Foreign Service Promotion Statistics 2014-2017: Minister Counselors (FE-MC) to Career Ministers (FE-CM)

Posted: 3:05 am ET
Updated: 12:37 pm PT


Below is the comparative look of the State Department Foreign Service promotion stats from 2014-2017 for Minister Counselors (FE-MC equivalent to Two-star rank (O-8)) to Career Ministers (FE-CM equivalent to Three-star rank (O-9)). FE-CM is the highest regular senior rank in the Foreign Service.  On November 16, 2017, the U.S. Senate confirmed four nominees to the rank of Career Minister (see PN 2100). Promotion stats below (also published annually in State Magazine) only covers the State Department; we don’t have data for USAID, Commerce (Foreign Commercial Service), or Agriculture (Foreign Agricultural Service).

Four FSOs were promoted to this rank in 2017, the same number promoted in 2015. The number of promotions to this rank ranges from 4-6 FSOs in 2014-2017, so there’s nothing that appears particularly striking in these numbers. If you’re seeing something we’re not seeing, email us. We’ll try and do the other ranks; there are notable numbers there.

Via 11/24/17  FS Promotion Statistics

Note that an extremely limited number of career diplomats attain Career Ambassador rank (FE-CA equivalent to Four-star rank (O-10)). Per 3 FAM 2320, the Secretary may recommend to the President the conferral of the personal rank of Career Ambassador on a limited number of career members of the SFS of the class of Career Minister whose careers have been characterized by especially distinguished service over a sustained period and who meet the requirements of 3 FAM 2324.2.  Conferral of the personal rank of Career Ambassador is made by the President, and with the advice and consent of the Senate.

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Why Are DS Agents Fleeing Diplomatic Security In Droves For the U.S. Marshals Service?

Posted: 2:17 am ET
Updated: 12:21 pm PT
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We’ve heard from multiple sources that some 30-40 DS agents are leaving the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (State/DS) to join the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) and that there may be other group departures for other agencies.

One DS source speaking on background told us that the USMS Director reportedly called his counterpart at Diplomatic Security to inform the latter that he would be extending job offers to over 40 agents.  Another bureau source told us that during the “huddle” involving the DS agents prior to the start of the recent UNGA event in New York, the bureau’s second highest ranking official reportedly told the assembled agents that the departing agents would not be allowed back.

Does this mean that in addition to the shortage of approximately 200 agents discussed at the worldwide RSO conference this past May, there are 40 or more agent positions that will soon go vacant?


Our DS source speaking on background said that “there’s an overall discontent amongst mid-level DS agents and the main reason seems to stem from the current DS leadership.”

The DS insider cited the following main complaints that have reportedly bounced around the corridors:

  • “DS promotes the “good ol’ boys” and not necessarily the smart, motivated agents who are capable of leading the bureau. This leaves us with a lot of incompetent top-level DS agents and a lot of disgruntled lower lever DS agents.”
  • “DS is incapable of managing their promotions and assignments and, as a result, agents are frustrated with the lack of transparency. Also, there’s no one to complain to as AFSA seems to disregard DS completely. Almost as if the bureau is too far gone to save.”
  • “DS agents spend most of their time domestically, but DS does not allow DS agents to homestead, or stay in one field office for longer than one tour. This creates a lot of unnecessary hardships for families.”
    (A separate source told us that those serving on domestic assignments want to stay more than one tour in cities other than the District of Columbia and estimate that this would not only serve the U.S. government money from relocation costs but also allow agents to build continuity with prosecutors and other agencies).
  • “Regardless of gender, DS leadership is not concerned with family and does not provide a healthy work/life balance for any of their agents.”

We should point out that one of the bureaucratic casualties in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack was Charlene Lamb, who was then the Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs. In that capacity, she was responsible for managing and directing all international missions and personnel.

