Snapshot: @StateDept COVID-19 Cases as of April 3, 2020

The State Department updated its COVID-19 cases on Friday, April 3. 2020. From March 31 to April 3, the number of employees and family members overseas who were self-isolating went from 2,288 to 3,528, an increase of 1,240. The number of positive cases decreased from 149 to 108; while those who recovered went from 42 on March 31 to 79 on April 3, a difference of 37 new individuals recovered.
The April 3 update now includes the number of deaths. As of April 3, there were three deaths overseas from COVID-19, all three are noted as Locally Employed (LE) staffers. We learned previously that one LE staffer died in Jakarta, and another in Kinshasa. We do not know as yet, the location of the third casualty. In the April 3 briefing, Dr. Walters declined to identify the country where the third death occurred. Why? We can’t say. Obviously, the next of kin already know about the death. Co-workers at post already know about the death. We’re not sure why they’re refusing the even identify post; reporters are not asking for names. If Walters is going to cite the Privacy Act, deceased individuals and country names do not have Privacy Act rights. If there’s a real rationale for this, we’d like to know.
The April 3 update still do not include information on the number of medical evacuations (MEDEVAC), USG patients or places of origin. We can confirm at least one MEDEVAC from Burkina Faso, and that USG patient is on the road to recovery.
For domestic cases, the number of self-isolating employees went from 44 to 50 in three days, with positive cases going from 33 to 46 cases.  The report indicates that two domestic employees have recovered as of April 3, 2020.
See excerpts from April 3 briefing below.

 

As of April 3, 2020

As of March 31, 2020

 

Dr. Walters on April 3 Briefing:

Now moving on to the latest COVID-19 statistics for the Department of State, as of today, April 3rd, there are 108 confirmed cases overseas. There are 46 confirmed cases domestically, occurring in nine different cities. So far, there are no reported deaths domestically, but unfortunately there are now a total of three deaths overseas amongst our workforce.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks. I just had a question about the number of State Department deaths and a testing question. The first is: Can you give us any more information about the employee, the third person who had died or what country that was in and any other information you can give us?

And second, does State currently have a standard policy on testing? Do – for example, people who think they may be – may have the virus but are not showing symptoms, are they able to get tested? What is the standard guidance on department employees getting tested? Thanks.

MR WALTERS: So as to the first question, I can tell you that it was a locally-employed staff member overseas. I don’t – can’t really go into any further detail because it becomes easier and easier to identify individual people when you do that, so I’m afraid I can’t.

With regard to testing, domestically we all exist within a broad public health architecture. From an occupational health perspective, we have a responsibility to protect the workforce, but we live within and work within the city of Washington, D.C., or in Virginia or Maryland, and ultimately testing and contact tracing is a local and state responsibility and authority. And so we cooperate very closely with the state and local and county public health teams to make sure that we keep the workforce safe and make sure testing is used appropriately.

QUESTION: Hi, there. Thanks. Sorry, I was – I missed part of the answer to Nick’s question because of Elmo, but – (laughter) – did you, Doc Walters, say that the third death was a locally employed staffer? And is it correct that there are still no American staffers overseas who have been —who have succumbed?

And then secondly, the – how many of the more than 400 flights that Ian is talking about were commercial flights that – for which the U.S. Government did not have to pay anything? Thank you.

MR WALTERS: Thanks, Matt. I can answer the first part and then I’ll hand over to Ian and DAS Yon for the last part.

Yeah, so locally employed staff member overseas – we are not aware of any chief of mission personnel overseas who have succumbed to the illness.

