Snapshot: Foreign Service Family Member Employment by Bureau and Geographic Distribution

Posted: 1:32 am EDT
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Via state.gov/flo (updated as of November 2015)

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Burn Bag: Get a Portable Career, Bake Cupcakes! Geez Louise!

Via Burn Bag:

Quote from FLO at spouse orientation: “You should consider a portable career – you could bake cupcakes and sell them to the embassy staff”. I am a C-suite executive. Cupcakes.

[protected-iframe id=”b73735b2691a4f09efd0239c3061ccd8-31973045-31356973″ info=”//giphy.com/embed/H3csFiMi8aG5O?html5=true” width=”480″ height=”258″ frameborder=”0″ class=”giphy-embed”]

via GIPHY

FLO -Family Liaison Office. FLO’s mission is “to improve the quality of life of all demographics we serve by identifying issues and advocating for programs and solutions, providing a variety of client services, and extending services to overseas communities through the management of the worldwide Community Liaison Office (CLO) program.”

On Family Member Employment, state.gov/M/DGHR/FLO says: “The Family Liaison Office understands that when most family members join the Foreign Service community, they have already established personal and professional lives. Finding meaningful employment overseas is challenging given limited positions inside U.S. missions, language requirements, lower salaries, and work permit barriers on the local economy. The Family Liaison Office (FLO) has a dedicated team of professionals working to expand employment options and information resources to internationally mobile family members, both at home and abroad. FLO’s employment program team will advise individual family members on overseas employment issues, either in person, via email or phone.”

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Asking about the security clearance logjam: “Seriously? I suggest we sent her to FLO…” Seriously, let’s not!

Posted: 12:46 am EDT
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According to Diplomatic Security’s FAQ, the general time to process security clearance averages about 120 days. But the Department of State has apparently initiated a goal to render a security clearance decision in 90 days.   We have, however, heard complaints that eligible family members (EFMs) overseas waiting to start on jobs have been caught in a security clearance logjam with some waiting much longer than four months. We’ve also heard rumors that DS no longer issue an interim security clearance.

So we thought we’d ask the Diplomatic Security clearance people. We wanted clarification concerning interim clearances and the backlogs, what can post do to help minimize the backlogs and what can EFMs do if they have been waiting for months without a response.

We sent our inquiry to Grace Moe, the head of public affairs at the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). We did not get any response. Three days later, we sent a follow-up email to her deputy, and the group’s security clearance mailbox. Shortly, thereafter, an email popped up on my screen from the Security Specialist at DS’s Customer Service Center of the Office of Personnel Security/Suitability:

“Seriously? I suggest we sent her to FLO…”

Somebody suggesting they send Diplopundit to the FLO? Let’s not.    We’re not privy to the preceding conversation on that email trail.  But seriously, a straight forward  inquiry on security clearance should not be pushed over to the Family Liaison Office (FLO) just because it’s related to family members.

So we told DS that we sent the security clearance inquiry to them for a very good reason and that we would appreciate a response unless they want to decline comment.

The lad at the Customer Service Center wrote back with a lame response that they will answer, but he was not sure about our email because it ends with a .net. Apparently, we’re the only one left in the world who has not moved over to dot com.  And he asked if it would be possible to obtain a name from our office.

Whaaaat? The next thing you know, they’ll want a phone date.

We’re sorry to inform you but this Customer Service not only shovels inquiry elsewhere but it also cannot read and see contact names on emails. So days later, Customer Service is still waiting for us to provide them a name that’s already on the email we sent them.  That kind of redundant efficiency is amazing, but we hate to waste any more of our time playing this game.

So we asked a DS insider, who definitely should get double pay for doing the Customer Service’s job. But since the individual is not authorized to speak officially, try not to cite our source as your source when you deal with that DS office.

Anyway, we were told that it is not/not true that DS no longer issue interim clearances.  Apparently, what happens more frequently is that HR forgets to request an interim clearance when it makes the initial request. So you paperwork just goes into a big pile. And you wait, and wait, and wait.  So if you’re submitting your security paperwork, make sure you or your hiring office confirms with HR that they have requested an interim clearance.

We were going to confirm this with HR except that those folks appear to have an allergic reaction to our emails.

In any case, the logjam can also result from the FBI records checks. If the FBI has computer issues, that, apparently, can easily put tens of thousands of cases behind because without the results of the FBI check, “nothing can be done.” There’s nothing much you can do about that except pray that the FBI has no computer issues.