Back in August 2013, we wrote this:

The DS bureau has been described as in a “hell of hurt” these days.  Not only because it lost three of its top officials in one messy swoop, but also because one of those officials was an important cog in the assignment wheel of about 1,900 security officers.  If the assignments of DS agents overseas have been a great big mess for the last several months, you may account that to the fact that Ms. Lamb, the person responsible for managing and directing all Bureau of Diplomatic Security programs and policies including personnel, had been put inside a deep freezer.  While planning has never been a State Department strength, succession planning is altogether a foreign object.

Note and question of the day:  “Diplomatic Security is under intense pressure following Benghazi so now all resources are put towards “high threat” areas.  Nevertheless, experienced and well regarded DS officers at overseas posts are finding it impossible to stay out – even when they are the first choice for the receiving post.  

We should note that there are only 170 embassies, 78 consulates general and 11 consulates overseas.  There are not enough positions for all DS agents to fill overseas and majority of them do serve at domestic locations.

If it is true that the bureau has been “incapable of managing their promotions and assignments” in the last three years, then we can see why this could be frustrating enough to make agents decamp to other agencies.

Of course, the bureau can replace all those who are leaving, no matter the number. There is, after all, a large pool of applicants just waiting to be called to start new classes. (Note: There’s a rumor going on that DS reportedly had difficulty filling the last two DS agent classes because they were short of people on the list. We don’t know how this could be possible if DS has always had a full roster of qualified applicants on its list.  In 2015, it claimed to have 10,000 applicants but only assessed slightly over 500 applicants.)  

But that’s not really the point. Training takes time.  Time costs money. And above all, there is no instant solution to bridging the experience gap. If people are leaving, does the bureau know why?  If it doesn’t know why, is it interested in finding out the whys?  Is it interested in fixing the causes for these departures?

That low attrition rate

We were also previously told by a spokesperson that the overall Special Agent attrition rate for 2015 was 3.66%.  We have since been informed by a bureau source that this is an inaccurate attrition stats, as the figure released did not count agents who transition to other agencies, only those who leave U.S. Government service.

We’ve been trying to get a comment from Diplomatic Security since last week on agent departures. We’ve also requested clarification on the attrition rate released to us.  As of this writing, we have not received a response.



374 Foreign Service Promotions Confirmed as Senate Rushed Out For Easter Break

Posted: 2:17 am EDT
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After another lengthy wait, the U.S. Senate finally confirmed the promotion of 374 Foreign Service officers on March 27, 2015.  The Senate is now adjourned until April 13, 2015 where the wait for several more ambassadorial and regular FS nominees will presumably continue with no end in sight.

2015-03-27 PN69 Foreign Service

Nominations beginning Joyce A. Barr, and ending Nancy E. McEldowney, which 6 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 13, 2015.  The following-named Career Members of the Senior Foreign Service of the Department of State for promotion within the Senior Foreign Service to the class indicated: Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service of the United States of America, Class of Career Minister:

Joyce A. Barr

Robert F. Godec Jr.

Patricia M. Haslach

Paul Wayne Jones

Scot Alan Marciel

Nancy E. McEldowney


2015-03-27 PN70 Foreign Service/USAID

Nominations beginning Karen L. Freeman, and ending Monica Stein-Olson, which 5 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 13, 2015.

2015-03-27 PN71-1 Foreign Service

Nominations beginning Jeffrey N. Bakken, and ending Ellen Marie Zehr, which 37 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 13, 2015.

2015-03-27 PN72-1 Foreign Service

Nominations beginning Gregory Adams, and ending Todd R. Ziccarelli, which 177 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 13, 2015.

2015-03-27 PN230-1 Foreign Service

Nominations beginning Alexious Butler, and ending Naida Zecevic Bean, which 143 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on February 26, 2015.

2015-03-27 PN231 Foreign Service

Nominations beginning Adam Michael Branson, and ending Marc C. Gilkey, which 6 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on February 26, 2015.