Folks, we hate to do this but this is a real pet peeve for us because. Very basic.  “We are not aware of any chief of mission personnel overseas who have succumbed to the illness?” The three Locally Employed (LE) staff members who died of COVID-19 are not chief of mission personnel? Good grief!
2 FAH-2 H-112.1 talks about Chief of Mission authority to direct, supervise, and coordinate all U.S. Government executive branch employees in the COM’s country or area of responsibility.  This includes U.S. Direct Hire (USDH) employees and Personal Service Contractors (PSCs), whether assigned permanently or on temporary duty or an official visit, and; all Locally Employed (LE) Staff regardless of hiring mechanism (whether a direct hire or hired on a PSA, PSC or other mechanism by the Department of State or another U.S. government agency – see 3 FAM 7121).
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Snapshot: Comparative Look at @StateDept Staffing 2008 – 2018

Via state.gov:

(click image above for larger view)

 

Snapshot: @StateDept Workforce Distribution by Employment Category (February 2019)

Posted:12:52 am EST
Updated: 10:08 pm PST with link to full HR fact sheet

 

Via state.gov:

The Department relies on Locally Employed (LE) staff to support its global mission. LE Staff, which includes contractors overseas, accounts for 58 percent of the workforce. The Department’s American Government workforce, which includes career full-time FS and CS employees as well as temporary employees, constitutes approximately 31 percent of the workforce. The remaining 11 percent is composed of domestic contractors. Over the last few years, the workforce distribution has remained about the same. The State Department indicates that it employs a workforce of over 80,000 employees including contractors. 

 

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Snapshot: State Department Workforce Composition By Employment Category – 2016

Posted: 12:13 am ET
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Via state.gov:

The State Department says that it employs a workforce of over 80,000 employees. The figure below shows the composition of the 2016 workforce by employment category. Total number of agency employees excluding contractors: 74,721 (FS: 13,948 includes Generalist – 8,196; Specialist – 5,752; Civil Service at 11,037) and Locally Employed Staff at 49,736 (includes Foreign Service Nationals (FSNs)and Personal Services Agreements/Contracts). We have not been able to locate a good number for contractors.

In April 2016, there were 11,861 adult family members overseas, of which 29% or 3,436 FS family members were employed by the USG at missions overseas.

via state.gov

via state.gov

 

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State Department Dedicates Diplomatic Security (DS) Memorial

Posted: 12:06 am EDT
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The Diplomatic Security (DS) Memorial was dedicated on September 18, 2015, to honor the many individuals who have given their lives to support the mission of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Gregory B. Starr hosted the event with Antony J. Blinken, Deputy Secretary of State; Lt. Gen. Ronald Bailey, Deputy Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, Plans, Policies, and Operations; and Bill Miller, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Director of the Diplomatic Security Service, in attendance. See D/Secretary Blinken’s remarks here.

Before the installation of the Diplomatic Security Memorial, DS was the only federal law enforcement agency without its own memorial. Many of those who gave their lives in service to DS were not eligible for inclusion on the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) Memorial, which primarily honors members of the Foreign Service who died while serving abroad.

On the date of its unveiling, the DS Memorial contained the names of 137 individuals from diverse backgrounds and countries throughout the world. They include:

27 U.S. Government Personnel

  • 4 Diplomatic Security Service Special Agents
  • 6 Diplomatic Couriers
  • 12 U.S. Military—Marine Security Guards
  • 5 Other U.S. Military—Embassy Security Operations

36 Private Security Contractors

74 Local Security Personnel

  • 31 Local Guard Force
  • 31 Local Law Enforcement
  • 6 Foreign Service Nationals
  • 6 Locally Employed Staff

The DS Memorial consists of the 1) DS Memorial Wall–A Visual Tribute, located inside the main lobby of Diplomatic Security headquarters in Rosslyn, Virginia; 2) Memorial Kiosk, installed with the DS Memorial Wall, the kiosk displays information about Diplomatic Security and its personnel who lost their lives in the line of duty. The information is searchable by name, year of death, country of death, and job position at time of death; 3) Memorial Website at (www.dsmemorial.state.gov) with the names of the fallen personnel hosted in a special portion of the Diplomatic Security website, the online DS Memorial displays all names of the fallen and provides a search tool for locating individuals.

via state.gov/ds

via state.gov/ds

 

The memorial goes back to 1943 and includes James N. Wright, a Diplomatic Courier who died on February 22, 1943,
in Lisbon, Portugal, in the line of duty in an airplane crash. Two years later, another Diplomatic Courier, Homer C. White, died on December 4, 1945, in Lagos, Nigeria, in the line of duty in an airplane crash.

