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AFSA-State Agree on Capping Linked Assignments

On July 13, the American

Foreign Service Associa-

tion and the Department of

State signed a memorandum

of understanding (MOU)

regarding linked assignments

as an incentive for Priority

Staffing Posts in the 2016

bidding cycle. Countries on

the PSP list are Afghanistan,

Iraq, Libya, Pakistan and


The MOU caps linked

assignments at 140, a 12.5

percent decrease from the

previous bidding cycle, and

limits the number of links

to 70 for FS-2 positions and


In addition, the MOU

states that the department

will support bureau decisions

to decline a link when the

bureau can demonstrate that

the requestor is not qualified

for the job; agrees to explore

ways to increase the pool of

bidders on PSP positions and

discuss the modalities of a

gradual phaseout of the PSP-

linked incentive; and requires

the department to track the

number of linked assign-

ments registered and the

number of those not granted.

Should the 140 linked

assignments be filled by Dec.

15, 2015, the MOU raises the

threshold to no more than

160. The agreement further

stipulates that, if the ratio of

total positions to staffing at

any PSP expands by more

than 10 percent, negotiations

can be reopened to consider

additional links for that spe-

cific post.

The MOU was based on

the results of a joint survey

conducted by AFSA and the

department in May 2015.

More than 6,800 career For-

eign Service employees com-

pleted the survey, a response

rate of 53 percent.

More than 60 percent of

respondents with no PSP

experience indicated that

linked assignments were

among the most influential

incentives to bid on PSP

positions. And 25 percent of

all respondents believe that

linked assignments remain

necessary to staff the most

difficult-to-fill PSP positions.

In contrast, 18 percent

of respondents view linked

assignments as detrimental

to the assignments process.

And 52 percent of the free-

form comments supported

reforming the linked assign-

ments incentive, while 27

percent supported its com-

plete elimination.

The majority of respon-

dents expressed concerns

about the linked assignments

process in its pre-MOU form.

As one respondent noted:

“While the linked onward

assignment is a compelling

reason to do a PSP post [sic],

it is not fair to bidders living

and working at 25-percent

hardship posts. There are

far fewer assignments to bid

on for the rest of the FSOs

competing for jobs.”

Many respondents echoed

this viewpoint, indicating that

linked assignments often

allowed for less-qualified

officers to obtain the most

desired posts. The primary

recommendations repeated

throughout the survey

responses were to reduce the

number of linked assign-

ments and to implement a

method to ensure that linked

assignments are granted

only to qualified bidders.

The July 2015 MOU aims

to fulfill both of those recom-



—Noor Shah,

Labor Management Intern


Source: 2015 Priority Staffing Posts Incentive Survey

“While the linked onward assignment is a

compelling reason to do a PSP, it is not fair

to bidders living and working at 25-percent

hardship posts.”

—Survey Respondent