Related posts:


2014 Foreign Service Promotions Stuck on Glue in the Senate. Again. Yo! Wassup?

Posted: 15:04 EST
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The Foreign Service promotion list typically comes out in the fall. It looks like last year’s list was stuck in the Senate in 2014, and was resubmitted on January 13, 2015 to the 114th Congress.  To-date, 181 names on this list are still  stuck in the Committee on Foreign Relations (There are other names pending in committee under different lists, see all here). It also appears that one name on this list has been on ice at the SFRC since 2012. That’s right, 2012 —  the year of the Arab Spring, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee,  and the year when Curiosity, the rover landed on Mars.  What’s going on here?


List of Nominees:

The following-named Career Members of the Senior Foreign Service of the Department of State for promotion into and within the Senior Foreign Service to the classes indicated: Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor:

Gregory Adams, of VA
Larry Edward Andre, Jr., of TX
Elizabeth Moore Aubin, of MD
Charles Edward Bennett, of WA
Gloria F. Berbena, of CA
Rena Bitter, of DC
Charles Kevin Blackstone, of FL
James A. Boughner, of WA
Michael B. Bretz, of VA
Duane Clemens Butcher, Jr., of VA
William Brent Christensen, of VA
Sandra Eliane Clark, of VA
Mark J. Davidson, of DC
John Paul Desrocher, of DC
Benjamin Beardsley Dille, of MN
Bruce E. Donahue, of VA
William H. Duncan, of TX
John Martin Eustace, Jr., of VA
Christopher Fitzgerald, of IA
Lawrence W. Gernon, of TX
Thomas B. Gibbons, of VA
William Kevin Grant, of VA
Kristin M. Hagerstrom, of LA
Matthew Tracy Harrington, of GA
Brent R. Hartley, of MD
Debra P. Heien, of HI
Simon Henshaw, of VA
Christopher Paul Henzel, of NY
L. Victor Hurtado, of CO
Makila James, of DC
Kathy A. Johnson, of TX
Patricia K. Kabra, of DC
Steven B. Kashkett, of FL
Glen C. Keiser, of CA
Laura Jean Kirkconnell, of FL
John M. Kuschner, of NH
Patricia A. Lacina, of CA
Alexander Mark Laskaris, of MD
Timothy Lenderking, of DC
Earle D. Litzenberger, of CA
Naomi Emerson Lyew, of VA
Matthew John Matthews, of VA
Michael McCarthy, of VA
Elisabeth Inga Millard, of VA
Judith A. Moon, of VA
Richard Walter Nelson, of CA
Hilary S. Olsin-Windecker, of NY
Joseph S. Pennington, of FL
Ann E. Pforzheimer, of NY
H. Dean Pittman, of DC
Joan Polaschik, of VA
Joseph M. Pomper, of CT
Michael A. Ratney, of MA
Thomas G. Rogan, of NH
Christopher John Rowan, of PA
Eric N. Rumpf, of WA
Michael R. Schimmel, of MI
Jeffrey R. Sexton, of FL
Lawrence Robert Silverman, of VA
Susan N. Stevenson, of VA
Kevin King Sullivan, of VA
Lynne M. Tracy, of OH
Bruce Irvin Turner, of FL
Conrad William Turner, of VA
Karen L. Williams, of FL
Brian William Wilson, of WA
Charles E. Wright, of CA
Hoyt B. Yee, of CA

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Secondments to international organizations and promotions? Here comes the boo!

— Domani Spero
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Eligible U.S. government employees may be detailed or transferred to certain international organizations in which the United States participates.  Authority and procedures for such details and transfers are found in:  5 U.S.C. §§ 3343, 358l-3584 and 5 C.F.R. and §§ 352.301 through 352.314. via


This past summer, we learned that for the past several years, the Department and AFSA have agreed to a “procedural precept” for the Foreign Service Selection Boards that explicitly excludes from promotion consideration Foreign Service Officers who have been transferred to some international organizations. We could not find hard numbers on how many officers have been impacted or which IO assignments are excluded.

