THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
ON CAREER DIPLOMACY TODAY
Debra Blome is a former associate editor of
She currently lives in Jerusalem with
her husband, FSO Donald Blome, and their family. In
her more than 20 years as an EFM, Debra has tried all
the employment options: she has worked inside the mission, on the
local economy and as an independent contractor for a U.S. orga-
nization. She has also spent many hours as a volunteer when paid
employment was unavailable.
or eligible family members (EFMs) in the
Foreign Service, the process of finding
employment isn’t easy and never has been.
The reasons are obvious: frequent moves,
language barriers and limited options, to
name just a few.
But what is new is that the Foreign Ser-
vice has now tasked itself with really doing
something about it.
Compare how the issue was treated in the State Depart-ment and U.S. Agency for International Development’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. The
ever QDDR, released in 2010, devoted an entire chapter to
Family member employment is a critical issue for members of the U.S. Foreign Service.
The State Department finally seems to be taking it seriously.
BY DEBRA BLOME
“Working Smarter”—without ever mentioning family member
employment. The new QDDR, released in April 2015, discusses
expanding opportunities for family member employment as
part of the section titled “Adapting our Organizations to Take
Care of Our People.”
“Two-career families are increasingly the norm in both Amer-
ican society and in the Foreign Service,” the report states. “This
means that ensuring opportunities for spousal employment
should be an integral part of our plans to retain and motivate
The report says State and USAID will strengthen efforts to
build EFM career tracks, use EFMs to fill existing staffing gaps
when possible, and create a database of EFM skills to help
spouses find jobs both at post and in Washington. It also pledges
that State and USAID will expand programs already in existence,
and will “pursue mechanisms” to facilitate the security clearance
process, so EFMs can begin work at post without a “lengthy”
(Though the QDDR document is a product of State and
USAID, the EFM policies and reforms it calls for apply to employ-
ees of all the foreign affairs agencies under chief-of-mission
authority on an assignment abroad.)