The largest number of casualties is suffered by the local security personnel.  At least 31 local law enforcement personnel (working for the host government) were lost protecting USG facilities and personnel overseas. As many local guard force employed/contracted by the USG were also killed in the line of duty.  In 2014, Shyef, Moa’ath Farhan, a Yemeni Local Law Enforcement employee, died in Yemen, while protecting a checkpoint near U.S. Embassy Sanaa during a suicide attack. In fact, 7 of the 31 law enforcement personnel killed were all lost in Yemen.   That same year, Abdul Rahman, a locally employed staff was killed while performing his duties near the traffic circle at the main entrance to Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan. He was one of several individuals killed by a lone suicide bomber. In 2013, Mustafa Akarsu, a member of the local guard force was killed during a suicide attack at the U.S. Embassy in Turkey.  That same year, eight members of the local guard force died on September 13, during the attack on U.S. Consulate Herat in Afghanistan.

Note that this memorial only includes FSNs/locally employed staff who supported the mission of  the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) and not all FSNs who lost their lives while working for the USG overseas.

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Snapshot: Breakdown of State Department Employees as of 6/30/2014

— Domani Spero
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

via afsa.org

Click here to view pdf file

Click on image to view pdf file

 

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US Embassy Ottawa: Canadian Court Sets Aside FSN Sandra McDonald’s $240K Default Judgment For Now

— Domani Spero

Via Ottawa Citizen, a wrongful dismissal case filed by Sandra McDonald, a former Foreign Service National (local employee) of the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa.

Sandra McDonald, now in her early 60s, worked at the embassy for nearly 30 years as one of its locally engaged staff. She sued for wrongful dismissal after she was fired in early 2011 while on long-term disability with complex regional pain syndrome.

McDonald’s lawyer, Bijon Roy, said she was “very disappointed” with the judge’s decision and that it might force her to fight the case all over again.

In July 2012, Ontario Superior Court Justice Heidi Polowin issued a default judgment in McDonald’s favour after U.S. officials failed to file a statement of defence or contest the case in court. The embassy had been served notice of the case through Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and was kept informed of the matter on a regular basis. McDonald’s story also received high-profile coverage from Ottawa media, including the Citizen.

In court this week, embassy officials, seeking to overturn the default judgment, said they had “explicable and plausible” reasons for not having responded to McDonald’s lawsuit, and a “good defence” to be made against it. According to court documents, the Americans claimed that they’d “lost the documentation”, “could not open the email attachment”, that the documentation was “inadvertently directed to the wrong office at the State Department”, and that it was “not indexed correctly”.

Superior Court Justice Timothy Ray questioned how U.S. State Department officials could claim not to have been aware of McDonald’s default judgment. “Its embassy apparently failed to see the front page of the Ottawa Citizen (on) Sept. 11, 2012,” the judge commented.
[…]
Ray said he would set aside Polowin’s default judgment on conditions the embassy pay McDonald’s legal costs and put the $240,000 award in a court trust within the next 60 days.

Read in full: U.S. Embassy wins bid to set aside wrongful dismissal judgment.

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US Embassy Venezuela: Local Employee Miguel Cartaya Killed in Caracas

— Domani Spero

We posted recently about the US Embassy Caracas where three embassy officials were given 48 hours to leave the country (see Venezuela (Where Almost No One Has Toilet Paper) Kicks Out Three U.S. Diplomats for “Flaming” Student Protests).

The anti-government rallies has been roiling Venezuela for days with people expressing their grievances against high inflation, crime, and the shortages of staple goods such as toilet paper, milk, rice and cooking oil.  According to CNN, four anti-government protesters and one government supporter have died in clashes around the country. 

Amidst these chaos, local news reported yesterday that a former official of the Bolivarian National Police (BNP) who worked for the security office of the US Embassy in Caracas was killed at 4:30 in the morning during an attempted  robbery.