We did hear that this particular issue (separation to work in an international organization, with re-employment rights) apparently affects “a very small number of people,” and that in the past, officers, typically not willing to rock the boat, have made themselves content with simply accepting a time-in-class (TIC) extension (pdf).

Screen Shot 2014-10-28

That’s weird, right? This appears to disincentivize U.S. citizen employment in international organizations, something that is apparently a congressional mandate; so much so that an office in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs (State/IO) is actually tasks with promoting such employment. Well, actually the policy for agencies to take affirmative steps in having U.S. citizens work in international organization dates back to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s tenure. Seriously.

We understand that the justification for the exclusion in the Precepts was articulated over five years ago and is contained in a June 23, 2008 AFSA letter:

“The rule prohibiting Selection Board competition of members on  certain secondments became effective in June 2004 on issuance of the  Procedural Precepts for the 2004 Foreign Service Selection Boards   and has been in effect for the past five years [sic]. It was  introduced to prevent employees from using secondments to extend   their time-in-class and the length of their tours of duty in  Missions such as Vienna, Brussels and Geneva while continuing to  compete for promotion, performance pay, etc.”

An FSO who is familiar with the process and the exclusion told us that this explanation is “nonsense.”  Apparently, this exclusion also applies  to personnel transferred to UN agencies in Afghanistan, Darfur,  Southern Sudan, Kenya, East Timor, etc. We were also told that the Precept (see (I(B)(6)(j) of the Procedural Precepts), is a “Bush-era ham-fisted attempt” to   punish any service outside of Iraq and Afghanistan, with “scant  attention paid to broader policy implications or legal norms.”

So in essence, we really want more Americans to serve in international organizations, but if FS employees do serve in those capacities, it is likely that some of them will not be considered for promotion. And since international org assignments can run longer than foreign service tours, that basically puts a career in deep ice; surely a concerning detail in an up or out system like the Foreign Service.  And you wonder why there’s not a single stampede for these jobs.

What do the Federal regulations say?

Title 5 (see CFR § 352.314 Consideration for promotion and pay increases) has this:

(a) The employing agency must consider an employee who is detailed or transferred to an international organization for all promotions for  which the employee would be considered if not absent. A promotion based on this consideration is effective on the date it would have been effective if the employee were not absent. (pdf)

We were told that the State Department’s Legal Adviser’s (State/L) position is that…   “The Precepts are authorized under Title 22, and the Secretary has the authority to prescribe what they say”.

And what exactly does Title 22 says?

22 USC § 3982 (2011) §3982. Assignments to Foreign Service positions
(a) Positions assignable; basis for assignment
(1) The Secretary (with the concurrence of the agency concerned) may assign a member of the Service to any position classified under section 3981 of this title in which that member is eligible to serve (other than as chief of mission or ambassador at large), and may assign a member from one such position to another such position as the needs of the Service may require.

So basically since “L” had apparently ruled that FS Assignments are made under Title 22 (which does not address promotions), and Title 5 (the part of the regs that actually addresses promotion), does not apply — there is no desire to reconcile the conflict between the promotion eligibility of detailed/transferred employees to an international organization contained in Title 5 with the exclusion contained in the Precepts?

Wow! We’re having an ouchy, ouchy headache.

If this interpretation stands, does it mean that the Secretary of State is free to disregard any legal norm, standard or entitlement that is not spelled out specifically in Title 22?

And we’re curious — where does HR/CDA/SL/CDT obtain its legal authority to pick and choose among transferred members on who should and should not be considered for promotion? It appears that 5 CFR 352.314 spells out a clear entitlement to promotion consideration for ALL transferred officers but for the “L” interpretation.

We understand that there is now a Foreign Service Grievance case based exactly on this exclusion in the Precept. If not resolved by FSGB, this could potentially move to federal court as it involves not only adjustment in rank, and withheld benefits but also TSP coverage which has retirement implications. Will State Department lawyers go to court citing “FS Assignments outside DOS” booklet, issued by HR/CDA/CDT over the federal regulations under Title 5?

