A Look at @StateDept Staffing Losses Between FY2016-FY2017 #ThisCouldGetWorse

Posted: 12:28 pm PT
Updated: Feb 13, 2:02 pm PT

 

We’ve written previously about staffing and attrition at the State Department in this blog. We’ve decided to put the staffing numbers in FY16 and FY17 next to each other for comparison. The numbers are publicly released by State/HR, and links are provided below.

Since the State Department had also released an update of its staffing numbers dated December 31, 2017 for the first quarter of FY2018, we’ve added that in the table below.

FY2016 saw a high water mark in the total number of State Department employees worldwide at 75,231.  There were 13,980 Foreign Service employees (officers and specialists), 11,147 Civil Service employees and 50,104 locally employed (LE) staff members at 275 overseas posts.

The Trump Administration took office on January 20, 2017. On February 1, 2017, Rex W. Tillerson was sworn in as the 69th Secretary of State. With the exception of the month of January, note that Secretary Tillerson was at the helm at State for eight months in FY2017 (February-September 30, 2017), and the first three months of FY2018 (October 2017-December 2017).

With 75,231 overall number as our marker, we find that the State Department overall was reduced by 351 employees at the end of FY2017.  On the first quarter of FY18, this number was reduced further by 476 employees.  Between September 30, 2016, and December 31, 2017 — 15 months — the agency was reduced  overall by 827 employees (including LE employees).

FY2017 did see six, that’s right, six new FS specialists, and 256 LE staffers added to its rolls (see That FSS Number for additional discussion on that six FSS gains). Note that LE staffers are generally host country nationals paid in local compensation plans with non-dollarized salaries.

Data also shows that there were 68 more FS/CS employees overseas. We interpret this to mean 68 more FS/CS employees assigned overseas, and not/not necessarily new hires. The FSO ranks were reduced by 107 officers, and the Civil Service corps was reduced by 500 out of a total of 25,127 American employees by September 2017. The Foreign Service was further reduced by 197 employees, and the Civil Service reduced by 144 employees by December 31, 2017.

Tillerson on Track

Mr. Tillerson goal is reportedly to reduce the department’s full-time American employees by 8 percent by the end of September 2018, the date by which Mr. Tillerson has purportedly promised to complete the first round of cuts. A November 2017 report  calculated the 8 percent as 1,982 people with 1,341 expected to retire or quit, and 641 employees expected to take buyouts. The data below indicates that the State Department’s American FS/CS employees at 25,127 in FY2016 was reduced by 948 employees by December 31, 2017, a reduction of 3.8 percent.  If the buyouts, as reported, occurs in April 2018, Tillerson would be at 6.3 percent reduction by spring, with five months to get to the remaining 1.7 percent to make his 8 percent target by September 30. And this is just the first round.

Projected Attrition

In 2016, the State Department already projected that between FY 2016 and FY 2020, close to 5,400 career FS and CS employees (21 percent) will leave the Department due to various types of attrition (non-retirements, retirements, voluntary, involuntary). That’s an average of 1,080 reduction each fiscal year from FY2016-FY2020.  Even without a threat of staff reduction, it was already anticipated that the State Department was going to shrink by 1,080 employees every year until 2020.  We think that part of this estimate has to do with the graying of the federal service, and the mandatory age retirement for the Foreign Service, but also because of the built-in RIF in the Foreign Service with its “up or out” system. Anytime we hear the State Department trimming its promotion numbers, we also anticipate more departures for people who could not get promoted.

It’s Not a RIF, Just Shrinking the Promotion Numbers

Tillerson made the staff reduction his own by announcing a staffing cut and a buyout. This was obviously a mistake, but what do we know? What this signals to us is a lack of understanding of how the system was intended to work most especially in the Foreign Service. This is a mistake that he could have easily avoided had he not walled himself away from career people who knew the building and the system that he was trying to redesign.

Yes, the reduction in State Department workforce was in the stars whether Tillerson became Secretary of State or not. There is a regular brain drain because the Foreign Service is an “up or out” system. Some diplomats who are at the prime of their careers but are not promoted are often forced to leave.  But to get more people to leave, Tillerson does not even need to announce a RIF, he only need to shrink the promotion numbers. A source familiar with the numbers told us that in 2017, 41 FSOs were promoted from FS01 to the Senior Foreign Service (SFS), down from an average over the past five years of 101, or a 60% decrease. Across the Foreign Service, we understand that the average decrease in promotion numbers is about 30% percent.