Local reports identified the employee as Miguel Angel Borges Cartaya, 39. He reportedly was  found at the bottom of a ravine with multiple gun shots wounds.

One report says that the victim was working escort duties at the American Embassy in Caracas.  Relatives cited in the report also said that the victim was leaving his house when he was attacked by several armed men who were after his belongings.  He was reportedly shot when he resisted.

The Regional Security Office’s 2013 Crime and Safety Report notes that violent crime is the greatest threat in Caracas, affecting local Venezuelans and foreigners alike.

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We are so sorry to hear this news.  This has been a tough couple of weeks for local embassy staff.  On February 12, we blogged about the death of an FSN working at USCG Peshawar (see USCG Peshawar Employee Faisal Saeed Killed in Pakistan).  On February 13, we posted about the arrest and detention of an FSN working at US Embassy Cairo (see  US Embassy Cairo FSN Ahmed Alaiba Detained Since 1/25–State Dept Still Seeking “Clarity”).

We have sent an inquiry to the US Embassy Caracas but received no response.

Our unofficial source in the country confirmed to us that Miguel Cartaya was an FSN, working at the Embassy as a security guard.  At this point, there apparently is no reason to believe the shooting is related to his work at the Embassy, but rather a sad fact of daily life in Caracas, which has one of the highest murder rates in Latin America. We will have a blog update if we learn more.

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State Dept on Embassy Workers Unionization: Yo! Could Put U.S. National Security at Risk

— By Domani Spero

Eric Katz via govexec.com: State Department Says Unionizing Its Foreign National Workers Would Threaten Security

The International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers — a union housed within the AFL-CIO — reached out to the State Department about the possibility of unionizing more than 40,000 “locally employed” staff in foreign countries. State responded that it does not have the legal grounds to seek a collective bargaining arrangement with the employees.

Additionally, the State Department said it simply had no interest in seeking to unionize the employees.

“Such unionization at diplomatic and consular missions is fundamentally incompatible with the basic functions and operations of such missions,” Steven Polson, State’s chief labor-management negotiator, wrote in the letter.

He added unionization “could, frankly put our foreign relations and national security at risk.”  

According to govexec, Mr. Polson cites the potential “logistical nightmare” of collective bargaining with foreign nationals paid under 176 different local compensation plans. And apparently,  “labor laws in certain countries prohibit their citizens from maintaining union representation.”

The report also said that Mr. Polson “encouraged foreign national employees to join “[locally employed] staff associations,” which could “meet regularly with post management to discuss concerns and resolve issues” and declared the “department has no interest in pursuing this discussion further.”

n 2009, Eddy Olislaeger, a veteran FSN at the US Embassy in Brussels founded the International Foreign Service Association (IFSA). The group wrote to then Director General of the Foreign Service Nancy Powell (now current US Ambassador to India) seeking her help in “formalizing a working relationship between IFSA and the State Department.” The State Department declined IFSA’s request on the basis that it was an attempt to establish a union.

More on this issue from the FSNs perspectives see:

Last Friday, IFSA issued a statement expressing disappointment “by the State Department’s continued rejection of any form of social dialogue with the largest component of its workforce.” It calls Mr. Polson’s argument against unionization “humiliating to the thousands of loyal and dedicated LE staff, let alone the 12,000+ men and women who work in security positions all over the world protecting US diplomats, US citizens and embassy facilities.”   The statement also notes that “Locally employed staff work in a legal vacuum, a system of Catch-22 rules and regulations, a compensation plan that lacks transparency, the absence of a system of accountability for management and a corporate culture that is not conducive to openness.” It expresses its commitment on continuing “to seek a dialogue aimed at breaking down the inequities in our workplace.”  Read in full here.

