In January 2017 the administration announced a hiring freeze on all government agencies. This freeze was lifted for most agencies in April although it remained in place for the State Department. The freeze prevented eligible family member (EFM) positions from being filled once the current EFM left post. This caused serious gaps in staffing at some posts in such crucial areas as the Community Liaison Office (CLO), mailrooms and health units.
During July, just prior to Congress going into recess, the AAFSW EFM Employment Group initiated a letter writing campaign to Congressional Representatives, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Board and those in the newly formed Foreign Service Caucus. The letters were well-received and generated many positive responses from Congress, including requests for more information.
The State Department “Redesign Team” also began work during the summer. The team consisted of volunteers from each bureau who were chosen personally by Secretary Tillerson to gather ideas in each of five work streams. The AAFSW EFM Employment Working Group committee decided to contribute ideas into two of these streams: Human Capital and Management Support. Catherine Pierce, an AAFSW member and part of the employment group, entered these ideas into the Redesign Portal.
On December 12 Secretary Tillerson held a Town Hall Meeting at the State Department where, among other things, he announced that he realized how important EFM employment was to the missions and that he was lifting the EFM hiring freeze in 2018 and allowing the posts to do the hiring. Before this each EFM and any other employee that was exempt from the freeze had to be personally approved by the Secretary. Lists were sent up once a week to the 7th Floor. He also announced that the Expanded Professional Associated Program was to be enlarged from 250 to 400 positions.
WHAT DOES THIS REALLY MEAN?
From what we hear from several sources the freeze on EFMs will indeed be lifted on January 1, 2018. However, of the 3400 positions previously available for EFMs, approximately 50% or a bit more will now be available. The number is unclear at this point but it will be considerably less than before.
The Expanded Professionals Associates Program (EPAP) provides full-time, professional level Foreign Service positions for EFMs at posts in the fields of economics, financial management, general services, human resources, office management, political, public diplomacy, nursing, and IT. These positions are centrally funded and the program is administered by the Family Liaison Office (FLO). FLO has said that to date no guidance has been received from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) or the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The latest State Department website about EPAP states that no jobs can be posted until such guidance is received.
FLO publishes the Family Member Employment Report (FAMER), a compilation of each post’s EFM employment statistics and other information, twice a year. Individual post’s information has been received but the FAMER for all posts has not been published for the second half of 2017. It should show the effects of the summer rotation on EFM employment.
The AAFSW EFM Employment Working Group committee continues to monitor the situation and to lobby for the full reinstatement of EFM jobs which are essential to morale and the smooth working of our overseas missions.
Ann La Porta
AAFSW EFM Employment working Group, AAFSW – AFSA Co-Liaison, AAFSW Evacuee Support