In the rules books, the Director General of the Foreign Service is supposed to determine the number of promotions of members of the Foreign Service reviewed by the selection boards by “taking into account such factors as vacancies, availability of funds, estimated attrition, projected needs of the Service, and the need for retention of expertise and experience.” This decisions is based on “a systematic, long-term projection of personnel flows and needs designed to provide: (1)  A regular, predictable flow of recruitment into the Service; (2)  Effective career development to meet Service needs; and (3)  A regular, predictable flow of talent upwards through the ranks and into the SFS.”

The State Department does not even have a Senate-confirmed DGHR. The last Senate confirmed Director General Arnold Chacon left his post in June 2017 (see DGHR Arnold Chacón Steps Down, One More @StateDept Office Goes Vacant). Bill Todd who is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary is now acting Director General of the Foreign Service & acting Director of Human Resources, as well as “M” Coordinator. The Trump Administration has nominated ex-FSO  Stephen Akard to be the next DGHR (see Ten Ex-Directors General Call on the SFRC to Oppose Stephen Akard’s Confirmation).

Burning Both Ends of the Candle

The surprise is not that people are leaving, it is that people that you don’t expect to leave now are leaving or have left. An ambassador who retires in the middle of a three-year tenure. The highest ranking female diplomat who potentially could have been “P” retired. A senior diplomat retiring while at the pinnacle of his diplomatic career five years short of mandatory age retirement. A talented diplomat calling it quits while there’s a whole new world yet to be explored. The highest numbers of departures are occurring at the Minister Counselor level, and at the FS01s and below level (PDF). That said, these numbers as released and shown below, are still within the previously projected attrition numbers for FY2017. The FY2018 numbers is the one we’re anxious to see.

Tillerson’s staff reduction is not even the most glaring problem he gave himself. Basically, Tillerson’s State Department is burning both ends of the candle. The diplomatic ranks were reduced by 225 in December 31 last year but State will reportedly only hire a hundred in FY2018. There are rumors of only hiring at 3 for 1 to attrition. If this is the plan, Tillerson will surely shrink the diplomatic service but by not ensuring a smooth flow of new blood into the Service, he will put the institution and its people at risk. For instance, there are about 2,000 Diplomatic Security agents. Let’s say 21 percent or 420 agents leave the agency between now and 2020, and the State Department hires 140 new agents during the same period. The work will still be there, it will just remain unfilled or the positions get eliminated. A three-person security office could shrink to two, to one, or none. In the meantime, the United States has 275 posts overseas, including high threat/high risk priority posts that require those security agents.  What happens then? Are we going to see more contractors? Since contractor numbers are typically not released by the State Department, we won’t have any idea how many will supplement the agency’s workforce domestically and overseas.

The Foreign Service Specialists (FSS) Count

So if we look at the first table below (thanks JR), note that the total Foreign Service Specialists (FSSs) number is 5,821. A State Department release in November 29, 2017 confirms the 5,821 figure. But this figure as you can see here (PDF) includes Consular Fellow gains (previously known as Consular Adjudicators) in FY2017 (231), FY2016 (141), FY2015 (70), FY2014 (35) and FY2013 (37). The numbers are not clear from FY13 and FY14 because the counts were not done at the end of the fiscal year but midyear and end of the year. As best we can tell, the State Department HR Fact Sheet counts Consular Fellows as part of its FSS count in fiscal years 2015-2017.

The result is that the career FSS count is artificially inflated by the inclusion of the Consular Fellows in the count. While the first table below shows an FSS gain of six specialists, in reality, the CF inclusion in the count hides the career FSS losses in the last three fiscal years that ended. Why does that count matter? Because the Consular Fellow LNA appointments max out at 60 months.

11/29/17  Department of State Facts About Our Most Valuable Asset – Our People (September 30, 2017 Counts) 

Consular Fellows are hired via limited non-career appointments (LNAs). The Consular Fellows program, similar to its predecessor, the Consular Adjudicator Limited Non-Career Appointment (CA LNA) program, is not an alternate entry method to the Foreign Service or the U.S. Department of State, i.e. this service does not lead to onward employment at the U.S. Department of State or with the U.S. government. In fact state.gov notes that Consular Fellows are welcome to apply to become Foreign Service Specialists, Foreign Service Generalists, or Civil Service employees, but they must complete the standard application and assessment processes. So for Congressional folks keeping track of the career Foreign Service numbers, this would be a notable distinction.

