Waiting For Tillerson: Grievance Board’s Term Expired on 9/30, Members Down From 18 to 8

Posted: 2:52 am ET
Updated: 9:12 am PT

 

Update: After this blogpost was posted, we received the following from FSGB today:  “Secretary Tillerson appointed 11 members to the Board on November 3, 2017 – six former members were reappointed and five new members were appointed to their first terms on the Board. this yields a net increase of one Board member, bringing the total to 19 members. On the question of the website address: IRM is aware of the issue with the website and is researching a solution to resolve it. the current address is a temporary fix to allow us to stay online until IRM finds a permanent solution that will comply with the FAH.” The website has now been updated to reflect the members of the new Board.

The Foreign Service Grievance Board has 18 members.  The two-year appointment of 10 of 18 members expired on September 30, 2017. Secretary Tillerson needs to appoint new members of the Board. He is reportedly “considering appointments to the Board” but six weeks later, he has yet to announced his decision.

A quick background on the Foreign Service Grievance Board (FSGB) via fsgb.gov:

On March 26, 1976 Congress amended the Foreign Service Act of 1946 to establish a permanent grievance system.  Although it retained many of the procedures of the earlier, interim system, the statutory system carried additional functions and authority.  In particular, the new Board could order the suspension of agency actions pending the Board’s decision in cases involving the separation or disciplining of an employee if it considered such action warranted.  Further, the Board’s recommendations to an agency head could be rejected only if they “would be contrary to law, would adversely affect the foreign policy or security of the United States, or would substantially impair the efficiency of the service.”

Under Section 1105 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980, as amended (the Act), Congress established the Foreign Service Grievance Board, which consists of no fewer than five members who are independent, distinguished citizens of the United States. Well known for their integrity, they are not employees of the foreign affairs agencies or members of the Service. Each member, including the Chairperson, is appointed by the Secretary of State for a term of two years, subject to renewal. Appointments are made from nominees approved in writing by the agencies served by the Board and the exclusive representative for each such agency. The Chairperson may select one member as a deputy who, in the absence of the Chair, may assume the duties and responsibilities of that position. The Chair also selects an Executive Secretary, who is responsible to the Board through the Chairperson.

The grievance system underwent further change pursuant to the Foreign Service Act of 1980 and implementing regulations which went into effect on June 11, 1984.  The Foreign Commercial Service of the Department of Commerce and the Foreign Agricultural Service of the Department of Agriculture were added to the agencies already covered.

Through the years the makeup of the Board has changed from the initial nine members to a membership of 18.  Board members are appointed by the Secretary of State and the innovative mix of an almost equal number of professional arbitrators and of other members having Foreign Service experience has remained constant.

According to the FSGB, the terms of the Chairman and Deputy Chair expired on October 1, 2017, and the Board awaits the Secretary’s appointment of a new Chair.

In 2014, the average time for the disposition of an FSGB case from time of filing to Board decision, withdrawal or dismissal was 41 weeks. In 2015, it went down to 34 weeks, and in 2016 that time was up to 39 weeks.  The length of time for disposition of FSGB cases will likely go up again given that the members are down to its last eight members, they have no chairperson until one is appointed, and new members have yet to be appointed six weeks since the last Board’s appointment ended.

Below is the announcement from the FSGB:

Until October 1, the Foreign Service Grievance Board consisted of 18 members, appointed by the Secretary of State to two-year terms.  The terms of ten FSGB members, including the Chairperson, expired on September 30, 2017.  The Secretary of State is considering appointments to the Board, but has not yet announced his decision.  Until the appointments are announced, the remaining eight Board members, with the aid of their staff, will continue to work on resolving the cases before the Board to the extent allowed by time constraints and the limits of the Board’s authority under the Foreign Service Act.  Parties to grievance cases before the Board should adhere to all case processing deadlines, communicating with the adjudication panels through the Board Special Assistant assigned to their cases.  Grievants filing cases in this interim period will receive specific guidance after the grievance is filed. 

The Board requests patience, as case processing times will likely increase due to the reduced number of Board members able to rule on grievances.  Parties will be notified of changes to panel membership when such a change becomes necessary.

Also hey, what’s the deal with FSGB’s new URL –https://regionals.service-now.com/fsgb_public?

State Department websites are supposed to have a .gov in their URLs and are prohibited from using .com.  Per 5 FAH 8 H-342.3-2 Required Domain Names “Department public websites must use a state.gov domain name or .gov according to the naming convention for posts. The top-level name .com is strictly prohibited.”

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Snapshot: @StateDept’s Civil Service and Foreign Service Retirements, January-October 2017

Posted: 1:33 am ET
Updated: 11:01 am PT
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The following are clips with the names of Civil Service and Foreign Service employees who retired from the State Department from January to October this year. The names were published in the monthly trade magazine of the State Department. It looks like there are three non-career appointees included in the lists below. Political ambassadors conclude their appointments at the end of their tours, they do not “retire” from the Foreign Service as they are not career members. (Correction: We understand that if, at the time of conclusion of the non-career appointment, the person has sufficient federal government service (in various capacities during an entire career) and is otherwise eligible for federal retirement benefits, then the person can, in fact, “retire.” We do not know if they get Foreign Service retirement). We’ve asked if these names come from the Bureau of Human Resources but we have not received a response as of this writing. An unofficial source told us that these names come from HR but that there is typically a lag of a couple of months from actual retirement to publication of the name in State Magazine.

The *June and *July/August lists are particularly problematic due to some duplication of names on both lists but we’re posting these here for a snapshot of the departures. This does not include non-retirement separations. Based on these imperfect lists, the total retirements for the first 10 months of 2017 are at least a couple hundred employees each for the Civil Service and the Foreign Service. And we still have a couple months to go.

