THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
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
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
ernment hiring freeze,
the shockwave rever-
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
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-
BY DONNA SCARAMASTRA GORMAN