Perhaps, the main story here is not even about a specific precept, but the fact that Department management is disregarding Federal law and from what we’ve seen — AFSA, the professional representative and bargaining unit of the Foreign Service has been  aware of this for years but has no interest in pressing the issue.

* * *

How about an EER Survivor Reality Show via BNET? C’mon, It’ll Be Fun!

We recently got a reminder in our “burn bag” about EERs. Basically, a reminder that it’s a new year, so there will be Employee Evaluation Reports to do this year, just like every year.

There used to be lots of EER talk on the blogosphere prior to April.  But not so much this year. Maybe it’s still early but … anyway, if you’re not terribly familiar about EERs, they’re like taxes and root canals, not pleasant by any stretch of the imagination but gotta be done.

In any case, a whole bunch of folks now write their own EERs.  We wondered briefly if anybody ever give themselves a poor evaluation — such as “this officer take on so much work he makes everyone looks bad;” or “this officer takes mentoring at a new level, acting like a mother hen to new chicks just hatched that she should be promoted at the earliest opportunity.”

Now, you may not know this but this is all very, VERY serious business.  The future of the new global order hinges on this.  Imagine if our future best Paranoidistan negotiator could not get promoted to fulfill his/her destiny because his/her boss did not know how to make him walk on water?  Um, excuse us, because he/she did not know how to make himself/herself walk on water in DS-1829 or DS-5055 or whatever the form is called these days.  Imagine destiny denied due to bad writing.  Yes, that would be awful.  Still, just between us, we happen to think that something drastic needs to be done about this process.  Because — see, how can everyone all be performing in an absolutely outstanding manner? Even that screamer.  Even that micromanager.  Even that arse-kiss ….

And that’s not all — apparently “a misplaced comma or misused word can [snip] rile a promotion panel to the extent that it passes over the employee for promotion.”

So you work your arse off and is absolutely showing potential for the next higher responsibility but because of a misplaced comma on your EER, the promotion panel toasts you crazy? Like — yo, misplaced comma, you’re so busted! They’re also the comma police?

Holy mother of goat and all her crazy nephews!

A recreation of the logo for the first America...

A recreation of the logo for the first American Survivor season, Survivor: Borneo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pardon?  Oh, housemate wants to know what planet have moi been living in the past 30 years. After all people have been complaining about this like forEVER, so he’s fairly sure that nothing will be done about this. Why? ‘Cuuz — during the last go-round, they reportedly made the performance appraisal more efficient and user-friendly (oh, hello ePerformance, you wonderful bureaucratic nightmare!). There’s no mention on making the process effective; just efficient. Something you gotta love!

The EER issue makes a routine appearance on the trade publication.  One September issue of the Foreign Service Journal had something on this. One of the letters (Through the Looking Glass, September 2009) was a comment on a previously published article on the journal (EERs: The Forgotten Front in the War for Talent). The letter writer whose name was withheld by request is a Foreign Service employee at an unnamed post in Africa. That in itself is quite telling:

This spring, I proofread many Employee Evaluation Reports and did not see a single negative statement — even in the one for my office’s former Office Management Specialist, whom I’ll call “Janet.” Janet was assigned to cover the phones in our busy office, but spent half the day in the hall chatting with friends. When she was at her desk, surfing the Web was one of her prime activities. She worked with us until the head of our office told the human resources director at post that he never wanted to see her again. HR moved Janet to another office, where she has continued to be unmotivated and uncaring.

Janet’s EER rater joked to me that he’d had to include her participation in a local 5K race as an achievement because it was so difficult to come up with anything good to say about her work. Apparently, being nice is much more important than being truthful.

After only one year with the Foreign Service, I’ve come to a depressing conclusion: because FS personnel aren’t actually evaluated, we are just like Soviet factory workers — lacking any incentive to excel.

Soviet factory workers, huh? A little outdated and a tad harsh, but we understand the sentiment.

