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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

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SEPTEMBER 2017

17

the hiring process because of the freeze.

In an already short-staffed, medium-sized

section, this really hurts—both in the extra

work now being done by others, and in the

drop in morale of an overworked section.

Personally, the hiring freeze is affect-

ing my bid strategy as I look for my next

assignment. My husband has a unique

technical security skill set, and two prior

posts actually created jobs for him. This

is not a possibility in the current environ-

ment, and if he cannot work, it’s a loss for

the department. I have no idea what we

will do next.

Pamela J. Hack

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Without EFMs, our whole

embassy is suffering

The summer transfer season hit

us particularly hard this year, with a

turnover of more than 50 percent in U.S.

direct-hire staff. It also had an adverse

impact on operations throughout the

embassy. From personal experience

I’ve seen how this affected the Informa-

tion Resources Management, Consular,

Regional Security and other sections.

The impact on IRMwas initially mini-

mal, as we were nearly fully staffed when

the hiring freeze went into effect. How-

ever, since then, we have lost our classified

pouch assistant and have had to rely on

our EFMmailroom supervisor to man-

age all aspects of handling the pouch. He

expects to leave post next summer.

RSO has faredmuch worse: It has no

EFM to handle badging and no coordina-

tor to handle residential security, leaving

the office management specialist (OMS)

to handle those duties (and still serve as a

backup to the front offices of the bilateral

mission to Ethiopia and the U.S. Mission to

the African Union). I should add that this is

her first overseas tour.

Consular has been hit the hardest. The

remaining EFM has picked up the slack

to wear multiple hats—from handling

American Citizen Services cases to

assisting with visa investigations—and

has now also been pushed to take the

training to serve as an adjudicator. This

section had a 75 percent turnover this

transfer season, and the personnel short-

ages have forced the consul general to

defer all leave requests for his locally

employed staff until new officers arrive.

Elsewhere, our inability to hire an

EFM coordinator for facilities means that

the 20-year-old family member originally

hired to serve as an escort to custodial

staff working inside controlled access

areas was asked to fill in as acting facili-

ties manager; during one memorable

stretch, he was also called on to fill in as

an OMS for the chargé d’affaires. The run-

ning joke for some time was that person-

nel shortages put him on track to become

the youngest chargé in the department’s

history.

Staffing gaps also resulted in another

EFM spouse filling in as the acting general

services officer. The embassy was fortu-

nate that she had a background in logistics

and had served as a locally employed

customs and shipping agent in her previ-

ous job. The situation was similar in HR,

where an EFM spouse who was hired to

work part-time found herself serving as

the acting human resources officer.

It’s been a rough summer for us here,

and we can only hope that the freeze on

hiring EFMs will be lifted sooner rather

than later.

Armando Muir

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

A “Catch-22” for EFMs

I thought the July article on the EFM

hiring freeze (“Out in the Cold: How the

Hiring Freeze Is Affecting Family Member

Employment”) was very thoughtful and

balanced, but the one thing the article

does not mention is that if there is no

bilateral work agreement in place, EFMs

are not even allowed to work on the local

market. This puts them in a “Catch-22”

situation—not allowed to work outside

the embassy, and now not allowed to

work inside either.

If this freeze continues much longer,

we are going to start seeing some couples

and families decide the Foreign Service

is not for them. This would be a devas-

tating loss to the ranks of the Foreign

Service. We want diversity in our Foreign

Service—which includes not only singles

but also couples and families.

Not for attribution

Our Force Multiplier

In my current post, a cleared EFM

has worked as our classified pouch clerk,

escorting the pouch to and from the

airport. His departure, with subsequent

inability to fill the vacancy, means offi-

cers will be required to drop their impor-

tant work for hours at a time to escort

the pouches to and from the airport. It

also means that the family member, with

a costly Top Secret clearance, will be

unable to gain employment at his next

post.

Our post no longer has cleared EFM

security escorts. This means that normal

housekeeping functions, such as waste

removal and rest room cleaning, will

either be performed by direct-hire officers

(in which case the offices will do without

those services for potentially days at a

time), or the officers will have to interrupt

their work to escort the uncleared staff

themselves. This is in no way an effective,

or economical, use of talent.

Hire the EFMs. They are the force mul-

tiplier desperately needed at our overseas

missions.

Not for attribution

n