However, since the federal government manages its records by fiscal year, DGHR should already have the retirements and non-retirement separation data for FY2017 that ended on September 30, 2017. The State Department has always been proud of its low attrition rate, if our HR friends want to tout the FY2017 attrition data, let us know.

January 2017 – CS-24; FS-14

February 2017: CS-10; FS-45

March 2017: CS-47; FS-25

April 2017: CS-43; FS-25

May 2017: CS-16; FS-4

*June 2017: CS-54; FS-56


*July/August 2017: CS-41; FS-57
September 2017: CS-17; FS-34

October 2017: CS-11; FS-22


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Podium Cat Rolls Out Diplopundit’s GoFundMe 2016 Campaign

Posted: 2:35 am EDT
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It took some work but we finally got the GFM II campaign off the ground. We’ll see if we can keep the blog going for another 12 months. If successful, this will fund the blog from March 2016-March 2017.  If you find some value in the work we’ve done year after year since 2008, we hope you will continue supporting us in 2016. Check it out here!

 

 

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A Word About Our Blog Champions and Sponsors …

Posted: 12:10 am EDT
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How did we burn the year so quickly, so fast?  Half way through the year and I pause here to give thanks to OneFSO, TwoFSO, 373 blog angels, and all who helped spread the word and made this year possible for Diplopundit!

I have completed sending out invitations to the members-only forum: http://diplopundit.net/forum/.  It will probably take sometime to build our online community but hopefully, it will get there.  A forum on bidding and 4th of July event ideas have been suggested. If there is enough interest, I will add those as new forums to the members-only site. If you have not received your invitation, please contact the blog here.  All forums are accessible only to the supporters and funders of the blog. I understand that some of you may not have the time nor the inclination to join; the invitation was sent out in case of interest, you are under no obligation to join.  Right now, we have forums set up for the following:

The blog has so far hosted two “open forums” on topics of FS interest. These “open forums” do not/do not require membership or forum registration ( PTSD | Open Discussion and CorridorRep.com | Open Discussion) and are provided as a public service to the blog’s general readership. The blog will continue to host an occasional “open forum” on various topics as needed.

If you are not a donor/sponsor but is still interested in joining this blog’s online community, please contact us at http://diplopundit.net/contact-us/.  We are hoping to add, perhaps, a sustaining membership option for later this year.

And — sending an air hug to Nena S., real-life friend and personal cheerleader who has never been in the Foreign Service but who donated $1,100 towards  the blog’s upkeep for 2016.  I am grateful for your unending encouragement and affection N!

Also, check out the blog’s two corporate sponsors who helped make this year workable!

Embassy Risk Management | https://embassyrisk.com;
On FB https://www.facebook.com/EmbassyRisk and on Twitter: @EmbassyRisk

“With over 50,000 policyholders, more than 140 years of experience and an “A” (Excellent) rating from A.M. Best, Embassy Risk offers the convenience of having your international auto and property insurance covered with one comprehensive policy.”

A shoutout to Lloyd for helping sustain this blog! Thanks to Deborah, too!

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Silver City Mountain Resort California | http://www.silvercityresort.com
On FB: https://www.facebook.com/silvercityresort

“Imagine spending a few days at a mountain retreat where food is fresh and local; where fellow guests come from all over the world and where wildlife surrounds you when you wake up in the morning or go for that evening stroll into California’s only historical alpine settlement – the Mineral King Valley. It all takes place in a small rustic resort that is almost a century old and with a history that pre-dates the founding of the state of California.”

Many thanks to Philip and Kalina for their support for this blog. Thanks to Michael, too!

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4,000th! And now, the end is near …

— Domani Spero
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This is our 4,000th blogpost. A prodigious ‘bloggers in pajama’ project, huh?  These posts accounted for tons of words over the the last seven years, and if this were a printed journal, it would require a wheelbarrow. We wish we could  stay and dance but we have some sad news (or happy news depending on your perspective). We’re sorry to report that it looks like the blog won’t get to its 5,000th post.

We’ve worked hard the last several months,with only minor success, to find grants, direct ads, and/or sponsors for Diplopundit . A couple of commercial entities pledged to sponsor us for 2015. And, a prospective private donor, who certainly does not agree with all our viewpoints but thinks our absence would eliminate a much needed voice for Foreign Service accountability, has committed to supporting the blog (Thanks!). Those contributions would total approximately $10K,  but that is far short of the amount we need to stay online.

Truth to tell, we  kind of suck at raising money, so political bundling definitely will not/not be in our future. We’re also apparently, not very good at making friends with the “right” people. Just for the record, we’re actually quite nice and do not bite. The blog sometimes gets bitey though, but always within reason, and never with viral polioencephalitis, but … can you blame folks for slamming their doors on the “darn blog?”

Is this the end?  Perhaps this is just the universe telling your blogger to go take a hike because there’s something just as interesting down the road!  To blog pals and supporters offering to contribute to a crowdfunding, thank you all. It probably will not be surprising to you that the number of our blog supporters and funders is a distinct minority in the universe of this blog’s total readers. We tried crowdfunding for 2014 but we’re not looking at doing it again; it would make walking away simply harder.  For those who send donations every month, kindly please make arrangements to cancel your automated contributions.  To the blog angels who are still trying to locate funding for this blog even at this late hour, we are grateful for your tireless efforts. Thank you.

Not sure yet when will be our last blog post but it will be later this month. If anything dramatic changes, we will post an update. If we win the lottery, and are able to save the blog, you’ll be the first to know!

Please enjoy the fantastic Ed Sheeran and the blog’s remaining days.

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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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