A more recent Speaking Out piece, also in the Foreign Service Journal calculated the hours spent on EERs for each employee at 15 hours and the cumulative hours spent on EERs by the entire agency at 180,000 hours a year; the equivalent of 22,500 workdays, 61 calendar years or 90 working years.  You can read yourself scared silly about that on the FSJ September 20012 issue [See Overhauling the EER Process).

The FSO who wrote the article helpfully points out:

We need a system that significantly reduces the amount of time and energy it takes to produce a review, freeing up that time to pursue the important work of diplomacy and development. It should also accurately and fairly evaluate employees and, without overstating their accomplishments, produce EERs that enable promotion panels to identify high-performing employees.

Please do not think that there are no great workers out there. There are. And it is a disservice to them and all who spend far too much time making things work and doing things right (as oppose to just doing things) not to have an effective performance evaluation system. The heart of the problem is that supervisors with some exceptions lack the spine to do the right thing when it comes to performance evaluation. They’d rather let things slide than document a bad performance (let the next guy deal with dat) or conduct real counseling, cuz that can get complicated, and you might end up in the grievance board, or some elsewhere place you don’t really want to be. Or if they have the spine and they don’t play the game, their ratees suffer as a consequence since others then play the inflationary board game much better. See the problem there?

The performance review, if you look under the rug is an exercise in artful rhetoric.

Did you hear about that one where Front Office executives gave a Section Chief a glowing EER complete with fireworks, only to be contradicted with a firehose by an inspection evaluation review from the OIG?  The Front Office rater and reviewer talked about ratee as a big deal mentor and leader, and almost everyone else at post unfortunately, told the OIG inspectors the exact opposite. As you might imagine, the case ended up as part of the Grievance Board statistics.

On a related note, over at Foreign Policy (registration required), commenters on Nicholas Kralev’s recent piece  had some fun:

Geo Frick Frack:  “… The successes are exaggerated, and the failures are obscured or explained away. Yet most have wonderful evaluations and the occasional award….”

SKB: Go ahead and give yourself a Franklin Award.  This round is on me.  😉

Geo Frick Frack: Thanks. I’ll repay the favor with a Group MHA.

Anyway —  in keeping with belt tightening and the “Bank of Afghanistan R Us” spending bandwagon, let’s introduce one  money saver here — what if EERs become “Energy Expended Ratings” without the calorie counter in a pedometer?  Wouldn’t it be perfectly normal and acceptable to rate the energy expended in a 5K race, surfing the web, etc. ? Just think — no more excessive time wasted on drafting, revising, reviewing, beautifying, soliciting global input from  friends on the other side of the world on EER texts, or editing, finalizing, what have you, tinkering with these reports.

Imagine the “personhours” saved!  Sorry, we get an itch everytime we hear “manhours” so we try to avoid using that term.

Another possible money saver?  Just do away with convening the promotion boards.  Why not just let folks toss out colleagues and bosses in an “EER Survivor” reality show via BNET? Something like “outwit, outplay, outlast.”  A real 360 degree feedback without those wacky questions; and even wackier answers from BFFs and uber friendly colleagues and subordinates.

You think this would really be more difficult than the process that is now in place? Um, don’t know. We will executive produce it if you want to try it …

What about make-up artists?

What? Oh, no, no! The EER Survivor Reality Show has no line item for make-up artists.  All wrinkles will be up close and personal;  no airbrushing allowed for mediocre performance, either.  Of course, the reality show will also have a “classified” or at a minimum, “SBU” (sensitive but classified) viewers’ ratings so members of the media, bloggers in pajamas and nosy taxpayers will not be able to use it as a date-night excuse.  But the good news is — it’ll be available for viewing at the cafeteria!

How about it — these are great money savers and fantastic ideas, if we may say so ourselves?  Anyone?  ANYONE out there?

BTW, one of our former bosses wanted to become ambassador one day and declined the invitation.

But.. but… boss, you’ll be on tee-vee!!


P.S. No EER was harmed in the writing of this blog post.