Trump’s 2019 Budget and the Next 27% Cut

Trump’s fiscal 2019 proposed budget includes a 27% cut to the State Department. This potentially could get a lot worse; when the Administration starts shrinking programs, and priorities at this rate, it will inevitably create a cascading effect impacting overseas presence and personnel. State Department officials may say no post closures, and no reduction-in-force now but we probably will see those down the road, even if not immediately.  Remember when State was shrunk in the early 1990’s? It took a while before people could start picking up the pieces, and the replenishment for the workforce did not happen until almost a decade later. (see The Last Time @StateDept Had a 27% Budget Cut, Congress Killed ACDA and USIA).

Still, we have to remind ourselves that the budget proposal is just that, a proposal, and that Congress has the power of the purse. Is it foolish to hang our hopes on our elected reps?

HR Fact Sheet as of December 31, 2017 (PDF)

HR Fact Sheet as of 9/30/2017 (PDF)
Oops, looks like this file was subsequently removed after post went up.
See copy via the Internet Archive

HR Fact Sheet as of 9/30/2016 (Archived PDF)

HR Fact Sheet as of 9/30/2015 (PDF)

Below is a bonus chart with the FY2015 staffing numbers (yellow column#1), and the gains/losses between September 2015 to December 2017 (yellow column ##2). We’re sure that Mr. Tillerson’s aides would say that yes, there are staffing losses but look, the State Department’s overall workforce is still larger at the end of 2017 when compared to 2015. And that is true. Except that if you look closely at the numbers, you will quickly note that the gains of 1,346 employees are all LE staffers on local compensation.

 

Related posts:

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@StateDept Rolls Out New FSO Development Program, and Promotion Rules to Get Into the Senior Foreign Service

Posted: 4:49 am ET

 

On the last working day of 2017, the State Department quietly rolled out its new “Professional Development Program for Foreign Service Generalists.” This new program will reportedly “ultimately replace” the current Career Development Plan (CDP). The cable that went out to all posts says that the PDP “places greater emphasis on leadership and professional development, and requires “significant and substantial” supervisory and management experience.”    The current Career Development Plan principles are as follows:

  • Operational effectiveness, including a breadth of experience over several regions and functions
  • Leadership and management effectiveness
  • Sustained professional language proficiency
  • Responsiveness to Service needs

The new Professional Development Program principles are as follows:

  1. Operational effectiveness, including a breadth of experience over several regions and functions;
  2. Leadership and management effectiveness;
  3. Professional language proficiency; and
  4. Responsiveness to Service needs.

Oh.

The PDP will be phased in over the next eight years, beginning in 2018. Through 2025, FSOs who apply for Senior Threshold Board (STB) review may elect to meet all of the CDP requirements or may instead elect to meet all of the new PDP requirements, depending on which complete plan they prefer. Beginning January 1, 2026, all FSOs who apply to open their windows must meet the requirements of the PDP.

The announcement notes that the PDP Service need requirement (see below) is designed to enhance the ability of FSOs “to lead effectively once they cross the Senior Threshold, ensure more equitable burden-sharing, and expand the pool of qualified bidders at historically-difficult-to-staff posts.”

On waivers for the PDP Service need requirement, the cable notes that they will include “limited medical clearances or needs of the Service – as is the case with the CDP – and will be expanded to include extraordinary circumstances that may affect an FSO’s ability to service in the required hardship postings.”

The Department has reportedly started “initial consultations with AFSA on this matter.” The guidance also says that “Once HR attests that an FSO has met the requirements to open his or her window – either through the CDP or PDP – he or she does not need to reapply or resubmit another application for consideration.”

One source called this “another pointless gimmick” rolled out during the holidays when no one was paying attention. We understand that this whole process is self-certified, so there is some doubt if HR even verifies anything. We’ve heard feedback that the Promotion Boards won’t even see this. If  you’re an HR ninja and knows more, let us know.

Career Development Plan/CDP

  • requires FSOs to serve three tours dealing with one region and two tours dealing with one region (Major/minor regional assignments from entry into service)
  • requires Generalists to test at the 3/3 level within seven years before opening their window for consideration of promotion across the Senior Threshold.

Professional Development Program/PDP:

  • requires a mix of domestic and overseas assignments in at least two different bureaus after tenure
  • FSOs who entered the service after January 1, 2017 must serve at least one tour in a global affairs bureau or in a global affairs position
  • requires Generalists to test at the 3/3 level (or at the 3/2 level for a hard or super-hard language) any time after tenure
  • requires Generalists to serve at hardship posts in order to be considered for promotion across the Senior Threshold
  • requires Generalists to complete a tour at a 25 percent or greater hardship/danger differential post from entry into the Foreign Service OR complete a tour at an unaccompanied post from entry into the Foreign Service, AND complete another tour at a 20 percent or greater hardship/danger differential post after tenure.

