Wednesday, March 19, 2014

It Isn't Just Ambassadorial Appointees Who Are Waiting

You would think that with all that is going on in Ukraine and the need for diplomacy to help keep this from escalating to World War III that our Congress would prioritize, at least for a few minutes, the Foreign Service.

And you would be wrong.

I get it. I have ranted plenty about political appointee ambassadors and how there are too many of them and that some, especially recently, have been, shall we say, underwhelming in the qualifications department.

So I had considered blogging about the recent articles in the Washington Post about the backlog of ambassadorial appointments that are just sitting, waiting for Senate action. But I hadn't done it yet. Because I get it. They want to make a point about the sometimes profoundly unqualified donors selected to be ambassadors to important allies. But I also know they were sitting on career appointees too, who generally (but not always) do know about the countries to which they are headed. This leaves a lot of posts without an ambassador...some 28 ambassadorial vacancies in Central and South America, and 10 of 40 posts in Africa are also waiting. Most of these are not posts given to political appointees. Some of these folks have been waiting for nearly a year, (for the wait times, look here) and for the usually decidedly not wealthy career appointees (a career in government service in NOT a path to wealth unless you are serving in Congress), this means trying to find temporary jobs and housing while they wait. It is expensive for them, hard for posts, hard for the jobs they sit in waiting to leave, hard for our diplomatic relations with those countries....basically, hard for everyone but Congress.

So the post was coming...I just hadn't written it yet.

And then I get an email today from AFSA, the American Foreign Service Assocation, our "union" of sorts (they can bargain for us but we can't strike).

It seems that the Senate is not just sitting on ambassadorial appointments.

According to the email, the Senate is now holding up the commissioning, tenuring and promotions of some 1,700 folks in the Foreign Service. They do say that "progress has been made," but I don't read that as they have actually released the hold.

Come on now people.

We aren't talking about Ambassadors here. We are talking about the average Joes working in the Foreign Service. And for most of these, we are talking about the absolutely most junior diplomats. Commissioning usually happens short after you come on board and finish A-100. Tenuring usually happens within your first three to five years in the Service. It has to happen within five years or you are out (so if Congress holds up approving tenure for these officers too long, people who we want to keep will be forced out). So we aren't talking about folks who have been in a long time. Lots of these folks are sitting in visa mills, making sure people can come visit the U.S. (and spend their money here), making sure you can get home from overseas when your passport is stolen, making sure you are cared for in an overseas hospital or jail should bad things befall you on your trip. They are the lowest ranked, lowest paid of the exceptionally bright and motivated people we bring into the Foreign Service each year.

This seems like a good way to keep them from remaining motivated.

And the promotions? Those can range anywhere from those newly minted diplomats getting administrative promotions to senior Foreign Service. But let me assure you, the numbers of promotions at the upper level pale in comparison to those at the junior and mid-level. (ON EDIT: I was told the promotions are only Senior Foreign Service).

You are hurting solidly middle-class Americans who are deeply devoted to this country and want to serve it.

Stop it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, you used the "M" word - middle class. The middle class as a constituency doesn't exist anymore in the US, and anyone who claims to belong to it will be ignored by policymakers and corporations alike. Now if only you could repackage yourself as part of the 1 per cent.