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F
oreign Service members are highly dedicated to our mis-
sion and tend to be workaholics. But even the most ded-
icated workaholic needs to get away from post on occa-
sion — either to relax or to study.
AFSA frequently hears fromemployees unable to do either,
because they occupy “one-of” positions at posts — perform-
ing an essential service with no backup. Most frequently, these
are specialists, though as we open new
and smaller AmericanPresence Posts or
set up new Provincial Reconstruction
Teams, generalists are increasingly
affected, as well. Often, R&Rs are short-
er than the employee would like.
Sometimes even the ability to take sick
leave is affected.
3 FAM 3412 clearly gives employ-
ees the right to use accumulated annual leave, and supervisors
have a responsibility to allow, or even require, them to take it.
Leave can be rescheduled due to the needs of the office, but it
should be granted at some point during the year. Restoration
due to exigencies of the Service is possible, but is viewed as an
exceptional event. Ingeneral, leave canceleddue tonormal work-
load, vacancies or poor planning, or to provide other employ-
ees with the opportunity to use leave, is not considered an exi-
gency and therefore does not constitute a basis for restoration.
FSmembers, andparticularly “one-ofs,” also tend to be asked
to work overtime and, as a result, accrue compensatory time
off. Here the plot thickens. There are several variants of comp
time, which must be used within 26 weeks after the pay peri-
od duringwhich the overtimewas accrued and at the post where
the overtime occurred. Again, we hear frommembers that they
cannot use this time, or that if they use it, they will forfeit annu-
al leave.
Last but not least, we hear frommembers who “cannot be
spared” to attend training, even when that training is manda-
tory. Several classes and seminars have been canceled, not for
budgetary reasons, but because so few posts could “spare” the
students, that a minimum number of students could not be
reached. Office Management Specialists seem to be particu-
larly affected, but we have heard similar complaints from oth-
ers, as well.
The obvious solution to all of these problems is backup, which
in today’s climate may well require out-of-the-box thinking.
Rovers are a traditional answer, but often there simply are not
enough of them to fill in everywhere
they are needed. When Actually
Employed employees are another tra-
ditional solution, but these are bureau-
funded—andmost bureaus are loath
to spend money to allow an employ-
ee to take leave or even to attend train-
ing.
AFSA is urging the department to
centralize WAE funds, to allow greater opportunities for such
employment and free the process frombureaubudgets. Bureaus
would be more likely to use a an annuitant if “their” money
was not involved.
We are urging the department to centralize funds and autho-
rizations for OMS training, and for all training that is aimed
at improving an employee’s skills as an individual, rather than
serving a post-specific function.
While AFSA is generally wary of filling Foreign Service jobs
with Civil Service employees, we will be discussing the matter
further within the context of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and
Development Review process. One solution to the “one-of”
issues might be tapping a Civil Service counterpart to serve as
a backup when possible. While we feel strongly that Foreign
Service positions should be filled by FS employees, there is a
benefit to providing Civil Service employees with actual hands-
on understanding of how overseas posts operate and a better
picture of the environment in which we work.
Member insights and suggestions of other ways to address
this issue are welcomed. Please share themwithme at hirsch@
afsa.org.
Leave Me Alone!
V.P. VOICE:
STATE
BY DANIEL HIRSCH
... most bureaus are loath to spend
money to allow an employee to take
leave or even to attend training.
J U L Y - A UGU S T 2 0 1 1 / F OR E I GN S E R V I C E J OU R N A L
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