That requirement to test at a 3/3 any time after tenure instead of testing at the 3/3 level within seven years before opening their window for consideration of promotion — have folks thought that through? We don’t understand this actually. Language skills can quickly atrophy when not in used; this can’t be good for the Service, can it? The comment section is open.

There are also Foreign Service specialists, not many but some, who also get promoted into the Senior Foreign Service. When we asked about the PDP requirement for them, our source is not sure what requirement comparable to the PDP will be required.

The CDP notes that “perhaps the most important difference among the 17 separate specialist career paths lies in the fact that the Career Development Programs pinnacle is not always the grade of FE-OC, as it is for generalists. The pinnacle for specialists may be FS-04 as it is for the Office Management Specialists, FS-01 for the Facilities Management Specialists, or FE-MC for Physicians.”

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Burn Bag: The Foreign Service Should Thank Rex Tillerson

Note: We received the following letter as a submission to the Burn Bag. As most of our readers know, the Burn Bag submissions are by design short (though not always sweet) but we’ve decided that this letter merits an exception because it provides our readers a perspective that’s different from the currently prevailing one.

We do not know the identity of the writer but we have a few things that we can share with our readers. S/he is an FS-03 Foreign Service Officer who said s/he was dismayed by the latest public resignation that got so much media attention. S/he has previously served overseas in Asia and also in D.C. where s/he staffed various Department principals, witnessing first hand some of State’s long-standing problems. The writer understands that it would be better to attach her/his name to this piece, but wants to remain anonymous because his/her letter “is not about me, it is about showing that the Foreign Service is multi-dimensional and should not only be defined by Shackelford’s resignation letter.” For those interested, the Shackelford letter is here. Both letters are presented without comments. You are welcome to use the blog’s comment section for civil discussion. 

* * *

The Foreign Service Should Thank Rex Tillerson

In his book Political Order and Political Decay, Francis Fukuyama makes a powerful argument that the “quality of the American government has been deteriorating steadily for more than a generation.” This is in stark contrast to alarmist news articles asserting that the State Department’s current problems began on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration. Leading the most recent and vocal charge, Foreign Service Officer Elizabeth Shackelford’s much publicized resignation letter has been touted as a symbol of plunging morale and dysfunction within the Department. Shackelford follows the narrative that Secretary Tillerson wants to gut State and diminish the role of diplomacy. Yet underlying these assertions is a misconception of what a healthy State Department looks like. They also fail to grasp interagency dynamics that outlast successive administrations.

In an example of unqualified assertions, former Counselor of the Department Eliot Cohen penned a recent op-ed skewering Secretary Tillerson’s redesign efforts as “management-jargon-laden reforms…that demoralized the Foreign Service.” I cannot argue with the recognition of a demoralized Foreign Service. Change is hard and selling it to our community of stakeholders has never been easy. Secretary Tillerson and his team have thus far failed to communicate the redesign’s benefits, but honestly, in the current politicized environment, would they have been able to? If the Foreign Service wants to reclaim our standing as non-partisan professionals, we should look at the problems the redesign is meant to address and work to shape the discussion, rather than opt out or disrupt from within.

Secretary Tillerson started his redesign by asking a simple question “what is the Department of State’s mission, and how can it best achieve goals and objectives?” While this can easily be dismissed as Diplomacy 101, it is a necessary question to ask. Unlike the military, the State Department operates at the behest of our political leadership and Congress. Inherent to both are special interests groups that back them. So while politicians breathe new life and ideas into the bureaucracy, over time they have also contributed to a dilution of State’s mission – heaping pet projects and cumbersome reports onto a Department unable to handle them. The result has been an erosion of State’s autonomy and increasing overlap between conflicting priorities. Every year we process over 300 congressionally mandated reports on topics ranging from intellectual property and labor issues to democracy promotion and counterterrorist financing. All of these issues have merit, yet how can an embassy advance broader U.S. interests when it has officers asking host governments to pass laws strengthening IPR protection, counterterrorist financing, and trafficking in persons all at the same time? The outward message gets diluted. If everything is a priority, nothing is.

