Page 25 - Foreign Service Journal - October, 2012b

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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
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OCTOBER 2012
25
S
tate and USAID appear to be permanently on a
pendulum that swings from budget cuts (followed
by severe shortages of personnel and capacity) to
the reactive damage-control funding burst that comes just
in time. The 1990s saw the post-Cold War “peace divi-
dend” turn into major cuts in Foreign Service stafng and
resources.
But emptying embassies and USAID missions created
problems: the U.S. still needed to be engaged in all the
same (and new) places and, in many cases, even more so
than before as the world could no longer be divided in two,
and black-and-white turned to gray.
The pendulum swung back and a new hiring surge began
in 2001. The State Department’s Diplomatic Readiness
Initiative and USAID’s New Entry Professional program
increased State’s ranks by about 30 percent and USAID’s
by about 25 percent, respectively.
The new hires were quickly absorbed into the system,
primarily to meet the new demands for Foreign Service
employees to staf Baghdad (the largest embassy in the
world) and Kabul. And as a result of earlier hiring slow-
downs, many members of the new generation were sent out
to jobs above their rank.
Equally troubling, the training reserve (also called the
training foat), which so many studies had determined was
necessary to allow for professional education and develop-
ment of the Foreign Service, never materialized. By 2007,
State and USAID were again severely understafed: 20
percent of positions in embassies worldwide were unflled.
In 2008, the pendulum began to swing back. The State
Department’s Diplomacy 3.0 hiring initiative and USAID’s
Development Leadership Initiative aimed to increase
the State Department’s Foreign Service personnel by 25
percent and double the number of USAID Foreign Service
ofcers by hiring an additional 1,200 people. Congressional
funding to repopulate the ranks of the Foreign Service was
approved, and the hiring surge took of.
At the same time, to better compete with the private
sector for the best candidates and to increase diversity, the
State Department revamped its hiring process, implement-
ing the “Total Candidate” approach in 2007.
By 2011, in the wake of the fnancial crisis and a new
Congress, funding for these hiring initiatives dried up, and
the pendulum began to swing back. State had managed
to increase its ranks by about 17 percent, and USAID had
hired more than 800 of the 1,200 goal. But by late 2012,
hiring was slowing down to about the rate of attrition.
The stafng troubles do not appear to have abated,
however. A June Government Accountability Ofce report
concludes that, as of October 2011, “28 percent of over-
seas Foreign Service positions were either vacant or flled
by upstretch candidates … a percentage that has not
changed since 2008.”
The report notes that the gaps persist—especially at
the mid-level—because while the number of personnel has
increased, so has the number of positions overseas.
The GAO report also points out that 40 percent of new
positions are in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, and most
of them are mid-level rather than entry-level positions. But
new hires come in at the entry level, which leaves a serious
imbalance between capacity and stafng needs.
—Shawn Dorman
The Hiring Pendulum
The GAO report notes that 40 percent of new positions are
in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, and most of them
are mid-level rather than entry-level positions.