We also understand that the Office of Personnel Security/Stability or PSS is backed up because of a heavy case load. “Posts seem to be requesting clearances with reckless abandon.”  We were cited an example where an  eligible family member (EFM) works as a GSO housing coordinator. The EFM GSO coordinator has access to the same records as the local staff working at the General Services Office but he/she gets a security clearance.

The Bureau of Human Resources determines whether a Department of State position will require a security clearance, as well as the level required, based upon the duties and responsibilities of the position. So in this example, HR may determine that the EFM GSO housing coordinator needs a clearance because he/she knows where everybody lives – including people from other agencies.  Again, that same information is also accessible to the  Foreign Service Nationals working as locally employed staff at GSO and HR.

Not sure which EFM jobs do not require a security clearance.  We understand that HR routinely asks for it when hiring family members.  Of course, this practice can also clog up the process for everyone in the system.  Routinely getting a clearance is technically good because an EFM can take that security clearance to his/her next job.  The Department of State will revalidate a security clearance if (1) the individual has not been out of federal service for more than 2 years and (2) if the individual’s clearance is based on an appropriate and current personnel security clearance investigation.  So the next time an EFM gets a job in Burkina Faso or back in Foggy Bottom, the wait won’t be as long as the clearance only requires revalidation.

And there is something else. Spouses/partners with 52 weeks of creditable employment overseas get Executive Order Eligibility, which enables them to be appointed non-competitively to a career-conditional appointment in the Civil Service once they return to the U.S. A security clearance and executive order eligibility are certainly useful when life plunks you back in the capital city after years of being overseas.

There is no publicly available data on how many EFMs have security clearances. But we should note that EFMs with security clearance are not assured jobs at their next posts. And we look at this as potentially a wasted resource (see below). EFMs who want jobs start from scratch on their security package only when they are conditionally hired. So if there’s an influx of a large number of new EFMs requesting security clearance, that’s when you potentially will have a logjam.

Back in 2009, we blogged about this issue (some of the numbers below are no longer current):

We have approximately 2,000 out of 9,000 family members who are currently working in over 217 missions worldwide.  Majority if not all of them already have, at the minimum, a “Secret” level clearance. And yet, when they relocate to other posts, it is entirely possible that they won’t find work there. The average cost to process a SECRET clearance has been reported to run from several hundred dollars to $3,000, depending on individual factors. The average cost to process a TOP SECRET clearance is between $3,000 and about $15,000, depending on individual factors. Given that most FS folks spend majority of their lives overseas, the $3,000 for a Secret clearance process for EFMs would be way too low. But let’s assume that all the EFMs currently working only have a Secret level clearance – at $3,000 each that’s still 6Million USD right there. Even if only 500 of them lost their jobs due to regular reassignment, that’s 1.5M USD that’s not put to effective use.

So here’s the idea – why can’t we create an EFM Virtual Corps? The EFMs who are already in the system could be assigned a specialization based on prior work experience within the US Mission. When not employed at post, their names could be added to the EFM Virtual Corps, a resource for other posts who require virtual supplementary or temporary/ongoing support online. Their email and Intranet logon should be enabled to facilitate communication while they are on a float assignment and their reporting authority should be a straight line to a central coordinator at Main State and a dotted line to the Management Counselor at post.  I know, I know, somebody from HR probably have a ready list of reasons on why this can’t be done, but – how do we know if this works or not if we don’t try? The technology is already available, we just need organizational will and some, to make this work.

Here’s our related post on this topic: No Longer Grandma’s Foreign Service. You’re welcome to post this on the leadership site behind the State Department firewall. Hey, the somebodies already post our burn bag entries there, so why not this one?

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Burn Bag: The situation regarding spousal employment … probably the most honest response yet

Posted: 1:40 pm EDT
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“Yes, we devote more and better lip service to the problem every year.”  

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— an unnamed regional bureau wag’s response when asked if the situation regarding spousal employment had improved over the years.

 

 

State/FLO’s Global Employment Initiative — How Effective Is It? Plus a New Survey For EFMs

Posted: 12:20  am EDT
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A few years back, the State Department’s Family Liaison Office established the Global Employment Initiative (GEI) to help Foreign Service family members with career development and exploration of employment opportunities while posted overseas. The program employs Global Employment Advisors (GEAs) reportedly to provide on-site job coaching sessions, training workshops, and career development services at no cost to family members. They also “offer networking assistance, information regarding volunteer projects, and support family members’ efforts to engage in the local economy.”

Our overall experience with this initiative was not at all impressive. A locally hired U.S. citizen got the GEI advisor gig at post and spouses interested in networking and finding jobs got on a meet and greet with a couple American companies operating in the host country.  But not a single EFM ended up with a job at post or a career plan through GEI.