The energy and zeal with which dedicated foreign and civil servants advance the various issues in their portfolio should be commended. Likewise, it is important to understand their frustration when a new administration determines that their work is no longer a priority. That said, creating a more streamlined, mission focused State Department will necessarily leave some stakeholders disillusioned. As we have seen, even the prospect of change has riled a bureaucracy that has grown accustomed to protecting its budgets and issue areas at the expense of broader coherency and efficiency. As a low-level FS-03, I do not claim to know what the Department’s priorities should be. But it is healthy for the Secretary to ask questions on whether we should promote democracy over institution building or freedom over good governance.

Shackelford’s assertion that high-level departures and resignations over the past year have handicapped U.S. diplomacy is misguided. For nearly a decade there has been a group of senior FSOs that have traded ambassadorships and leadership positions amongst each other, effectively blocking much needed generational change. While these FSOs all served with distinction and the way they were pushed out was unbecoming of their decades of service, we should not mourn their loss.

Cohen claims that Secretary Tillerson’s “incapacity at finding and pushing through appointees” crippled his effectiveness. And to that I ask, would Cohen prefer self-serving political hacks instead? While congressional and political oversight prevents bureaucracies from “running amuck,” political patronage has the opposite effect, usually serving to advance narrow short-term interests. In the United States political loyalty is rewarded with positions in government, often (but not always) to the detriment of bureaucratic autonomy and the ability to create long-term strategy. The fact that Secretary Tillerson chose to rely on FSOs in acting positions, elevating their status and providing them increased stature, demonstrates the value he places on their experience and expertise. When pundits complain about a leadership vacuum at the State Department, I have to wonder: where is the Foreign Service Association in standing up for career FSOs like Susan Thornton and Francisco Pamieri who have successfully led their respective bureaus?

So why, if Secretary Tillerson wants to reform the Department, has he enthusiastically embraced a 30% budget cut? Let’s start by looking at the role congress plays in forcing pet projects on the Department and reducing bureaucratic efficiency with a maze of regulations and mandated reports. Congressional micro-management has decreased State’s effectiveness, forcing skilled bureaucrats to spend time on creativity stifling administrative work rather than formulating policy and strategy. Funds for pet projects are cheered at the time they are allocated, but it takes people, time, and money to spend money. Once an initiative is introduced it becomes embedded in the bureaucracy and takes on a momentum that is difficult to reign in. Temporarily cutting funds is one of the best ways to force difficult decisions. It also helps signal to special interest groups that the Department is going to be prudent in deciding which issues it will take on.

Asserting that the Department’s decline started on January 20, 2017 makes it easy to forget the neglect of previous Secretaries and helps us brush off the necessary, but painful, changes Secretary Tillerson is trying to push through. It also serves to absolve the bureaucracy for its complicity in facilitating State’s declining influence. I witnessed our collective failings first hand staffing Department principals. Information memos often came up with boilerplate jargon, offering no useful insights or recommendations. Briefing checklists were full of platitudes but lacked tangible goals the principal needed to achieve during his/her meeting. It is no wonder Secretary Tillerson expanded the policy planning staff.

I do not know if Secretary Tillerson’s redesign will be successful. I do not know if he is adopting the right approach or tactics. What I do know is that if the State Department continues on the same course it will permanently cede influence to political appointees at the NSC and their backers at partisan Washington think tanks. I also know that if the Foreign Service gets mired in partisan rhetoric and the political buzzwords of the day, it will lose any remaining support it has in congress and with the American public.

The American people need career diplomats, not only to develop policy and strategy, but also to help conserve and pass down to future administrations the democratic values and diplomatic traditions that have made this country great. Sadly, our ability to deliver on this mission has been in decline for decades – a bloated NSC is just one example how State has failed to provide the executive branch with what it needs. Stemming this institutional decay will require a Secretary willing to take political punches and a bureaucracy ready to suffer through a period of painful change. Self-serving resignation letters full of unqualified assertions are not bold statements. They are an abdication of responsibility that reinforces stereotypes of the State Department as a “deep state” bureaucracy acting outside the interests of the American people. Nothing could be further from the truth.

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Snapshot: Historical Numbers of Foreign Service, Civil Service and FSN Employees (2007-2017)

Posted: 2:01 am ET

 

Via state.gov

 

Note: Click on lower right hand arrow on the Cloudup screen to maximize the reading area.

