Snapshot: Consular Staffing Levels in Brazil & China — FY 2011 to 2014

Posted: 12:41 pm EDT
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Via GAO

According to State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, the past hiring of additional staff through various authorities and temporary assignments of consular officers during periods of high NIV demand contributed to meeting E.O. 13597’s goals of expanding NIV processing capacity and reducing worldwide wait times, particularly at U.S. posts in Brazil, China, India, and Mexico.16

• Increase in consular officers: According to State officials, from fiscal year 2012 through 2014, State “surged” the number of consular officers deployed worldwide from 1,636 to 1,883 to help address increasing demand for NIVs, an increase of 15 percent over 3 years. In response to E.O. 13597, State increased the number of deployed consular officers between January 19, 2012 (the date of E.O. 13597), and January 19, 2013, from 50 to 111 in Brazil, and 103 to 150 in China, a 122 and 46 percent increase, respectively (see fig. 2 for additional information on consular staffing increases in Brazil and China). As a result, State met its goal of increasing its NIV processing capacity in Brazil and China by 40 percent within a year of the issuance of E.O. 13597.

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• Limited noncareer appointments: In fiscal year 2012, State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs launched the limited noncareer appointment (LNA) pilot program to quickly deploy language-qualified staff to posts facing an increase in NIV demand and workload. The first cohort of LNAs—who are hired on a temporary basis for up to 5 years for specific, time-bound purposes—included 19 Portuguese speakers for Brazil and 24 Mandarin speakers for China who were part of the increased number of consular officers deployed to posts noted above. In fiscal year 2013, State expanded the LNA program to include Spanish speakers. As of August 2015, State had hired 95 LNAs for Brazil, China, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Mexico.

• Temporary assignment of consular officers: State utilizes the temporary redeployment of Foreign Service officers and LNAs to address staffing gaps and increases in NIV demand. Between October 2011 and July 2012, State assigned, on temporary duty, 220 consular officers to Brazil and 48 consular officers to China as part of its effort to reallocate resources to posts experiencing high NIV demand. State continues to use this method to respond to increases in NIV demand. For example, during the first quarter of fiscal year 2015, India experienced a surge in NIV demand that pushed NIV interview wait times over 21 days at three posts. To alleviate the situation, consular managers in India sent officers to the U.S. Consulate in Mumbai, which was experiencing higher wait times, from other posts, allowing the U.S. Mission in India to reduce average wait times to approximately 10 days by the end of December 2014.

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Whoa! The Next Consul General in Istanbul Will Be a Political Appointee?

Posted: 3:49 am EDT
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File this under #rumint.  Some küçük dedikodu we’re hearing is that the next Consul General in Istanbul will be a political appointee.

Güzel degil, arkadaslarim.

The incumbent in Istanbul is senior career diplomat Chuck Hunter. He assumed his duties as Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkey, in September 2013. Per typical rotation in the FS, he’d be scheduled to leave post in the  summer or fall of 2016. Whoever is angling for this position will have to put in the request this year.  Is this position showing up on FSBid?

Somebody told us, “I thought only ambassadorships could go to political appointees overseas.”   Traditionally, only ambassadorships have gone to political appointees. But that may not be quite true anymore. We are starting to see chiefs of staff, for noncareer ambassadors “joined” the Foreign Service as Schedule C employees. We understand that there are approximately about a dozen of such positions currently in place. There was one at the US Embassy in Beijing at one point.  And there is one at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo who apparently runs the mission together with the DCM (see State/OIG Inspects US Mission Japan: Oh, Heck, Where Do We Start?).

The State Department apparently made a previous attempt to appoint a senior executive service HR DAS as Consul General in Melbourne, a case resisted at that time by AFSA, according to one source. A side note, in October last year, we blogged about the rumored Iran Watcher London position potentially being eyed for a staffer in the office of the Under Secretary for Political Affairs (see Is This Iran Watcher London Position Not Bidlisted About to Go to a “P” Staffer?). After a fuss was raised, the job apparently went to a qualified Foreign Service officer who was thrilled to go to London with her family. An Iran Watcher job was then created in Amsterdam. Except that there was an Iran Watcher already on language training slated to go to Erbil, Iraq and when that position was eliminated, the individual was reassigned to Amsterdam.

It is not clear to us if the rumored candidate for the CG Istanbul position is a Civil Service employe or a political appointee of the bundler kind.

Istanbul_bridge

Istanbul (photo by USCG Istanbul/FB)

ConGen Istanbul is one of our oldest posts. The United States established diplomatic relations with the Ottoman Empire in 1831, establishiing the U.S. Legation in Constantinople (Istanbul). The legation was raised to embassy status in 1906. The two states broke diplomatic ties during World War I. Relations were reestablished in 1927 after the founding of the modern Turkish state in 1923. In the 1930s the Embassy gradually transferred to Ankara, Turkey’s new capital, leaving behind a consulate general located at the Palazzo Corpi in Istanbul. Construction of a new consulate compound in İstinye was completed in 2003.