The current number of local employees working at U.S. Embassies worldwide as of March 2013 is 45,576.  A 2007 State/OIG report noted that since 1998, far more local embassy employes have been killed in the performance of their duties than have American Foreign Service employees.  The report points out the need for the Department “to codify in one place and strengthen its commitment to LE staff.”  That report recommended not only the development of “a bill of rights for locally employed staff” but also the establishment of a “a locally employed staff ombudsman position.” Neither of those recommendations, as far as we know has been implemented by the State Department.

In 2008, State/OIG did an inspection of the compensation issues of local embassy staff.  A report it issued on April 30, 2009 (Review of Locally Employed Staff Compensation Issues (ISP-I-09-44) included the following:

The U.S. is falling behind in providing a competitive compensation package for LE staff that is commensurate with their experience, technical skills,and responsibilities. Office of the Inspector General (OIG) survey data show that the U.S. Government is implementing average salary increases that are approximately 60 percent of what could be termed “prevailing practice.”

U.S. missions worldwide told the OIG team of their concerns about the current LE staff compensation review process, including discontent with off-the-shelf salary survey data, lack of transparency in the process, disparities between the salary and budget cycles, the use of outmoded and cumbersome communication technology, and the lack of interagency involvement and decision making.

Here’s the funny part, please get ready to laugh.

Image via Wikimedia Commons by Saibo

Image via Wikimedia Commons by Saibo

The State Department through it’s HR office on Overseas Employment (HR/OE/CM) spends an extensive amount of time and energy  in the the local employee compensation reviews/surveys to determine prevailing practice.

That’s a largely wasted exercise since the Department and other agencies “cannot” fund the suggested locally employed embassy staff salary increases.

State/OIG noted then that “the current system is inappropriate and inefficient, does not meet the requirements of the FSA, cannot be justified or explained, and cannot be regarded as professional treatment of an irreplaceable, valued group of employees.”  The OIG team also found situations in which “embassies were losing staff to other employers, an occurrence often attributed to the inability of the Embassy to achieve pay parity with the local labor market.  Some missions found that it was difficult to replace employees who left to take other jobs, particularly in countries with low unemployment rates.”

That State/OIG report cited 27 missions which presented “compelling arguments that their lower grade employees fall short of minimal living standards.” These arguments included accounts of LE staff doing the following:

  • removing children from school
  • cutting back to one meal a day
  • sending children to sell water or little cakes or toiletries on the streets
  • foregoing prescription medication because they cannot afford the co-pay
  • resigning to move back to their hometown because they cannot afford to live in the post city
  • sending their families back to their home country because they cannot afford to live in the host country
  • the cost of rice for an average family equating to half the monthly wages of over 60 percent of the staff
  • employees depending on salary advances and defaulting on loans in order to cover basic expenses
  • grades 1 to 3 earning less than $1.00 per day
  • employees paying at least $250 a month for a single room apartment with a salary of $250 to $400 a month
  • up to 50 percent of salary being spent on groceries, and 40 percent on
  • utilities salaries falling short of official poverty levels

State/OIG has that in its report on local compensation issues. The report presumably was read by somebody with the appropriate pay grade at the State Department.  Read. Checked.

That’s from a four-year old report.  But we recently heard that in one European post, the bureau with the highest attrition rate for local employees, one post has not had a salary increase in about 10 years.

Look — the State Department collected $3.1 billion in consular fees in FY2012.   That large pie shows allocation to Resource Management for American Salaries at $433,508,000 and to the Foreign Service Institute-Consular Training, Conferences, and Workshops at $7,054,000.  We could not find allocation of any sort for local employees.  Despite the budget constraints, it’s not like the State Department is not pulling in shovels of money from its consular operation, because it is.  If you can allocate $430 million to the salaries of American employees, it is hard to understand why can’t you find a slice of that pie for the salary increase of local employees.

Is it that funds for local employees is not  a priority?  Is it that the State Department takes them for granted, after all, they chose to work for the USG? And, of course, will continue working for the State Department whether they get salary increases/pay parity or not.  Some decades ago, the USG also decided that local employees need not even be members of the Civil Service for retirement purposes.  This group of people cannot vote or contribute to U.S. social security.  Is it that they’re foreign nationals and Congress has no real interest in them?  There are 45,576 of them and aren’t they all just happy to have jobs working for Uncle Sam who takes care of them when he can?