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Foreign Service Grievance Board: Members as of November 3, 2017

Posted: 2:04 am ET

 

Last week, we blogged about the Foreign Service Grievance Board (see Waiting For Tillerson: Grievance Board’s Term Expired on 9/30, Members Down From 18 to 8.  Per update from FSGB, Secretary Tillerson had appointed 11 members to the Board on November 3, 2017 – six former members were reappointed and five new members were appointed to their first terms on the Board. The current FSGB now has a total to 19 members.  The website has now been updated to reflect the members of the new Board, with the exception of two new appointees (note that the hyperlinks to the names is set to auto-download the bios in PDF format). We are reposting the new FSGB below for your information.

Of the ten members whose terms expired on September 30, 2017, six were reappointed to new two-year terms, expiring on September 30, 2019. Those members are as follows:

  • Bernadette Allen
  • Barbara Cummings
  • Gregory Loose
  • Elliot Shaller, Deputy Chair
  • Susan Winfield
  • Garber Davidson (reappointed as a Board member and as Board Chair)

The Secretary appointed five new members to the Board. These members’ terms will expire on September 30, 2019:

  • John Limbert
  • Larry Mandel
  • Wendela Moore
  • Luis Moreno
  • Rosemary Pye

Four former members whose terms expired on September 30, 2017 were not reappointed. They are:

  • Robert Manzanares
  • William Nance
  • Harlan Rosacker
  • John Vittone

Previously appointed members whose term did not expire, and who will be joined by the 11 new/reappointed  members are as follows:

  • William E. Persina
  • Patricia Norland
  • Nancy Morgan Serpa
  • Lino Gutierrez
  • Frank Almaguer
  • David P. Clark
  • Cheryl M. Long
  • Arthur A. Horowitz

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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
Follow @Diplopundit

 

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 Updates List of Personnel Offenses Subject to Discipline, Note Language on Freedom of Expression

Posted: 3:52 am ET
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In January 2017, Congress passed the Department of State Authorities Act: Fiscal Year 2017, which introduced new legislative requirements with regard to the Accountability Review Board (ARB) statute. On July 17, the State Department updated three FAM sub-chapters related to standards of appointment and continued employment, and the list of offenses subject to disciplinary action for both the Foreign Service and the Civil Service.

3 FAM 4130 STANDARDS FOR APPOINTMENT AND CONTINUED EMPLOYMENT

Under 3 FAM 4138, the following update has been added:

  • (12) Conduct by a senior official that demonstrates unsatisfactory leadership in relation to a security incident under review by an Accountability Review Board convened pursuant to 22 U.S.C. 4831; or
  • (13) Misconduct or unsatisfactory performance that significantly contributes to the serious injury, loss of life, or significant destruction of property, or the serious breach of security in relation to a security incident, as found by an Accountability Review Board convened pursuant to 22 U.S.C. 4831.

Note that 3 FAM 4139.3  Freedom of Expression (CT:PER-860;  07-17-2017) (Uniform State/USAID)
(Applies to Foreign Service Employees)
appears to be a new addition. Further note the language here that says “An employee may be held accountable for unintentional as well as deliberate and unauthorized public expressions whether written or spoken, which, by violating the confidentiality of privileged information, impede the efficiency of the Service.”

The agencies do not presume to impinge upon any of their employee’s right of expression, but the individual as an employee is obliged to protect or to refrain from unauthorized dissemination of certain types of information which the employee acquires through official duties, such as classified information, privileged financial, commercial, and other business information, and information about individuals protected by 5 U.S.C. 552a (the Privacy Act of 1974).  An employee may be held accountable for unintentional as well as deliberate and unauthorized public expressions whether written or spoken, which, by violating the confidentiality of privileged information, impede the efficiency of the Service.  Such efficiency may be impeded because information appearing insignificant from a security point of view is highly sensitive by virtue of the source or manner in which it was acquired; or because creation of a poor reputation for discretion and security consciousness seriously impairs the trust and confidence the Service normally enjoys with foreign governments and individuals with whom it must deal in candor and mutual confidence.  The Department’s procedures for the expression of dissenting views on official matters are contained in 5 FAM, and for the agencies the prerequisites for public speeches or writing for publication are found in uniform State/USAID regulations in 3 FAM 4170.

Other additions/update to this subchapter includes Habitual Use of Intoxicating Beverages to Excess, Abuse of Narcotics, Drugs, or Other Controlled Substances, Loyalty and Security, and Financial Responsibility.