Istanbul is rated high for political violence and rated critical for terrorism. If that’s not enough to make you sit up, the conflict in neighboring Syria has become extremely dangerous for Turkey.

So … whose dimbulb idea is this?

By coincidence, the State Department had just published its final rule on the Appointment of Foreign Service Officers. Read the full text (PDF) of the final rule document. It is formally published on Oct 23, 2015 in the Federal Register. The final rule says in part:

Other than a minor amendment in 2002 (see 67 FR 46108), part 11 has remained as it was drafted 31 years ago; whereas, the relevant provisions of the FAM were updated in 2013. This rulemaking harmonizes the two authorities. The Department believes that a revised part 11, together with the FAM, provide comprehensive guidance for both internal stakeholders and interested members of the general public on the appointment of Foreign Service Officers. The Department’s revision of part 11 is part of its Retrospective Review conducted pursuant to Executive Order 13563.

Below is the relevant section which doesn’t look new:

§ 11.60 Limited non-career appointments.

Consistent with section 303 of the Act (22 U.S.C. 3943), the Secretary of State may also appoint Civil Service employees and other individuals to the Foreign Service, and, consistent with section 309 of the Act (22 U.S.C. 3949), such appointments may include limited non-career appointments (LNAs). After meeting the job specific requirements, candidates must meet applicable medical, security, and suitability requirements. Limited non- career appointments are covered under 3 FAM 2290.

3 FAM 2290 (pdf) states that “seven categories in 3 FAM 2293, subparagraphs b(1) through b(7), are the only categories by which a Civil Service employee or other individual from outside the Foreign Service may be appointed to the Foreign Service pursuant to an LNA under Section 303 of the Foreign Service Act. The Department’s procedures for appointing Civil Service employees and other individuals from outside the Foreign Service as LNAs outside these categories are subject to negotiations between the Department and the Foreign Service’s exclusive representative, prior to institution of further categories.”

3 FAM 2293 TYPES OF LIMITED NONCAREER APPOINTMENTS UNDER SECTION 303 OF THE FOREIGN SERVICE ACT
(CT:PER-726; 04-18-2014) (State Only) (Applies to Foreign Service and Civil Service employees) 

a. Consistent with Section 502 of the Foreign Service Act (22 U.S.C. 3982), the Department’s goal is to ensure that positions designated as Foreign Service positions are filled by assignment of career and career-conditional members of the Foreign Service.

b. Pursuant to Sections 303 and 309 of the Foreign Service Act, the Department appoints Civil Service employees and other individuals from outside the Foreign Service to LNAs as:

(1) Hard-to-Fill (HTF) Candidates: Positions that have not attracted sufficient bidders through the Foreign Service assignments process and thus may be filled by Department Civil Service employees. The procedures and eligibility requirements applicable to HTF positions as well as the scope and frequency of available positions may vary from year to year. Each HTF program will be announced by an ALDAC after consultation with the Foreign Service’s exclusive representative;

(2) Expert Candidates: For these positions, bureaus are to request temporary FTE from the Office of Resource Management (HR/RMA) before presenting an Action Memorandum to the Director, HR/CDA. For example, expert LNAs include, but are not limited to, positions that cannot normally be filled with Foreign Service personnel, such as certain attorney positions at embassies and missions that are filled by lawyers from the Office of the Legal Adviser, and a nuclear physicist position that was temporarily required in Japan.

(3) Developmental Assignment Candidates: These assignments provide experience and exposure to Foreign Service operations for Civil Service personnel through two methods–bureau candidate only advertised positions, for example, A Bureau positions at ELSO and Overseas Development Program positions advertised via CS merit promotion announcements.

(4) Volunteer Cable Candidates: Volunteer cables are sent, as agreed annually with the exclusive representative in the Bidding Instructions, when there are no qualified bidders for a vacancy that has been advertised. The regional bureaus initiate the volunteer cable exercise as a request to HR/CDA to send such a cable based on Foreign Service need. If a Civil Service candidate is selected, the Director General must prepare a Certificate of Need in accordance with 3 FAM 2295 (see also 3 FAM Exhibit 2295 for an example of this certificate);

(5) Schedule C and Other Outside-Hire Candidates: These appointments include, but are not limited to, chief-of-mission office management specialists, eligible family members, and other outside hires;

(6) Exceptional Circumstance Candidates: The Department’s Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources (Director General) may designate certain positions to be filled under an “exceptional circumstance” category (see 3 FAM 2294 below).

