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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

|

MAY 2015

51

Eligible Family Member Employment

Ensuring adequate employ-

ment opportunities for For-

eign Service family members

is becoming increasingly

important, both for morale

and retention.

Unlike the period prior to

1972, when an FSO’s effi-

ciency report included an

assessment of how well his

wife supported her hus-

band’s career by entertain-

ing as many local officials

as possible, today’s Foreign

Service mirrors the chang-

ing demographics of the

United States, in which both

spouses often want their own

careers.

Eligible Family Member

employment was on the

minds of many of you who

participated in the last AFSA

USAID survey. Because of

what that survey showed

and what we learned from

other sources, USAID now

views EFM initiatives as a top

priority—not only for FSO

retention and morale, but

also because it makes fiscal

sense.

Many EFMs are highly

skilled professionals, and

employing them allows

USAID to optimize its budget

resources.

In the AFSA survey,

increasing EFM employment

came in as the fourth-highest

priority. Ensuring equal ben-

efits among Foreign Service

officers was the highest

priority labor management

issue.

Significantly, however,

one difference in the parity

Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA USAID VP.

Contact:

swayne@usaid.gov

or (202) 712-1631

USAID VP VOICE

| BY SHARON WAYNE AFSA NEWS

of benefits highlighted in the

survey feedback is that EFMs

working at USAID are often

not entitled to non-competi-

tive eligibility for federal jobs

in the United States—a ben-

efit that State Department

EFMs readily receive.

To delve into this and

other issues, USAID has cre-

ated the Office for Overseas

Human Capital Initiatives,

dedicated to EFM initiatives,

it is led by Executive Officer

Ann Posner.

OHCI is working in part-

nership with State’s Family

Liaison Office and the Office

of Human Resources/Over-

seas Employment to iden-

tify better ways to support

USAID’s EFMs.

For example:

Family Member Appoint-

ments.

USAID is partner-

ing with State to formalize

the FMA program from its

2004 pilot. FMA is the State

Department hiring mecha-

nism for Appointment-Eligi-

ble Family Members.

USAID can hire using the

FMA mechanism in collabo-

ration with State, previously,

it has more commonly used

other hiring mechanisms,

such as personal service

contracts.

When EFMs (an unmar-

ried child under age 23,

a spouse or a domestic

partner) serve in an FMA

position for 52 weeks, or up

to 2,087 hours (if part-time),

they earn non-competitive

eligibility status for future

federal employment through

Executive Order 12721.

USAID recognizes and

encourages EFMs who have

non-competitive eligibility to

apply to status-eligible posi-

tions (i.e., Civil Service posi-

tions) in Washington, D.C.

OHCI’s goal is to use

lessons learned in this long

pilot period to formalize the

program and clarify the roles

governing USAID and State’s

partnership. With better

clarification and enhanced

procedures, OHCI hopes to

facilitate USAID’s increased

use of this mechanism.

Direct Communication.

OHCI also seeks to estab-

lish direct lines of commu-

nication with EFMs, so all

information doesn’t have to

flow through the employee.

This would allow the spouse

to feel more plugged in and

supported through all the

changes and challenges

associated with life as a For-

eign Service spouse.

Communications are

already taking place through

orientation with the newly

hired C3 officers, virtual

town halls and USAID’s EFM

listserv (to join, contact EFM

Coordinator Lindsey Johnson

at

ljohnson@usaid.gov)

.

Training.

USAID is seeking

to expand training opportu-

nities for its eligible fam-

ily members. Toward that

end, OHCI is working with

the Center for Professional

Development at USAID to

identify training that would

support the agency’s EFM

positions.

USAID also reimburses

the tuition costs for both in-

person and distance courses

at the Foreign Service

Institute. Finally, USAID gives

EFMs access to career devel-

opment resource services.

USAID and State’s FLO

office are sponsoring an EFM

event in May; information will

be posted on FLO’s website.

Like most changes, there

will be issues that need to

be ironed out. For example,

could some EFM positions be

filled by FSOs?

I encourage you to share

your suggestions, concerns

and thoughts on this topic

to help mold these exciting

initiatives to make USAID a

better place to work.

OHCI has also created an

FSO Telework Initiatives unit,

which I look forward to explor-

ing in a future column.

n

Having employment options for spouses who want to work is

critical to employee morale and retention.