3 FAM 4370 says: The purpose of this subchapter is to advise employees, supervisors, and managers of some of the types of employee conduct which can result in disciplinary action.  It is intended that this material be required reading for new employees and that it be referred to during briefings on the behavior expected of employees, ethics, the Department’s leadership tenets, etc.  The Department believes that the more employees know and understand their responsibilities and the professional standards by which they are expected to abide, the less likely it is that they will engage in improper behavior that requires disciplinary action.  Disciplinary action is taken only after it has been determined that discipline, rather than less formal action, such as an admonishment, is necessary.

On duty 24 hours a day:  As explained in 3 FAM 4130, the attainment of foreign policy objectives requires the maintenance of the highest standards of conduct by employees of the Foreign Service.  Because of the uniqueness of the Foreign Service, employees serving overseas are considered to be on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and must observe especially high standards of conduct during and after working hours, and when on leave or in travel status.  Accordingly, the commission after work hours of many of the offenses listed here under “Conduct on the Job” would still be punishable if it affects the ability of the individual or the agency to carry out its responsibilities or mission.  No action against a Foreign Service employee should be considered without a careful review of 3 FAM 4130.

The list is not exhaustive, but these are a few marked additions:

  • 40. Dereliction of managerial and supervisory duty by neglecting to carry out personnel management responsibilities, including failure to address conduct or performance problems, failure to complete required performance ratings or reviews, or failure to address a toxic workplace.
  • 50. Violation of laws, regulations, or policies relative to trafficking in persons and the procurement of commercial sex, any attempt to procure commercial sex, or the appearance of procuring commercial sex.
  • 51.  Sexual Assault (3 FAM 1700)
  • 52.  Violation of regulations or policies (including post policies) regarding the payment or treatment of domestic staff (3 FAM 4128)
  • 53. Failure to maintain records as required in 5 FAM 414.8 paragraph (2)
  • 54. Misconduct or unsatisfactory performance that significantly contributes to the serious injury, loss of life, or significant destruction of property, or the serious breach of security in relation to a security incident, as found by an Accountability Review Board convened pursuant to 22 U.S.C. 4831.

See more 3 FAM 4370 LIST OF OFFENSES SUBJECT TO DISCIPLINARY ACTION – FOREIGN SERVICE

The subchapter for the Civil Service appears to be entirely new:

It is impossible to list every possible punishable offense, and no attempt has been made to do this.  Employees are on notice that any violation of Department regulations could be deemed misconduct regardless of whether listed in 3 FAM 4540.  This table of penalties lists the most common types of employee misconduct.  Some offenses have been included mainly as a reminder that particular behavior is to be avoided, and in the case of certain type of offenses, like sexual assault, workplace violence, and discriminatory and sexual harassment, to understand the Department’s no-tolerance policy.

The non-exhaustive list includes 51 offenses with penalties meriting a Letter of Reprimand except for the following:

12. Improper political activity (5 U.S.C. 7321, et seq.) – suspension or removal

35. Violation of the “no strike” affidavit – removal (same penalty for Foreign Service)

39. Gifts to official supervisors¾soliciting contributions for gifts or presents to those in superior official positions, accepting gifts or presents from U.S. Government employees receiving lower salaries, or making donations as a gift or present to official supervisors (exception:  this does not prohibit a voluntary gift of nominal value or donation in a nominal amount made on a special occasion such as marriage, illness, retirement, or transfer (22 CFR 1203.735-202(e)) – Removal (required by 5 U.S.C. 7351) (same penalty for the Foreign Service)

Read more here: 3 FAM 4540 LIST OF OFFENSES SUBJECT TO DISCIPLINARY ACTION – CIVIL SERVICE

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Question of the Day: Do you have a sense that we – the Foreign Service – have any leaders?

Via Inbox:

Do you have a sense that we – the Foreign Service – have any leaders? Who are they? How and where are they leading? Which senior leaders have or are speaking out and what are they saying?  To whom?  How?

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Joseph Cassidy’s Twelve Tips For Surviving Life In The New Foggy Bottom – Plus Gifs

Posted: 3:55  am ET
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The last time we wrote about Joseph Cassidy (@cassidyjosephp) in this blog was when we picked the best lines from his “10 Ways to Fix America’s Ailing State Department” in July 2015. He served 25 years in the Foreign Service. He joined the Service in 1989 and previously served in Georgetown, Nairobi, Windhoek, OSCE, USUN and Baghdad. He also served at IO, DRL, the WH, and as Special Assistant to P, INR and the Executive Secretariat. He is currently a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.  The following is an excerpt from his recent FP/Argument piece; we added some gifs. Read in full here: How to Be a Loyal State Department Bureaucrat in the Trump Administration and Keep a Clear Conscience.

