The Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) was established in 1960 and is the oldest non-governmental organization supporting the American diplomatic community.
EFM Hiring Freeze: What AAFSW is Doing
On January 23, 2017, the new administration announced a government-wide hiring freeze for Federal employees. This was lifted in April for most agencies but not for the Department of State with rare exceptions. To this day the hiring freeze for Eligible Family Members (EFMs) remains in place and it is negatively affecting EFMs who must reapply for jobs every time they go to a new post.
The AAFSW Board requested the volunteer work of active EFMs who, in turn, lead and coordinated the AAFSW EFM Employment Working Group in an effort to deal with this issue. On June 21, 2017, Ann La Porta, in her capacity as a long time AAFSW volunteer and member of the EFM Employment Committee, sent an Appeal Letter to Livelines and other social media groups urging affected EFMs to write their Congressional Representatives and Senators explaining their situation using hard facts and figures and also explaining how using EFMs to fill vital unfilled positions saves the Department money and allows the Missions to function more efficiently.
There were several responses to that letter. An expanded Appeal Letter, written by members of the AAFSW EFM Employment Working Group, was sent to AAFSW members and to social media groups on July 24 with a deadline of July 28, the date when Congress was supposed to rise for its August break. A copy of this letter is on this website (see below) and includes detailed directions on how to call or write Senators and Representatives. Writers were asked to copy the AAFSW office on their letters. As of July 27, over 25 EFMs had written letters or called and informed AAFSW.
In addition, as part of the EFM Employment Working Group efforts, a letter was sent on July 21, 2017 to Senator Johnny Isakson (R/GA) who is the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Sub Committee tasked with the DOS and USAID. This letter, explaining the situation affecting the EFMs and urging Senator Isakson to take action, was sent by Patty Ryan, who is a long time AAFSW volunteer and member of the EFM Employment Committee, and it was addressed to the Senator’s aide, Ryan Evans.
Patty Ryan and Ann La Porta are also AAFSW liaisons to AFSA (American Foreign Service Association). They are following closely AFSA’s efforts on behalf of EFMs.
What You Can Do
The time has passed for EFMs to call their Representatives or Senators but letters can surely be sent. Be sure to say you are a constituent of: State/City/County. Snail mail will get the best results. Please copy the AAFSW Office on your letter (firstname.lastname@example.org, and/or AAFSW, 4001 North Ninth Street, Suite 214, Arlington, VA 22203).
Letters can also be sent to the newly formed Foreign Service Caucus: Senators Dan Sullivan (D-Alaska), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Michael Bennett (D-Colo), and Chris Coons (D-Del).
The Family Liaison Office has advised that if you see a job advertised, apply for it. Although some posts have reported that jobs are not being advertised during the freeze, there are exceptions. Seize the day if you see one and be first in line when the freeze is lifted.
AAFSW knows that the Bureaus are meeting weekly with HR to address many issues, including the EFM hiring freeze. If you have been offered a job at your post but it is frozen, and if you can describe how this job is critical to the operations of the mission, your Management Officer can appeal the freeze of your job. Make their job easy: work with HR at post so that you or they draft a memo of appeal to the Bureau and the Director General that the Management Officer only has to sign. The Director, in turn, can bring your case to HR. Be cognizant that to date most of the exceptions have been made for unaccompanied posts, but there’s always a first time.
The AAFSW EFM Employment Working Group and, especially, Catherine Pierce, Patty Ryan, and Ann La Porta have been working hard on your behalf. Please, join AAFSW and this effort at: http://www.aafsw.org/join-aafsw/apply-online/ and by contacting: email@example.com
Ann La Porta
AAFSW EFM Employment Working Group
Attention All Eligible Family Members: Call to Action Regarding the EFM Hiring Freeze
The Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) recently re-established the EFM Employment Working Group, which is coordinating a number of efforts related to the hiring freeze as they pertain to EFMs. If you would like to find out more, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a group, we do have power when we act together towards a common goal! Right now, we need all EFMs and their families to contact their Senators and Representatives to draw their attention to the negative effects of the hiring freeze on mission operations. Even if you are an EFM who does not want or need to work, we need your support on this very important initiative.
The current hiring freeze is already impacting EFM hiring levels, and many of us are feeling it on a personal level. As you know, the U.S. Department of State is undergoing a detailed review, which includes staffing levels. Decisions on EFM hiring are due to be made in early September. The time to act is now.
There were 2,650 jobs overseas in the Department last year. There were 763 “pending” jobs in April 2017. This means that an EFM was selected for a position, but was not hired because his/her clearance was not granted by January 23rd. Many more jobs have been advertised and need to be filled. Let’s act together now to end the hiring freeze.
Here’s what you can do to help:
1 – CALL
2 – WRITE
To find contact info for your Senators and Representatives, go to the following sites:
(1) CALL your Senators and Representatives until Congress recesses (currently scheduled for July 28). When you call, tell them how the hiring freeze – as it impacts EFMs – is negatively affecting State Department operations.
Focus your message on the following:
ADVANCING FOREIGN POLICY: EFMs (Eligible Family Members) work in Political and Economic sections, Public Diplomacy, Consular sections (not only visas, but also fraud investigation), Development Assistance, U.S. Exports, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, and Management support (nurse, doctor, IT specialists, facilities maintenance, architect, security escorts, procurement, etc.). Without EFMs in these positions, FSOs would not be able to focus on their core mission advancing United States interests abroad.
SECURITY: Practically all of these positions require security clearances and cannot be filled by local employees (LES: Locally Engaged Staff). If no EFM can be hired to do the job, it will either not be done or it will have to be performed by FSOs, to the detriment of their core job.