There is, of course, the advantage of hiring a local U.S. citizen as GEI advisor, presuming that the individual already has an existing local network and need not have to build one from scratch. But it also has a disadvantage of hiring someone who has no idea how the system works. And that’s how you get a GEI advisor telling an EFM to make handicrafts for sale on Etsy. Because obviously, if you’re an EFM entrepreneur, the Foreign Affairs Manual does not have anything but lots of recommendations for you!

Blog comment: State’s so-called “global employment initiative” is a complete joke (well, except that nobody’s laughing about it). After two assignments I have *never* heard of someone who got a job through GEI. The only thing our regional GEI person ever said that made any sense was “State Department does not owe you a job.” Of course, I never said it did, but that was irrelevant as she then segued into telling me to start a cooking blog or make hand-woven baskets to sell on Etsy.

Image via FAMER, November 2014 (click for larger view)

Image via FAMER, November 2014 (pdf)
(click for larger view)

 

We wanted to learn more about this initiative, its funding, its results. How effective is it in assisting Foreign Service spouses overseas. How many GEI advisors have been hired to-date since its creation?  How many spouses have been helped by the initiative in finding jobs, starting a business, developing career plans, etc. We also wanted to know what is the annual budget for this initiative, and if the return justify the investment. We’ve reached out to the GEI office at the State Department last week but we have not heard anything back to-date.

If you have a personal experience with the Global Employment Initiative — if you’ve found a job, started a business, created a successful career plan, or able to develop a career through GEI while posted overseas, let us hear from you in the comments section or send us an email.  We will have a follow-up post if we have enough response.

In related news, State/FLO would like to explore ways to connect family members with professional telework opportunities and is  conducting a survey until the end of March to determine the skills, education and experience of family members in the Foreign Service:

The Family Liaison Office (FLO) is investigating ways to connect interested family members with professional telework opportunities.  To do this, we need current statistics on the education, skills, and experience of our Foreign Service family members.  The questions were developed with input from the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW), the non-profit Foreign Service community organization. FLO will use this information to more effectively communicate with companies and organizations about the advantages of hiring talented mobile professionals.  Your responses are anonymous and the survey should take less than 5 minutes to complete.

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FLOEmployment

We understand that the FLO intends to use this information to “more effectively communicate with companies and organizations about the advantages of hiring talented mobile professionals.”  We wanted to know if this outreach includes hiring managers at the State Department and/or USAID, and other federal agencies for telework opportunities. We’ve asked but have not heard a response to this specific question.

Why were we asking?

Because.

If the State Department is trying to impress “companies and organizations” to take advantage of hiring talented mobile professionals who are Foreign Service members, but the agency itself will not hire them to take advantage of their talent — well, what message does that say?

They’re smashingly great, hire them to telework for you because we won’t?

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State Dept Spouse Employment: “Let’s not pretend that this system is working as advertised”

Posted: 12:07 EST
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One of our favorite FS bloggers is Kelly from Well That Was Different. She has spent the last 25 years living and traveling in Latin America, Africa and Europe with her FSO spouse.  Kelly recently wrote a blogpost on spouse employment in the Foreign Service.  We excerpted the following with her permission.  We should add that she is not/not an employee of the State Department, so hold your bite, you silly tigers. If the somebodies from the alphabet soup offices read this, we suggest full, undivided attention.

Excerpt from Who Are You Calling Eligible?

Any spouse can tell you about jobs that are advertised, but actually “reserved” for the spouse of a certain officer. Or jobs that are not advertised at all, even though they should be, because someone has already been handpicked for the job. Any spouse can tell you about jobs that were assigned to someone who might not even have arrived at post yet, who might even be on their first FS tour, who simply kicked up more of a fuss than others. Any spouse can tell you about positions that were mysteriously created out of thin air for male spouses who “have” to have a job (sorry, but it happens).

So, let’s not pretend that this system is working as advertised. If it did, then frustration probably wouldn’t be as rampant among the EFMs who choose to participate in it. Spouse employment is always named as the number one morale issue in the Foreign Service. There are valid reasons for this—and they can’t all be blamed on shrinking budgets or post 9/11 security requirements.

A good friend who was once an EFM and is now an FSO says that you have to choose. If you are serious about having a “real” career as the spouse of a Foreign Service Officer, the only option is to become an FSO yourself. If you don’t do that, then forget about having a linear, highly remunerative, career. It’s not a popular point of view, but I have to say, based on over 25 years of experience, that I agree with her. Repeatedly having to compete for scraps at every post is just not a satisfying trajectory. I have noticed that it seems to make a lot of spouses pretty unhappy.

