The Foreign Service Journal - September 2015
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from such contacts seem inescapable.

First, appeals from leaders who seek

our help and offer us friendship should

be thoroughly vetted instead of being

ignored or dismissed outright.

The price for not having done so

in terms of the potential avoidance of

military involvement and its enormous

cost in blood and treasure is a matter of

record in the case of Vietnam.

Second, a people’s struggle for inde-

pendence from oppression, foreign or

domestic, may be considered legitimate

regardless of how closely the political

philosophy of their leaders resembles

our own.

And finally, the enemy of a friend or

ally (in this case, the French) may not

prove to be our enemy unless having

been forced into being one.

Ironically, a half-century later we

enjoy cordial relations with our erst-

while foe and even find ourselves

aligned with Vietnam in facing the

expansionist aspirations of its historic

enemy and increasingly assertive neigh-

bor, China.

Fred Kalhammer

USAID SFSO, retired

Sun City Center, Florida

Paying MSIs

The State Department’s attempt to

avoid payment of 2013 and 2014 Merito-

rious Step Increase financial awards is a

public relations and staffing mistake. In

response, AFSA filed an implementation dispute that is entering its final stages.

I want to thank AFSA for fighting

this fight. It is not just about the money.

Rather, it is a fight on principle; the

department should demonstrate that

it stands by its employees and wants to

hold onto them. While I am grateful to

the department for my employment and

for the myriad opportunities it continues

to provide me professionally, I feel that

in this case, it has come up short.

In an economic environment where

the public sector is fighting to retain

employees of quality, simple measures

such as financial incentives can help.

Furthermore, reneging on a fundamen-

tal agreement to pay out performance

awards sends a message to all employ-

ees, not just MSI recipients, that good

work is not valued or rewarded.

This is a message that the federal

government can ill afford as unemploy-

ment drops and private-sector hiring


State Department employees, like all

employees, value recognition, respect

and rewards for performance. However,

over the past 30 years, federal employees

have endured the screeds of politi-

cians and media pundits vilifying us as

inefficient, wasteful and undeserving of

proper financial compensation.

When public employees leave

government employment tired and

embittered, they are then criticized for

walking through the “revolving door” of

public and private employment.

In my experience, morale has taken

a severe hit due to these attacks, and

our best employees are expressing their

sentiments not only with their voices,

but with their feet, moving to the private


The department should view the MSI

financial award as a tool to maintain

and motivate a cadre of high-performing

employees working at the forefront of

diplomacy where our country needs

them most.

I encourage my colleagues to stand

in solidarity with AFSA in requesting

that all MSI recipients from 2013 and

2014 promotion boards receive the

financial awards they are due. Whether

you received an MSI during these years

or not, this serves as a test case that

will affect all MSI recipients in years to


Joshua Levin-Soler

Foreign Service Special Agent,

Diplomatic Security Service

Kabul, Afghanistan

IRM Promotions

Attention fellow information technol-

ogy managers, especially those of you

(and your families) who have dedicated

more than two decades to the Foreign

Service and are still at the FS-2 rank.

You may find State’s 2014 promo-

tion statistics sad and depressing (see “By the Numbers” in the April edition of State magazine).

You may get the impression that the

State Department does not fully appreci-

ate or value your sacrifices, dedication or

the documented evidence that you are

ready to serve at the next higher pay grade.

In my opinion, based on the num-

bers, you would be right.

According to the 2014 promotion

statistics, the average time in service

for an information technology manager

(ITM) to make FS-1 is 17.7 years. Feeling

the pain yet? The average time in grade

at FS-2 is 6.8 years.

If these stats were a one-off, maybe

even a two-off, we might accept that

during that panel’s review the other

employees simply told a better story.

But, no, this is the reality for ITMs.

Across the board, we FS-2 ITMs with

more than 20 years of service and 10

years in grade have apparently failed to

tell our own story and convince panels

that we are ready for the next level.

The good side of this is that the

people we have mentored, trained and

counseled are doing very well. In fact,

you can now work for someone who was

once a new hire working for you at their