The Foreign Service Journal - July/August 2017
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Employing family members overseas isn’t just good for morale.

It makes financial sense too, and helps keep our embassies functioning.

Out in the Cold:

How the Hiring Freeze Is Affecting

Family Member Employment

Donna Scaramastra Gorman is a freelance writer whose

work has appeared in

Time Magazine





Washington Post


The Christian Science Monitor


The spouse of a Diplomatic Security agent, she has lived

in Amman, Moscow, Yerevan, Almaty, Beijing and Washington,

D.C., where she currently resides.


e knew it was coming.

But on Jan. 23, when

the White House

released a memo-

randum regarding an

across-the-board gov-

ernment hiring freeze,

the shockwave rever-

berated throughout

the State Department’s community of eligible family members.

EFMs typically feel like the smallest, weakest members of State,

powerless to make many decisions regarding their own fates.

This freeze would take away the last thing over which they could

maintain some semblance of control: their job at post.

Hiring Freezes: A History

This isn’t the first hiring freeze the State Department has

endured. Back when many of today’s FSOs were still in school,


President Jimmy Carter authorized a federal hiring freeze. And

President Ronald Reagan famously signed a memorandum

ordering a hiring freeze on federal civilian employees as his first

official act after his inauguration. The federal pay freeze of 2011,

during the Obama administration, continued through 2014.

While that freeze didn’t stop hiring, it did, combined with the

16-day government shutdown in October 2013, have a chilling

effect on State Department morale and staffing.

The current hiring freeze appears to be the first to have a

profoundly negative impact on the well-being of the Foreign

Service EFM community. One Foreign Service officer who has

worked in multiple human resources offices overseas says he

is worried about spouses this time around. “The last freeze, in

2011, actually worked to our advantage for EFMs,” he explains.

Because State couldn’t hire FSOs, they resorted to hiring EFMs to

fill critical positions. That opened up a world of new jobs within

the Expanded Professional Associates Program, as well as other

professional-level positions.

But this freeze, he warns, “has the potential to damage

EFM job opportunities far into the future.” Jobs that had been

previously earmarked for EFMs could now be filled as Locally

Employed staff positions, and the LE staff could then occupy

those positions for 10 to 20 years, effectively removing those

jobs from the pool of available jobs for EFMs permanently. Also,

he notes, programs like EPAP, the Consular Adjudicator pro-