an Indian BPO. The end.