Diplomatic Spouse Martin Cooke Rescues Drowning Tourist in Western Australia

Posted: 2:27 am  ET

 

Western Australia’s Esperance Express reported in early March that “brave actions saved the life of a drowning tourist” after he was caught in a rip current at Twilight Cove in Western Australia.

Around 4:30pm on Sunday March 4, 2018, American tourist Martin Cooke was swimming when he spotted a man waving in distress.

“I saw a guy waving and at first I thought he was just having fun, waving at somebody else, but then I noticed that a guy a little distance from him was signalling all kinds of trouble,” Mr Cooke said.
“So I swam out to that guy as quick as I could, and by the time I got out to him he was under, so I just grabbed him by the shirt and pulled him above the water.

 

Martin Cooke is the spouse of American Consul General Rachel Cooke who was on official visit in the area. Esperance located on the south east coast of Western Australia is under U.S. Consulate General Perth‘s consular district.  According to its website, the first U.S. consular official in Western Australia was posted to Fremantle in 1886, with the first Consul General appointed to the State’s capital of Perth in 1937.  Western Australia is the country’s biggest state and occupies the entire western third of the country, with a population of approximately 2.6 million. The consular district of Western Australia has around 15,000 U.S. citizens at any one time.

About that day of the incident, Martin said: “[T]hat’s what we were doing in Esperance. She went to work there and in the nearby town of Albany the week of March 5th, and we went down early to enjoy the weekend since we’d never been there before. We were out at a beach near town when I pulled Francis from the water — he and his friends were having a tough time in the strong current, and I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. He also lives in Perth and we’re in touch via email now — we plan to meet up with him and his family soon to catch up.”

Martin whose background is IT has been a diplomatic spouse for 16 years. He told us, “I’ve been lucky to be able to continue in that line of work for most of my time as an EFM — that included [tours] in Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Kabul, Tajikistan, and then in Herat in western Afghanistan.” He was “the very first EFM in a field location in a war zone ever.” While his FSO did back-to-back assignments in DC, Martin was also able to work with the content management team at the Washington Post.

He is currently into drone photography and videography. Check out his gorgeous photos from  Esperance and please give Consulate  Perth’s Facebook page some love.

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Funding IRAs When One Spouse Is Unemployed #ForeignServiceSpouses

Posted: 2:28 am ET
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There are over 11,000 Foreign Service adult family members overseas. As of April 2016, 57% are not employed (29% works inside the mission, 14% works outside the mission).  Funding an IRA when one spouse is unemployed is something that some FS spouses already do but if you’re not doing it, this is something you may want to talk about with your working spouse.

Via The Street:

Funding an IRA when one spouse is unemployed or taking a sabbatical can occur if the working spouse makes the contribution. The spouse who is earning income can support the contribution of the non-working spouse’s account, said John Bowen, a retail sales supervisor for Equity Institutional, a financial planning firm in Westlake, Ohio. Whether the spouse contributes to a company 401(k) is not relevant. The contribution can be up to $5,500 for people up to the age of 50 and $6,500 if you are 50 or older in 2016.

Read more about Roth IRA here.

 

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@StateDept Launches Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC)

Posted: 12:04 am ET
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The U.S. Department of State recently launched the Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC) “to more quickly mobilize family members to fill available positions in missions overseas.”  

The FSFRC is a program for family members seeking inside the mission employment opportunities. It will become the exclusive hiring program for Appointment Eligible Family Members (AEFM) into Family Member Appointments (FMA). Starting in 2016, eligible AEFMs will be able to apply for membership in the FSFRC, based on their current employment situation. The FAQ says that “After open enrollment commences, which we estimate to be 18 to 24 months from now, the Department will announce the initiation of a new hiring preference as outlined in 16 STATE 49074, paragraph 21.”

The FSFRC is reportedly designed for the majority of family members working in US missions overseas; unfortunately but it will not/not be open to all family members.  An individual who meets all of the following criteria is eligible to apply to join the FSFRC:

(1)  Is a U.S. citizen and

(2)  Is the spouse or domestic partner (as defined in 3 FAM 1610) of a sponsoring employee (i.e., a direct-hire Foreign Service, Civil Service, or uniformed service member) and;

(3) Is either:

(a) listed on the travel orders of a sponsoring employee for a post abroad at a U.S. mission under Chief of Mission authority, or at an office of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), or
(b) listed on an approved Form OF-126, Foreign Service Residence and Dependency Report (or agency equivalent), of a sponsoring employee and resides at the sponsoring employee’s post of assignment abroad, or, as appropriate, an office of the AIT.

(4) Does not receive a U.S. Government retirement annuity or pension from a career in the U.S. Foreign Service or Civil Service; and

(5) Is not a Foreign Service Officer in Leave Without Pay (LWOP) status.

NOTE 1: U.S. citizen spouses/domestic partners of a sponsoring employee who are on approved Voluntary Separate Maintenance Allowance (VSMA) or Involuntary Separate Maintenance Allowance (ISMA) and are temporarily residing apart from the sponsoring employee are also eligible to apply to join the FSFRC in non-paid status. However, they may only begin working in a local assignment when they resume residing with the sponsoring employee.

