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F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J U LY - A U G U S T 2 0 1 1
L
ETTERS
Well Done!
Congratulations on your May issue
(“Work-Life Balance: Handling the
Ups and Downs of Foreign Service
Life”), which brought together a lively
set of articles to address a very appo-
site theme. I particularly enjoyed
Amanda Fernandez’s contribution, “Si,
Se Puede,” because it is written in the
present tense, journal-style, and does
not dwell only on the drudgery of the
advance visit. It also describes the
pleasure of getting away from parent-
ing responsibilities for a few days, and
pays attention to a soccer match be-
tween Ecuador and big bad Argentina.
Larry Lesser
FSO, retired
Washington, D.C.
Ecuador Has It Now
Quito was my first Foreign Service
posting, so I was interested to read
Amanda Fernandez’s account of her
quick visit there in the May
Foreign
Service Journal
. I was particularly
amused by her report that Ecuador’s
national motto is “Si, se puede” (“Yes,
it can be done,” or “Yes, we can”),
which she used as the title for her arti-
cle.
During my time in Ecuador in the
mid-1970s, it seemed like the national
motto was “No hay” (“There isn’t any,”
or “We don’t have any”). I would stop
at the store to buy something, and very
often that was the reply.
“Hay leche?” (“Do you have milk?”),
I would ask. “No hay.” Or if the shop-
keeper was particularly grumpy, the an-
swer might be, “Si hay, pero no
tenemos.” (“Of course, the item you’re
asking for is available somewhere in
the world, but we don’t have it.”)
If things have progressed so much
in Ecuador in the last 35 years that “Si,
se puede” is indeed more appropriate
than “No hay,” I am delighted for that
country and its inhabitants.
Stephen Muller
FSO, retired
Troy, N.Y.
Rebalancing Pay
The Secretary of State should sug-
gest to the appropriate parties that all
U.S. government personnel serving
overseas receive the “rest of U.S.” lo-
cality pay rate — currently 14.16 per-
cent. While this would be a salary cut
for everyone serving overseas (approx-
imately 2.3 percent for non-Senior
Foreign Service personnel and rough-
ly 10 percent for all others), it would
be a fair change that would put all
civilians serving overseas on an equal
footing.
Many will argue we should not will-
ingly give up any compensation. But
we need to consider that in return, we
will gain an equitable system and mil-
lions of dollars in savings — some of
which could be used to address com-
pensation shortfalls affecting our local
staff members, many of whom risk
their lives for our country and receive
precious little in return.
Concurrently, I suggest that the
U.S. government make Thrift Savings
Plan contributions for personnel serv-
ing overseas based on the Washington,
D.C., rate — similar to the scheme
used to assure retirement annuities are
based upon virtual locality pay. This
slight increase in compensation would
ease the impact of the reduction advo-
cated above.
It would also right the wrong that is
presently being done to all non-Senior
Foreign Service personnel serving
overseas. Over the course of a typical
FS career, this currently translates into
a reduction in deposits to an em-
ployee’s TSP exceeding $10,000.
For far too long, our Senior Foreign
Service leadership have accepted the
pay-scale change that gave them the
equivalent of Washington, D.C., local-
ity pay regardless of where they serve,
but have done an ineffective job of ad-
vocating that lower-graded staff receive
the same compensation. I acknowl-
edge that many people have worked
very hard on this issue, and my state-
ment is not meant to diminish those ef-
forts. But the fact remains that they
have fallen short.
Like many former military person-
nel, I was always taught that you take
care of the troops first. So what a prin-
cipled Senior Foreign Service leader-