(7) Urgent, Limited Need: These limited non-career appointments support specific or exceptional mission-critical needs that existing Foreign Service personnel cannot meet. These needs are considered to be of limited duration, not justifying the creation of a new category of a career Foreign Service employee. HR/RMA will authorize the FTE for these positions. Every two years, the Director General or designee will review each category of LNA falling under this paragraph in consultation with the Foreign Service’s exclusive representative, to determine whether the specific need still exists and existing Foreign Service personnel cannot meet the need.

We’ve got great memories of Istanbul.  We’re interested to hear more about this rumored candidate. Is this all smoke or is there fire?

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Related posts:

State Dept Seeks Security Protective Specialists: 45K+, Limited Non-Career Appointments

— Domani Spero
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Via usajobs.gov:

On October 6, the State Department opened the application period for Security Protective Specialists (SPS).

The Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) is seeking highly qualified and motivated men and women with extensive experience in protective security operations to serve in the Foreign Service at certain U.S. embassies, consulates and regional offices abroad.

This workforce will be deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and North and South Sudan and other high threat posts to supplement DS Special Agents in the supervision of contractor personnel and the provision of personal protection for Department employees. As members of a diplomatic team, Security Protective Specialists not only help to accomplish the mission of the Department of State, but also represent the United States to the people of other nations.

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All assignments will be at the needs of the service. After the initial tour, SPSs may be transferred to other high threat posts overseas for two consecutive 2-year tours of duty.

There is no provision for election of post of assignment.

A limited, non-career appointment to the Foreign Service involves uncommon commitments and occasional hardships along with unique rewards and opportunities. A decision to accept such an appointment must involve unusual motivation and a firm dedication to public service. The overseas posts to which SPSs will be assigned may expose the employee to harsh climates, health hazards, and other discomforts and where American-style amenities may be unavailable. Assignments to Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, are particularly challenging and may result in bodily injury and/or death. However, a limited appointment to the Foreign Service offers special rewards, including the pride and satisfaction of representing the United States and protecting U. S. interests at home and abroad.

Job Details:

Security Protective Specialists must perform duties in the field that are physically demanding. SPSs must be willing and able to meet these physical demands in high-stress, life and death situations. The SPS’s life and the lives of others may depend upon his/her physical capabilities and conditioning. Candidates must pass a thorough medical examination to include Supplemental Physical Qualification Standards. A qualified candidate may not have a medical condition which, particularly in light of the fact that medical treatment facilities may be lacking or nonexistent in certain overseas environments, would constitute a direct threat to the health or safety of the individual or others, or would prevent the individual from performing the duties of the job.

Security Protective Specialists are required to perform protective security assignments with physical demands that may include, but are not limited to, intermittent and prolonged periods of running, walking, standing, sitting, squatting, kneeling, climbing stairs, quickly entering and exiting various vehicles, enduring inclement weather which may include excessive heat, as well as carrying and using firearms.

Security Protective Specialists perform other functions that may require jumping, dodging, lying prone, as well as wrestling, restraining and subduing attackers, or detainees. SPSs must be able, if necessary, to conduct security inspections that may require crawling under vehicles and other low clearances or in tight spaces such as attics and crawl spaces.

Sometimes it may be necessary for a SPS to assist with installing or maintaining security countermeasures, which might involve lifting heavy objects and working on ladders or rooftops. SPSs must be skilled at driving and maneuvering a motor vehicle defensively or evasively in a variety of situations and at various speeds.

Security Protective Specialist candidates are expected to already possess many of the skills discussed in previous paragraphs but all will receive identical training to insure consistency. This training will include firearms training, defensive tactics, restraining an attacker and specialized driving techniques. SPS candidates must be able to participate in and complete all aspects of their training.

Candidates must be willing and able to travel extensively throughout the world. Traveling and assignments abroad may involve working in remote areas where traditional comforts and medical facilities are limited. SPSs may be required to travel to locations of civil unrest where conditions are potentially hostile and where performance of duties is conducted under hazardous circumstances.

No felony convictions:

Applicants for the Security Protective Specialist position must not have been convicted of any felony charge. In accordance with the Lautenberg Amendment to the Gun Control Act, a person convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence may not possess a firearm. Applicants must be able to certify that they have not been convicted of any such violation and that they are not otherwise prohibited from possessing firearms.

The job page includes a new section on reasonable accommodation (most probably steaming from the recent EEOC ruling):

The Department of State provides reasonable accommodation to applicants with disabilities. Applicants requiring reasonable accommodations for any part of the application or hiring process should so advise the Department at ReasonableAccommodations@state.gov within one week of receiving their invitation. Decisions for granting reasonable accommodations are made on a case-by-case basis.

Read the entire announcement here.

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