Foreign Service Nationals are apparently the “sturdy backbone” that holds together our diplomatic missions overseas. And  because we treat them so well and all, there is absolutely no reason why they should ever need a union, or a bill of rights, or an ombudsman.  And if they get killed in the line of duty, well then …. they’d be lucky if they find a USG official to fundraise for their next of kin on his own time.

If this group of employees were a book, the following would be printed in bold on the dust jacket:

“FSNs provide more than services and corporate memory. They are the backbone of the Department and play an essential role in achieving U.S. foreign policy objectives. Their loyalty and dedication are legendary. Many FSNs have given their lives protecting U.S. embassies and employees.”

State Magazine (Official Magazine of the U.S. Department of State)

“Of approximately 40,000 FSNs employed worldwide by all U.S. agencies, 32,000—80 percent—work for the Department. Their knowledge, special skills and rich network of local con- tacts are priceless. They share our vision, our challenges, our risks and our burdens.”

Ambassador W. Robert Pearson (Director General of the Foreign Service, 2003-2006)

“I would like to say a special thank you to our 53,000 Locally Employed Staff serving around the world. These dedicated men and women perform many critical tasks and generously share their experience and wisdom with their American colleagues.

Ambassador Nancy Powell (Director General of the Foreign Service, 2009-2012)

“Consul generals come and go, ambassadors come and go, Secretaries come and go, but our locally employed staff really provides the continuity. You provide the memory bank of everything that went before, and we could not do this work without you as our colleagues working side by side every single day.”

Hillary Rodham Clinton (Secretary of State, 2009-2013)

“Americans who serve overseas are blessed to never serve alone. We rely on the support and the friendship and the wise counsel of our locally employed staff, and we trust our cause to their courage. Local employees around the world commit themselves to building strong and lasting relationships between their home countries and the United States, and they often serve for decades with loyalty and with devotion. You teach a steady stream of American diplomats who serve among you for a few years all about the values and virtues and beauties of your country and of the spirit of your people. You are the sturdy backbone that holds together the kind of mission that we are engaged in, and we are enormously grateful to you for that.”

John F. Kerry, Secretary of State, March 1, 2013

 

Perhaps what  Mr. chief labor-management negotiator failed to explain is if 45,576 local embassy employees were to unionize, they could potentially immobilize embassy operations in over 280 locations. In which case, every mission would have to implement a policy of “all-purpose duty,” as US Embassy Moscow did in 1986 whereby all embassy employees were expected to pick up all of the tasks previously handled by the Foreign Service Nationals, in addition to their official responsibilities.  In Moscow, the Ambassador spouse was not spared as her household staff was also pulled out and she had to double as hostess and cook.  In this scenario, even the most tedious tasks, such as washing embassy cars, shoveling snow, cutting grass, cleaning bathrooms, answering phones, printing visas, clearing goods through customs, etc. etc….will become the responsibility of the American diplomatic officials, in addition to their own duties and responsibilities.

We live in an interconnected world, more so now than five years ago.  The linkages already exist.  A time will come in the not too distant future when Mr. Polson’s “staff associations” will become one, whether the State Department choses to recognize it or not.

🙉

Photo of the Day: Ballistics-Resistance Glass vs. Enraged Mob

Via Political Violence Against Americans, 2011

May 1, 2011 –Tripoli, Libya |  “Libyan military personnel stormed the General Service Office (GSO) warehouse and drove trucks onto the warehouse compound and stole U.S.Government property. Members of the U.S. Embassy’s local guard force were forced to evacuate to adjacent properties. When the Libyan forces departed the GSO warehouse, other Libyans followed in their wake and looted the warehouse. The Ambassador’s and Deputy Chief of Mission’s residences were also stormed, damaged, and looted by members of the Libyan Revolutionary Guards.”

Screen Shot 2013-05-24