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28

JULY-AUGUST 2016

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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

Fred Odisho joined the Foreign Service as a political-

coned officer in January 2014, a few months after his

tandem spouse joined. After being separated for their

first four years in the Foreign Service, he is looking

forward to reuniting with her in the summer of 2017 for their second

assignment. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, he spent 18 years

with the U.S. Army and still serves today as a reservist.

Whitney Dubinsky joined the Foreign Service in 2010

through USAID’s Development Leadership Initiative.

After two years of being unable to find meaningful em-

ployment at post, her spouse joined the Foreign Service

in 2014. They travel the world with their 3-year-old son, without

whom neither can live.

R

epresentative of the larger society,

Foreign Service families come in all

forms, each with its own unique chal-

lenges. The dynamic of the modern

family has changed dramatically over

the past 30 years. The percentage of

family members working outside

the home has steadily increased.

More and more possess professional

degrees and experience in a variety of fields. Not surprisingly,

they possess traits similar to those of their Foreign Service

Tandem Couples:

Serving Together,

Apart

FOCUS

ON CAREER DIPLOMACY TODAY

Two tandems discuss some of the unique challenges they face.

BY FRED OD I SHO AND WH I TNEY DUB I NSKY

spouses. In the face of these changes, have Foreign Service poli-

cies supporting the modern family kept pace?

For tandem couples—the term for families in which both

spouses are members of the Foreign Service—the answer to this

question is a resounding

no

. Little has changed since

The New

York Times published an article in 1986 titled “State Depart- ment; Till Reassignment Do Us Part?” describing the challen

ges

facing tandem couples of that era. Being able to be assigned

together was and still is the greatest challenge plaguing the

members of any tandem couple. The threat of having to split up

their family and children remains ever-present.

While the concerns of tandem couples can also include

compensation and benefits, this article focuses on the assign-

ments process because it directly affects not just the couple’s

respective careers, but also the stability and integrity of their

nuclear family.

A Relentless Game of Chance

During every bidding cycle, tandem couples place their fate

in a complex game of chance that involves the availability of

positions overlaid on the varied needs of several departments

and agencies, hundreds of posts, and dozens of regional and

functional bureaus. If a tandem couple have spent years hedg-

ing their bets and get lucky, they may end up with both mem-

bers assigned to the same post at around the same time. But