@StateDept Changes Post Allowances – Which Posts Are Up, Down, or Now Zero

 

Via state.gov:

SPECIAL NOTICE FOR POST ALLOWANCE (COLA) CHANGES EFFECTIVE OCTOBER 11, 2020 WITH TL:SR 1005

“The majority of the Post Allowance (COLA) changes effective 10/11/2020 are the result of a revised COLA process that was an outcome of a GAO audit, Congressional inquiries, and a 2017 OIG recommendation that the Department develop an objective method of generating COLA rates.
The major change in the process from the prior method is with respect to collection of market data.  Rather than task posts with collecting the data, the Department’s contractor now obtains it for 210 locations, including Washington, D.C. suburbs, from Mercer, AirInc, and ECA International.  These three companies provide similar support to major U.S. multinational enterprises with worldwide presence.  The contractor then used a uniform methodology, adjusting for costs of housing and utilities since these are provided by USG agencies for their employees assigned to foreign posts, to calculate an index that assigned a base score of 100 to the Washington, D.C. suburbs and compared other locations to that base.  The rate for each post is based on how the post index compares to the base index.
The data for the foreign post’s expat basket of goods and services is compared to that of the Washington, D.C. suburbs.  The contractor will provide updated index information to the Department of State’s Office of Allowances every August.  New COLA rates based on that data will be implemented in the first full pay period of each Fiscal Year.  Post indexes will be reviewed on a biweekly basis for exchange rate fluctuations and post allowances will be adjusted when necessary.  Posts determined to have hyperinflation will be adjusted biannually.  More information about how COLA levels are determined is available in DSSR 228.”
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The announcement says that the contractor now obtains data for 210 locations including Washington, D.C. suburbs. We should note that posts identified by the Office of Allowances include over 700 locations overseas.
According to the Office of Allowances, post allowance, commonly referred to as the “cost-of-living” allowance is an allowance based on a percentage of “spendable income,” i.e. money you can really put your hands on to spend on goods and services. The amount varies depending on salary level and family size. The post allowance is calculated by comparing costs for goods and services in 11 categories – including food (consumed at home or in restaurants), tobacco/alcohol, clothing, personal care items, furnishings, household goods, medical services, recreation, public transportation, vehicle-related expenses, and household help – to the cost of those same goods and services in Washington, D.C.
The Office of Allowances notes that if the overall cost of goods and services at a foreign post, taking into account expenditure patterns, is at least 3% above the cost of the same goods and services in the Washington, D.C. area, a post allowance is established. See DSSR section 220 for more information.
The State Department announcement does not identify the contractor but one of its sources is Mercer.  Hong Kong listed by Mercer as the most expensive city for expatriates in its 2020 Cost of Living ranking is up from 42% to 60% in the new State Department post allowance listing.
Ashgabat, Turkmenistan listed by Mercer as the second most expensive place for expatriates for 2020 went from a COLA of 30% to 50% as of October 11.
Tokyo and Zurich were ranked by Mercer at #3 and #4 . Tokyo’s allowance went from 50% to 70% while Zurich (other) went from 80% to 100%.
Singapore ranked by Mercer as 5th most expensive in its 2020 cost of living ranking is up from 20% to 42%.
We understand that the COLA changes are affecting a host of posts, with some losing allowances in double digits and others ending up with zero for their cost of living allowance.
Zimbabwe went from 70% to 50%. Angola went from 50% to 30%. Benin went from 20% to 5%. Port-au-Prince from 25% to 5%; Bulgaria from 15% to zero. Ethiopia from 15% to zero.  El Salvador went from 10% to zero.
Burkina Faso went from 20% COLA last month to zero post allowance effective October 11. Other posts which previously received similar post allowance of 20% but are now reduced to zero are: Havana, Cuba; Amman, Jordan, Lilongwe, Malawi; Casablanca, Morocco; Kigali, Rwanda; Paramaribo, Suriname; Chiang Mai, Thailand;  Tashkent, Uzbekistan; Bujumbura, Burundi; Lusaka, Zambia.
UK posts like London and Edinburgh went from 50% to 42%. Canadian posts like Toronto and Vancouver went from 42% to 25%. Some Australian posts went from 30% to 10% while others like Darwin and Adelaide went from 25% to 5%.
According to the Mercer survey, the world’s least expensive cities for expatriates are Tunis (#209), Windhoek (#208), and Tashkent and Bishkek, which tied for the #206 spot.
Tunis and Bishkek both have zero COLA in the old and new State Department allowances listing but Tashkent has now gone from 20% to zero and Windhoek from 15% to zero effective October 11.
Meanwhile, other posts saw double digit increases: Posts in China went from 5-25% to 15-42%.  Bangui in the Central African Republic is now up to 50% from 25%. Finland went from 35% to 50%. Libreville, Gabon is now 50%  from 30%. Posts in Israel went from 30% to 50%. Increases for posts in Japan range from 7% to 20%. South Sudan went from 42% to 70%.
Post allowances remained unchanged for some posts: Greenland (60%), Denmark (50%), Bahrain (20%), Barbados (35%), Bermuda (60%), Chad (42%), Qatar (25%), Djibouti (30%), Iceland (10%), Kuwait (15%).
Below are the most expensive Foreign Service assignments based on the new cost of living allowances effective October 11, 2020:

#1. SWITZERLAND (Geneva, Other) — 100%

#2. SWITZERLAND (Bern)  —————- 80%

#3. JAPAN (Tokyo, Fukuoka) ————— 70%

#4. SOUTH SUDAN (Juba, Other).——-  70%

#5. AUSTRIA (Vienna, Other).————-  60%

#6. BERMUDA (Bermuda).—————–  60%

#7. GREENLAND (Nuuk).——————- 60%

#8. HONG KONG —————————-  60%

#9. JAPAN (Kyota, Nagoya Sapporo
(Osaka-Kobe, Yokohama).——————  60%

#10. ZIMBABWE (Harare, Other).——- 50%

#11. CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
(Bangui).     ————————————- 50%

#12. DENMARK
(Copenhagen, Other).———————— 50%

#13. FINLAND (Helsinki).—————— 50%

#14. GABON (Libreville, Other).———- 50%

#15. ISRAEL
(Tel Aviv, Jerusalem).———————–  50%

#16. ITALY
(Florence, Milan, Turin).——————- 50%

#17. TURKMENISTAN
(Ashgabat, Other). ————————–  50%


 

Trump to Nominate Ex-NHTSA Admin Nicole R. Nason to be Asst Secretary For Administration

Posted: 2:12 am ET

 

On November 28, the White House announced President Trump’s intent to nominate former NHTSA Administrator Nicole R. Nason to be the next Assistant Secretary of State for Administration. The WH released the following brief bio:

Nicole R. Nason of New York will serve as an Assistant Secretary of State for Administration. Ms. Nason, an attorney and senior government official, has served as a Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State in Washington, D.C. since June 2017. She previously served in Washington, D.C. as Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation (2006-2008), Assistant Secretary for Government Affairs, U.S. Department of Transportation (2003-2006), Assistant Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (2002-2003) and Attorney for the Subcommittee on Crime, U.S. House of Representatives (1995- 1999). From 2014-2017, she founded and ran Project Koe in Connecticut, empowering women and improving health and fitness using traditional Japanese martial arts techniques. Ms. Nason earned a B.A. in Political Science and Government at American University and a J.D. at Case Western Reserve University.

According to AllGov, she previously worked as counsel and communications director for Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss of Florida, as counsel for the House Judiciary Committee under Chairman Henry Hyde of Illinois, and as assistant commissioner of the Office of Congressional Affairs  at the U.S. Customs Service.

According to Consumer Report, Nason left NHTSA after serving a little more than two years as head of the government’s primary auto safety agency.

A quick summary about the A bureau via state.gov:

The Bureau of Administration provides support programs to the Department of State and U.S. embassies and consulates. These programs include: procurement; supply and transportation; diplomatic pouch and mail services; official records, publishing, and library services; language services; setting allowance rates for U.S. Government personnel assigned abroad and providing support for Department assisted overseas schools; domestic real property and facilities management; domestic emergency management; support for White House travel abroad; and logistical support for special conferences.

Direct services to the public and other government agencies include: responding to requests under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts and providing the Virtual Reading Room for public reference to State Department records and information access programs; printing official publications; simultaneous interpretation for Senior USG Officials; and determining use of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the Harry S Truman headquarters building in Washington, DC.

State/A oversees the offices of Allowances, Directives, Emergency Management, Global Publishing, Languages Services, Logistics Management, Overseas Schools, and the Office of the Procurement Executive. The incumbent reports to the Under Secretary for Management.

History.state.gov notes that the Department of State created the position of Assistant Secretary of State for Administration during a general reorganization in December 1944, after Congress authorized an increase in the number of Assistant Secretaries in the Department from four to six (Dec 8, 1944; P.L. 78-472; 58 Stat. 798). The reorganization was the first to designate substantive designations for specific Assistant Secretary positions. The title for this position has varied over the years. Assistant Secretaries for Administration have supervised a variety of functions ranging from budget and personnel matters to foreign buildings and record keeping. Several of these functions, such as accounting and diplomatic security have become the responsibility of newly created bureaus.

Of the last ten appointees to this position, two have been non-career appointments, Arthur Fort and Rajkumar Chellaraj.

Related items:

Nicole Nason: AllGov
Diplomacy, humor take new NHTSA chief far (by Jayne O’Donnell, USA Today)
Hey Auto Journalists, NHTSA Administrator Nicole Nason Is Waiting To Take YOUR Call! (Jalopnik)
Bush Names Choice To Head Traffic Safety (by Sholnn Freeman, Washington Post)
What’s Off the Record at N.H.T.S.A.? Almost Everything (NYT, August 22, 2007 via Wayback Machine)
David Kelly replaces Nicole Nason as top NHTSA administrator (Consumer Reports News, Sept 8, 2008)
For NHTSA Chief Nason, Family Influences Policy (Edmunds.com, Wayback Machine)

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