Wednesday, February 23, 2011

House bill cuts locality pay for Foreign Service officers overseas

Because it isn't enough that our pay has been frozen AND that we may have to endure a government shutdown, now we have to take a pay CUT in order to serve overseas. Just an example, our folks serving in Libya make 5% LESS than they would in D.C. Yes, really.

And to be clear, this is not a pay raise. It is rectifying a pay CUT. And it is only the mid-level foreign service that takes this pay cut. People serving at our missions overseas with other agencies do not. Neither do members of the Senior Foreign Service.

House bill cuts locality pay for Foreign Service officers overseas

The House on Saturday voted to cut locality pay for Foreign Service officers serving overseas.

The continuing resolution bill, HR 1, contains an amendment sponsored by Rep. Thomas Reed, R-N.Y., stripping the pay measure. For years, Foreign Service did not receive any locality pay when they went abroad, and took significant pay cuts when deployed. Congress in 2009 voted to start phasing in the Washington-area locality pay rate — which is now 24 percent — for Foreign Service officers.

Reed said canceling these payments would save $140 million this year and $427 million by fiscal 2013.

I bet they could save more than that by making the Congressmen and their staffers fly economy class like the rest of us.

You can read the rest of the article here.


Matt Keene said...

You have got to be fucking kidding me. Maybe there's some hope the Senate comes to the rescue? When the House moves to hack a payment that is meant to rectify an inequity as an 8.5 month pregnant FSO loads evacuees onto a ferry in Tripoli, I feel sick to my stomach. Thanks much, Congress.

Becky said...

Heaven only knows what FS people are going through in Lybia. I wish I had time to compile blogposts from Mexico and Cairo and Lybia and all the UT families and the Pratts (lived through Christchurch earthquake) and 4 globetrotters and Sadie being flooded out and send them all to those reps. They have no idea about this "posh" life.

Becky said...

The money doesn't bug me a ton. We are pretty frugal and could make just about anything work (well except not being paid at all, that would not work and is currently making me insane).

The attitude bugs me way more than the money. Saying that FSOs are just money grubbing people living large on the public dime. People seem to forget that for every Paris there is a Kabul or Baghdad or Cuidad Juarez. Or an unexpected problem like Cairo or Tunis. I love this life and I am so grateful that my husband is doing what he does but it is often not easy.

Becky said...

"Libya" yeah, that's what I meant. Sorry for the misspellings. Long day.

Anonymous said...

I love the line, "The White House's deficit reduction commission first proposed canceling locality payments last November, saying Foreign Service jobs were highly sought-after even without the locality payments." That's the same rationale of a sweatshop owner paying their employees pennies a day... People are clamoring to get these jobs.

Leslie said...

Doesn't this affect ELOs as well? Not just mid-level?

Anonymous said...


There is currently an amendment in 2011 budget that would eliminate overseas locality pay. Meaning, those already overseas will experience a 17% pay cut immediately after becoming law.

Time to write your two senators and your congressman. This takes all of 5 minutes to do. Also, have your spouse, children, friends do the same. Spread the word and please forward to personal email addresses (or tweet, facebook, blog, etc) of your State and USAID friends and associates. Please do this using your personal email and personal time to avoid problems.

I have attached a form letter that you are free to use, modify, ignore, or delete.

Dear ,

"The House recently passed Amendment 583 (led by Tom Reed NY-29) to the FY2011 budget (H.R. 1) which would reverse the Overseas Comparability Pay initiative that was to give Foreign Service Officers serving out of the country the same locality pay as their counterparts (and every other federal employee) serving in D.C. As a constituent, I wish to express my strong disagreement with this amendment.

According to the Congressman’s Reed’s website, this amendment “removes automatic 24 percent pay raise for foreign service officers.” This statement, which went on to be conveyed on the House floor, is grossly inaccurate.

Prior to 2009, foreign service officers abroad received ~20% less than their counterparts in D.C. Meaning, if an officer moved from D.C. to another country, he or she took a ~20% pay cut. Officers abroad received no locality pay due to an unintended consequence of the federal pay system. In fact, every federal employee receives locality pay while working stateside. Currently, the D.C. locality rate is 24.22%, 28% for New York, et cetera. Even those not living in any defined locality area in the United States receive greater than 14%.

Thanks to a bipartisan effort, the Congress agreed in 2009 to institute full locality pay for foreign service officers over a three year period (1/3 of the D.C. locality rate per year). Thus, today foreign service officers receive 16.52% locality – still a pay cut when coming from D.C.

Should Congressman Reed’s amendment become law, all foreign service officers abroad will instantly experience a 16% pay cut! This includes our diplomats helping distressed Americans in Egypt and Libya and would include the hundreds of State Department and USAID foreign service officers serving alongside our military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This was clearly not a "raise" for Foreign Service Officers, but a correction of an oversight which has put stress on 13,000 families who do not have the benefit of having dual incomes, due to frequent moves and limited availability of jobs in the countries where they are assigned.

Please take the time to research the Reed amendment and educate your fellow colleagues on this issue.


ForeignObsession said...

Good grief...I wrote to my senators...let's hope they hear us out.

Shannon said...

It is time for the Weekly State Department Blog Round Up and you are on it!

It is found here:

If you would like the links to your site removed (or corrections are needed) please contact me. Thanks!

Consul-At-Arms said...

As a business model, how much sense (if any) does it make to disincentivize the nation's diplomats (except for the Senior Foreign Service, the FS equivalent to generals and admirals) from taking overseas assignments?

Yes, it's an honor to serve.

Yes, there are tens of thousands of people taking the FS exam every year just dying to get into the Foreign Service.

It still makes no sense to penalize the lowest paid of the Foreign Service if they're foolish enough to go abroad to do the nation's business.

I've quoted you and linked to you here: