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62

JULY-AUGUST 2017

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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

gram and the Family Member Reserve Corps—all of which have

been helping create jobs for qualified family members—will lose

momentum as the freeze drags on.

The Freeze Hurts Worldwide Productivity

Of course, this freeze doesn’t just affect individual and family

morale. The freeze on EFM hiring has a profound impact on

posts worldwide. Family members typically take on jobs that

keep posts moving forward. According to statistics compiled by

the Family Liaison Office, at the end of 2016 there were 3,501

adult family members employed at missions overseas. (Another

6,688, or 56 percent of EFMs, were unemployed at post, while

just 1,652 found work outside of the mission.) These working

family members manage mailrooms, staff medical units, ensure

that local housing meets security standards and work as security

escorts, overseeing infra-

structure repairs and main-

tenance. Without anyone

to fill these roles, the work

will either go undone, or it

will fall to Foreign Service

officers themselves to do.

FSOs at some posts have

already been asked to

spend a specified number

of hours each week helping

out with some of these vital

jobs, taking them away

from the work they were hired and trained to do.

As the summer transfer season begins, community liaison

officers (CLOs) are packing up and leaving post; when they leave,

their mission-critical jobs will remain unfilled. A good CLO has

multiple roles within a community: not only do they help new

families transition to post, but they advise on school issues, help

family members with personal or mental health issues, organize

community events, work with the regional security office to ensure

all family members are accounted for in emergencies, and keep

the Front Office apprised of situations that could adversely affect

morale at post.

According to Susan Frost, director of the Family Liaison Office,

FLO is actively trying tomanage the expected reduction in CLO

services. “We are looking at what absolutely must be done by our

CLOs at post. Safety and security; welcome and orientation; these

are the most critical things for us to keep up.”

Somemanagers worry that without EFMoversight, theremay

be increased incidents of fraud and theft. In some bureaus, family

members constitute 20 to 30 percent of the American workforce.

Through their work, they provide oversight and control of embassy

resources, ensuring, for example, that unscrupulous contractors

don’t skimmoney fromemployee association accounts, or making

sure that when the embassy buys something like heating oil on the

local market, the oil is actually delivered as promised. Without this

oversight, gas canisters, building supplies, grocery shipments and

even cash can gomissing, costing the State Department large sums

of money.

Happy Spouses Make Happy Posts

Not everyone wants or needs to work at post. But for those who

do, there is nothing more demoralizing than showing up at post

and being told nobody needs you. Spouses are typically the back-

bone of the community: they are the ones who volunteer in the

schools, manage the com-

missaries and welcome the

newcomers. When spouses

lose interest in community

involvement, the entire

community suffers.

Many spouses are cur-

rently trading stories of

arriving at post and being

offered a job, only to be

turned away because their

clearances didn't come

through before the freeze

went into effect. These spouses, who expected to begin work-

ing, are now stuck in a frustrating holding pattern, waiting to see

if something shakes loose inWashington, D.C., in time for them

to start. Some are considering leaving post and returning to the

United States to find employment in their given fields.

Says one spouse, a second-tour EFMwho lost a promised job in

Central America when the freeze began, “I think the biggest hit was

tomy self-esteem. I don’t like being a ‘JEFM’ (Just an EFM). I don’t

have kids and since this is a very family-friendly post, everyone else

who is not working is involved with kid-related activities. It’s lonely

and harder to feel a part of the larger community when you don’t

have a job or a purpose at post.”

She says her post’s management team is taking it harder than

most of the spouses, “who are used to getting screwed over after

the super-long waits for clearances, so we mostly just shrug and try

to find other things to do.” But management, she says, is “super

worried” about the “huge gaps in a lot of offices” after this sum-

mer’s transition.

In some bureaus, family

members constitute 20 to

30 percent of the American

workforce. Through their work,

they provide oversight and

control of embassy resources.