RETENTION OF THE BEST FSOs, AND REFLECTING AMERICA: State is committed to a diverse Foreign Service. Diversity is not only about race or religion, but also about family composition. Diversity hiring makes sure that the image of the US we project abroad reflects the United States. If FSOs with families start to leave or retire early because of lack of EFM employment, the general population of FSOs will be less likely to reflect America. Quality FSOs know they can easily work elsewhere and will leave State.
BUDGET MINDFULNESS: An EFM only costs his/her salary (on a much lower pay scale than FSOs), with no additional benefits aside from those already factored in when the FSO is hired (moving, housing, medical care, etc.) Most EFMs are highly educated and already know embassy procedures.
A Secret/Top Secret clearance is expensive to process. Once an EFM has a clearance, it would be wasteful not to use it by hiring an outside contractor, who would have to go through the expensive clearance process.
MORALE: Missions around the world are already feeling the stress of overwork. Organization morale is suffering. More than 12,000 EFMs are deployed around the world serving their country with their spouses, and the great majority want to work. While the State Department’s hiring freeze has no impact on FSOs, EFMs must resign and re-apply for positions every time they change jobs, even at the same post. The negative impact from this policy has already been felt with nearly one quarter of EFM positions remaining unfilled at this time, and even more will be unfilled by the end of the summer 2017 transfer season.
EFMs pay U.S. taxes on income earned from positions at embassies and consulates.
HIRE AMERICAN: This is a key policy of the new administration in an effort to “keep American jobs at home”. We urge you to support the U.S. Department of State to choose and continue to hire spouses of American diplomats (EFMs).
If you can, include a few words about the personal impact of the hiring freeze.
Try to avoid including information about why your family needs the extra salary or other personal hardship: it will not sway Congress and it will detract from the overall message. Americans are struggling everywhere. EFMs are not owed jobs. Make the case for EFM positions being a good deal for our country: they save taxpayers money and they protect our country by advancing the mission of the United States government.
Please be respectful of the new administration and their ideas, proposals and policies. Please do not work on the appeal while at work, or on government’s time. Also, do not use any government-issued devices when making the appeal, such as a government-issued telephone or computer.
(2) WRITE: Send a letter via snail mail and through a form on representatives’ websites. (Keep in mind that the website forms have a 4,000 character limit.) Copy relevant people on your letters to Congress. Be sure to state that you are a constituent and from State/City/County.
Please cc AAFSW on your letter (email@example.com) so we can compile a dossier of real life situations and track numbers.
If you have any questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
AAFSW EFM Employment Working Group
The following is a sample letter you may want to send to your representative and senators. If you have a personal story to share, or evidence of the impact of EFM positions at your Mission, please add a paragraph to this effect.
Subject Line: Hiring Freeze at the U.S. Department of State: Eligible Family Member (EFM) Employment
Dear [Representative/Senator _____]:
My name is [insert your name here] and my spouse is a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) with the U.S. Department of State (or USAID). I am writing to address the significant negative effect of the hiring freeze on embassy and consulate substantive operations, affecting security, budget, and the overall strategic mission goals. I ask that you exert your influence to exempt Eligible Family Members (EFMs) from the hiring freeze at the U.S. Department of State.
There are several good reasons why I ask you to consider this:
A – Use bullet points above.
B -If applicable, insert personal story and/or information about how the freeze is impacting your Post, with facts and figures if you have some that you can share.
I hope you will bring this matter to the attention of your colleagues to help ensure that the U.S. Department of State continues its essential mission at embassies and consulates throughout the world. Your assistance in lifting the freeze on EFM hiring would be highly appreciated.
(Print/Sign Your First and Last Name)
Letter sent by Patty Ryan to Senator Isakson on July 20, 2017
Dear Senator Isakson,
The Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) is a non-profit organization that has been concerned with Foreign Service family issues since 1960. We are writing to you about the dire effects on our constituency of the recent hiring freeze of Eligible Family Members (EFMs) at the Department of State.
For decades, the lack of adequate employment opportunities for Foreign Service spouses has been problematic. It is a principal concern for many Foreign Service employees which deeply effects recruitment and retention.
Using family members already at an embassy or consulate to fill certain positions saves the government hundreds of thousands of dollars by eliminating the costs of filling those positions with other Foreign Service employees. These costs include travel to post, transportation of effects, housing, and children’s educational expenses. As a rule of thumb State Department has stated that it can hire three EFMs for the cost of sending one Foreign Service employee and his or her family overseas.
American citizen spouses may have or may be granted clearances not available for locally hired persons. This is a win-win for the government, for the taxpayers and for the Foreign Service families.
According to State Department statistics from April, 2017 there are 2650 EFMs employed in overseas missions. There are another 743 EFMs who have been offered jobs but are either waiting for security clearances or have been told there is no job because of the hiring freeze. Foreign Service families transfer to new posts every two or three years. If the hiring freeze continues, all these positions will be lost within a few years. Some posts have reported losing as many as 60 EFMs during the summer reassignment cycle. Their jobs include nurses, secretaries, visa examiners and aides in every section of the post,including Diplomatic Security, jobs which enable the post to function safely and cannot be filled under the freeze. These EFMs are currently blocked at every turn from preceding with their careers.
Year after year, Foreign Service families face terrorism, civil unrest and endemic disease, far from loved ones, in our devotion to the advancement of American interests around the globe. Any help you can give us in lifting the freeze on hiring EFMs will be greatly appreciated.
AAFSW EFM Employment Working Group