Read in full here.

Only 2,736 eligible family members (EFMs) are working within U.S. missions overseas (pdf). As of November 2014, 64% or 7,449 family members overseas — out of a total of 11,620 — are not working.

Family Member Employment, State Department, Nov 2014

Family Member Employment, State Department, Nov 2014 (click image for larger view)

I went and look at the FLO website just now.  Good heavens, the Global Employment Initiative (GEI) is still on!  That exciting program “helps family members explore employment options and opportunities, and provides career development services.” Want to know how effective is that program? Me, too!

 

The State of Foreign Service Family Member Employment 2014 – Which Bureau Tops for Jobs?

— Domani Spero
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Last year, we posted about the  family member employment in the Foreign Service (see The State of Foreign Service Family Member Employment 2013 — Where Are the Jobs?).  We’ve extracted the following from State/FLO’s April 2014 (pdf) numbers and put them next to last year’s numbers. The female/male numbers for overseas family members remain at 78%/22%.  Family members working inside the mission increased from 24% in 2013 to 25% in 2014.  Those working outside the mission increased from 12% to 13%.  Family members who are not working went from 64% in 2013 to 62% in 2014. A pretty slim change with over 7200 family members still not working either by choice or due to severely limited employment opportunities overseas. We should note that  the FLO data is dated November 2013,which is after the summer transfer season and April 2014, which is before the summer rotation.

Family Member Population Overseas

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fam pop 2013

Employment Status – Overseas Family Members

2014

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2013

FAM 2013

 

Family Member Employment Overseas – Inside the Mission

By Regional Bureau

2014

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2013

fam reg 2013

SCA –  where 63% of family members at post are working

The FLO employment data does not include details of full-time or part-time work or job shares, or the types of jobs inside or outside the mission. But if you want to work, the chance of getting a job is higher in the Bureau of South Central Asian Affairs (SCA) where 50% of family members are employed with the embassy and 13% are employed outside the U.S. mission. At 63%, SCA has the most number of family members working at post, however, the bureau also has the smallest number of family members located at posts. In the AF bureau, 50% of over 1500 family members at post were able to find jobs inside the mission (35%) and outside the mission (15%).

SCA_Bureau_400_1

 

WHA/EUR – where most number of positions located

Posts in the Western Hemisphere and Europe have the most number of approved positions for overseas family members.  These positions more than double the number of positions approved in each of the SCA and NEA bureaus. However, you will also note that only about 1/5 of family members in those respective bureaus (EUR-21%, WHA-22%) are able to  working inside the mission in April 2014. Last year, EUR had 19% while WHA had 23% working inside the mission.  This is not surprising since EUR and WHA have the most number of family members at post. The larger the family member population, the less jobs available to go around.

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Employment Outside the Mission

2014

Where are the jobs?

The FLO’s break down of outside the mission jobs are perhaps too broad to be useful. For instance, 30% of outside the mission jobs are in the field of education but we cannot tell if these are local teaching jobs, online teaching, or something else. There are 199 family members engaged in telework, but we can’t tell in what fields from looking at this graphic.The same goes for working in the local economy, home business and freelancing.  If this is meant to be more than a snapshot of family member employment overseas, to actually help folks plan career-wise when moving overseas, we’d suggest that this annual report be beef up with additional details.

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2014 Expanded Professional Associates Prog. Open Season Starts This Month For Eligible Family Members

— Domani Spero

The State Department’s 2014 Open Season of the Expanded Professional Associates Program (EPAP) will begin this month. It is open to any Appointment Eligible Family Member (AEFM) of a career (direct hire, not contract) government employee of any federal agency currently serving (or will be serving) in a full-time position overseas under Chief of Mission Authority. For the exact language on who qualifies as an AEFM, see 3 FAM 8212.

A quick summary of the program:

EPAP provides 186 professional level Foreign Service full-time positions, funded centrally, primarily by the Department of State and some through ICASS, to appointment eligible family members (AEFMs) serving overseas. Each Regional Bureau is authorized a number of these positions, as determined by the Under Secretary for Management.

EPAP positions are available in Political, Economic, Public Affairs, Management, Financial Management, General Services, Human Resources, Information Management, Office Management or Medical (physician or nurse) areas. Grades range from FP-07 to FP-04.

Posts identify which positions they would like filled via EPAP and the respective Regional Bureau evaluates and creates a list of positions that HR/FLO will advertise during the open season.The announcement notes that more positions than can be filled are advertised because there is no guarantee that there will be a qualified family member available at post at the right time to apply for every position. The Regional Bureaus make all hiring decisions based on a range of factors. The bureaus may also choose not to fill an advertised position even if there are candidates who are qualified. There can only be 186 filled EPAP positions in total.

The pay grades for the EPAP positions run from  FP-07 which pays about $34,324— $50,406 to FP-04 which has an annual salary of 53,003— $77,837.  According to the announcement published by state.gov  the number of EPAP positions authorized for each Regional Bureau are as follows:

  • Africa/AF 23
  • East Asia Pacific/EAP 35
  • European Affairs/EUR 42
  • International Org/IO 5
  • Near Eastern Affairs/NEA 25
  • South Central Asia/SCA 25
  • Western Hemisphere Affairs/WHA 31

Each Regional Bureau has identified a primary and alternate point of contact who can answer candidates’ questions on specific positions advertised by region.  Click here for contact emails (see item #7).

For those interested in EPAP positions, the process is a two-parter.  Interested applicants must first complete and pass an online Business Writing Test administered by ACT, Inc. (Registration will take place January 27–February 21, 2014 and the testing will take place February 1–28, 2014). Note: The Business Writing Test must be completed by February 28, 2014. Only those applicants who pass the Business Writing Test are eligible to submit an application. The second part of the process is for prospective candidates to submit a completed application package, via USAJobs.gov when the announcement is issued in late February/early March

For additional information on the program, please review the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) published by state.gov.  For general questions regarding EPAP, e-mail: FLOaskEPAP@state.gov.   Prospective candidates preparing for the open season, are encouraged to read the official information available here.

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One More Reason Why Professional EFM Jobs Matter Now

 

The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) calls population ageing one of the biggest challenges of our century. While working age adults currently make up the largest share of the population in the UNECE region and percentages of dependent children and older adults are relatively small, this situation is changing rapidly. In Europe, there are now 4.4 persons of working age per one person 65 or older. By 2025, there will be 3.1 and by 2050 only 2.1. To help its member States make the appropriate policy responses, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) is launching a series of Policy Briefs on Ageing. Drawn from the latest insights in research, the Briefs highlight strategies for policymakers and offer good practice examples for the variety of policy contexts found in the UNECE region.

One of the policy briefs is on gender equality, work and old age. Excerpted below is the section citing the link between labor force participation and social security.  Although this brief refers to ECE countries, I see some particular relevance to this and trailing accompanying spouses and partners in the Foreign Service.

The truth is — despite progress in the workplace in the United States, trailing accompanying spouses particularly women (whether they like it or not), eventually regress into the traditional gender division of labor when posted overseas.  The inability of most Foreign Service spouses (81% of total population is female) and partners to pursue their careers while they are overseas (on their spouses’ government orders) will likely impact their financial and social security in old age. And since the female life expectancy in the United States is now 81.43 and expected grow to 86.62 in 2050, I think of this issue as a possible double whammy future fraught with peril.

From the report:

Elderly women outnumber elderly men in all countries of the UNECE region. They are more likely to live in poverty and to be affected by disability and restrictions of mobility. They are more represented among those living in residential care and are at bigger risk of elderly abuse. Many elderly women are widows and at an economic disadvantage due to low incomes. To tailor adequate social policies to respond to an increasingly ageing society, it is important to take into account these gender differences.
Financial and social security of women and men in old age is connected to their current and previous participation in the labour market. Gender differences in socio-economic status are partially rooted in the traditional gender division of labour, where men bear the primary responsibility for breadwinning – that is, for paid work – and women for unpaid housework and family care. This has an impact on men’s and women’s ability to accumulate social security entitlements for their pension age.

 

Nevertheless, it is desirable that men and women are able to form their family and work lives during their working age period in the way that best suits their personal needs without risking their security in old age. To shape the political framework for gender equality throughout the life course, three strategies are important. The first is to enable and encourage women, and mothers in particular, to participate in the labour market and build careers in the same way as men do. Among others things, this would contribute to their social security entitlement in old age as well as to the current pay-as-you-go pensions system of their countries. Secondly, women who decide to take a career break due to caring responsibilities should nevertheless enjoy social security in old age. A gender-assessed pension system would need to compensate for this. Thirdly, it should be acknowledged that support from family members traditionally plays an important role in the care of older persons and can often be the most desirable form of such care for those involved. Therefore, working-age family members need to have the opportunity of assistance when undertaking such caring tasks.

 

Frankly, I can imagine a gender-assessed pension systems in some parts of Europe, but not in the United States.  Click here to read the full brief.  To read the other policy briefs, check out UNECE launches Policy Briefs on Ageing.

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