At the State Department, where Trump has nominated ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary, there is trepidation among career officers that a politicized workplace could force them to choose among their loyalties to the incoming president, the State Department as an institution, and national interests. Although career foreign service and civil service personnel are accustomed to operating amid layers of institutional equities, their primary loyalty must be to the Constitution — the subject of the oath, dating in its current form to 1884, that all employees swear.

To friends and former colleagues at State, particularly new officers who have not previously served through a change of administrations, here are a few suggestions regarding how to reconcile professional loyalties:

 

#1. Engage incoming political appointees.

nothingwrong

 

#2. Defend the institution.

giphy_communicate

 

#3. Fix what’s broken.

fixwhatsbroken

 

#4. Reconcile yourself to life in a large organization.

adorable_cdn

 

#5. If you can’t deal, leave.

 

#6. But if you’re going to stay, serve with professionalism.

Image via Giphy

Image via Giphy

 

#7. Fight for what you believe in.

giphy_courage
 

#8. Create a paper trail.

i-give-up

 

#9. Use the Dissent Channel process.

wrong

 

#10. Should employment become intolerable, honorably resign.

cwkss_TY

 

#11. Above all, prevail.

ll1ucy_reaction gifs

 

#12. Oh, and also redecorate.
As long as a real estate developer used to living in a gilded penthouse is president, State might as well seek funding to replace the linoleum hallway floors and the tired aluminum blinds. In its current dilapidated condition, the Truman building is just sad.

Seriously, read the full piece here: How to Be a Loyal State Department Bureaucrat in the Trump Administration and Keep a Clear Conscience.

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FSGB and MSPB: Majority of the Grievance Cases Do Not Prevail

Posted: 12:21 am ET
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Via State/OIG’s archive: Review of the Department of State Disciplinary Process:

Foreign Service and Civil Service employees have the right to file a grievance to contest the penalty in the letter from the deciding official. Initially, the Grievance Staff reviews grievances for the Department and reexamines all case materials. The Grievance Staff reviews about 130 Foreign Service and 20 Civil Service grievances of all types each year. A deputy assistant secretary for DGHR makes a determination on each grievance. That agency-level decision can be further appealed through separate Foreign Service and Civil Service processes. Under 3 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 4430, “upon request of the grievant, the agency shall suspend its action” in cases involving suspension, separation, or termination during the review process. This provision applies only to the Foreign Service.
[…]

Foreign Service Appeals Process

A Foreign Service employee may appeal an agency-level decision to the Foreign Service Grievance Board (FSGB), an independent grievance appeals forum established through the Foreign Service Act of 1980. Foreign Service employees facing separation on grounds of misconduct have a right to an automatic hearing before the FSGB. Attorneys or American Foreign Service Association representatives may represent the employee. The FSGB may uphold the agency-level decision, mandate a lesser penalty, or dismiss the case entirely. In 2013, it took an average of 43 weeks for the FSGB to process a case from filing date to final decision.

Foreign Service employees may request and the FSGB may grant “interim relief” (sometimes called “prescriptive relief”) to suspend disciplinary action while an appeal is in process.

The 1995 OIG audit of the FSGB, in addressing the perception that the FSGB routinely overturns the Department’s disciplinary actions, found that “the grievance system is used by a relatively small number of employees, the majority of whom do not prevail.”10 Data from the 2008–2013 FSGB annual reports indicate that this conclusion remains valid. During this 6-year period, the FSGB adjudicated 63 appeals of disciplinary actions. The FSGB partially upheld and partially reversed the Department in 15 cases and fully reversed the Department in only 4 cases. In eight cases, the nature of the FSGB’s decision is not reported in the annual report.

Civil Service Appeals Process

Civil Service employees suspended for more than 14 calendar days or removed or reduced in grade or pay may appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), an independent quasi-judicial agency established in 1979 to protect Civil Service employees. Employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement with the American Federation of Government Employees or the National Federation of Federal Employees may file a grievance under the agreement or appeal to the MSPB, but not both. The Civil Service appeals process has no mechanism for interim relief.

MSPB data concerning cases originating in the Department do not disaggregate appeals related to disciplinary matters from appeals of all types. However, relatively few Civil Service cases of all types originating in the Department reach the MSPB. In FY 2012, the MSPB received 29 appeals from Department Civil Service employees: 21 were dismissed for lack of jurisdiction or timeliness, and 4 were settled. The MSPB adjudicated only four and upheld the Department in all cases.

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