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.

Yours sincerely,

AAFSW EFM Employment Working Group