The State Department estimates that in excess of 5,000 family members are currently eligible to apply to join the Reserve Corps.

Immediate enrollment of everyone who is currently eligible is not possible. Therefore, beginning in 2016, we will start to enroll eligible family members in waves (exact dates TBD) based upon their planned departure date from their current Family Member Appointment (FMA) or TEMP Appointment overseas or based upon the Not To Exceed (NTE) date for family members currently in INWS status.

It does not look like this new program would have an impact on bureau-funded positions or post-funded jobs. It remains to be seen if the FSFRC will expand the job availability for Foreign Service spouses and if it resolves the issue of portability of security clearances for spouses.

For more details, please read the documents below.

Important Documents

 

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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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Leadership and Management Principles for State Department Employees

Domani Spero
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Last week, the Office of Inspector General told us that the State Department has already adopted some of the OIG’s major recommendations, such as updating the Foreign Affairs Manual to address leadership (see Don’t Give Up On Us Baby: State Dept OIG Writes Back on Leadership and Management). So we went and look it up. Updated in January 2014, 3 FAM 1214 (pdf) now includes the Leadership and Management Principles for Department Employees. It covers the State/USAID/BBG/Commerce/Foreign Service Corps-USDA and applies to Civil Service and Foreign Service Employees. Excerpt from the relevant section:

a. The Department relies on all employees to represent the U.S. Government in the course of carrying out its mission. The Foreign Service Core Precepts and the Office of Personnel Management’s Executive Core Qualifications, in addition to existing Leadership and Management Tenets, such as those established by Consular Affairs, Diplomatic Security, Economic and Business Affairs, and Public Diplomacy, set clear expectations for their employees. Additionally, the Department as an institution embraces an overarching set of Leadership Principles. The established Department-wide Leadership Principles apply to and can be used by anyone, regardless of rank or employment status (e.g. Civil or Foreign Service, Locally Employed Staff, or contractors). 

b. Supervisors and managers have a unique opportunity and responsibility to lead by example and foster the highest attainable degree of employee morale and productivity. However, you do not need to be a manager to be the leader. 

The following principles reflects the values the Department believes are important for all employees to cultivate: 

(1) Model Integrity – Hold yourself and others to the highest standards of conduct, performance, and ethics, especially when faced with difficult situations. Act in the interest of and protect the welfare of your team and organization. Generously share credit for the accomplishments of the organization. Take responsibility for yourself, your resources, your decisions, and your action;

(2) Plan Strategically – Develop and promote attainable, shared short and long term goals with stakeholders for your project, program, team, or organization. Provide a clear focus, establish expectations, give direction, and monitor results. Seek consensus and unified effort by anticipating, preventing, and discouraging counter-productive confrontation; 

(3) Be Decisive and Take Responsibility – Provide clear and concise guidance, training, and support, and make effective use of resources. Grant employees ownership over their work. Take responsibility when mistakes are made and treat them as an opportunity to learn. Formally and informally recognize high quality performance; 

(4) Communicate – Express yourself clearly and effectively. Be approachable and listen actively. Offer and solicit constructive feedback from others. Be cognizant of the morale and attitude of your team. Anticipate varying points of view by soliciting input; 

(5) Learn and Innovate Constantly – Strive for personal and professional improvement. Display humility by acknowledging shortcomings and working continuously to improve your own skills and substantive knowledge. Foster an environment where fresh perspectives are encouraged and new ideas thrive. Promote a culture of creativity and exploration;

(6) Be Self-Aware – Be open, sensitive to others, and value diversity. Be tuned in to the overall attitude and morale of the team and be proactive about understanding and soliciting varying points of view; 

(7) Collaborate – Establish constructive working relationships with all mission elements to further goals. Share best practices, quality procedures, and innovative ideas to eliminate redundancies and reduce costs. Create a sense of pride and mutual support through openness; 

(8) Value and Develop People – Empower others by encouraging personal and professional development through mentoring, coaching and other opportunities. Commit to developing the next generation. Cultivate talent to maximize strengths and mitigate mission-critical weaknesses; 

(9) Manage Conflict – Encourage an atmosphere of open dialogue and trust. Embrace healthy competition and ideas. Anticipate, prevent, and discourage counter-productive confrontation. Follow courageously by dissenting respectfully when appropriate; and

(10) Foster Resilience – Embrace new challenges and learn from them. Persist in the face of adversity. Take calculated risks, manage pressure, be flexible and acknowledge failures. Show empathy, strength, and encouragement to others in difficult times;

And here is a detail appended to this section of the Foreign Affairs Manual on spouses; keep this handy should some senior spouse try to twist your arms to do something you’d rather not be doing:

3 FAM 1217 Participation of Spouse
(CT:PER-571; 09-27-2005) (Uniform State/USAID/BBG/Commerce/Foreign Service Corps-USDA) (Applies to Foreign Service Employees Only) 

Unless working as an employee or contractor, participation of a spouse in the work of a post is a voluntary act of a private person, not a legal obligation which can be imposed by any Foreign Service officer (FSO) or spouse. Nonparticipation of a spouse in representational, charitable, or social activities in no way reflects on the employee’s effectiveness on the job.

As always, we’d like to know how this works in real life.

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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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