The Foreign Service Journal, July/August 2018

80 JULY-AUGUST 2018 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL FAS VP VOICE | BY KIMBERLY SAWATZKI AFSA NEWS Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA FAS VP. Contact: | (202) 720-3650 TIC Tock TIS Talk—We Need to Fix Our Broken Clock “State Department’s TIS clocks are longer than ours, and our system is unfair to early high performers,”an FAS colleague toldme years ago. He’s right. State Depart- ment Foreign Service officers’ Time-in-Service (TIS) time- lines are not only longer than ours, but they also stop their clocks more often. Further, while State FSOs all face the same 27-year TIS clock, FAS FSOs have different TIS time- lines based on their individual commissioning dates. FAS FSOs who were commissioned quickly face clocks that are as much as three years shorter than others who entered the Service at the same time. Why does this matter? Because FAS’ shorter TIS clocks have ramifications for staffing and succession plan- ning. The Foreign Service utilizes an up-or-out system. State Department generalists who enter the Foreign Service at the FS-4 level (equivalent to the FAS entry level) are subject to a 27-year TIS limit calculated fromdate of entry until they must reach the Senior Foreign Service or take mandatory retirement. State Department officers must be commis- sioned within five years, but their TIS clock is not con- nected to their commissioning date. In contrast, FAS FSOs have a 22-year TIS clock that begins after commissioning, whichmust be achieved within five years. At first glance, yes: 5+22=27. But most people are tenured in fewer than five years, and this means that very few FAS FSOs have 27 years to reach the SFS. Our system effectively pun- ishes high performers who are commissioned quickly, as they have a shorter overall timeline in which to reach the Senior Foreign Service. In fact, due to the timing of FAS commis- sioning and promotion boards, FSOs who are commissioned in their final board at the end of the five-year limited appoint- ment generally end up with three extra years to reach the Senior Foreign Service than those who were commissioned on their first try. State Department FS employees can stop their clocks for 16 different reasons, as laid out in 3 FAM6213.5, includingmany not authorized by FAS, such as hard language training and other long-term training, or for serving in cer- tain hard-to-fill, critical-needs or historically-difficult-to-staff positions at high-differential posts. While FAS previously allowed for TIC/TIS extensions for service in Iraq andAfghani- stan, there are currently no FAS posts with this entitle- ment. In addition, as FAS FSOs reachmore senior levels, many choose to forgo long-term language training—even if they recognize its importance for their positions—because they feel they cannot sacrifice a year of their clock. The differences between our systems mean that an FSO at the State Department might see the 27-year clock extend beyond 30 years, while an FAS FSOmay only have 25 years. With less time to reach the SFS, FAS FSOs must be increasingly strategic during their careers to ensure that they meet the qualifications to be eligible for the SFS and that their positions make them competitive against their peers. FAS currently has a shortfall of FSOs at the FO-1 and FO-2 levels, with both grades understaffed by roughly 30 percent—which means that we already have difficulty filling positions at grade. When you combine the dearth of mid-level officers with their strategic paths toward promotion, it makes some posts much harder to fill, even if the positions are other- wise attractive. Correcting our TIS clock may encourage FSOs to step up for these positions, as there would be reduced urgency for promotion. By adopting the State Department’s 27-year TIS clock, FAS FSOs would enjoy greater fairness and predict- ability in their careers, while facilitating staffing world- wide.We should also explore expanding the use of clock- stopping during training, as the State Department does. Increased training opportuni- ties will improve the effective- ness of our officers and their work abroad. By fixing the problems with our TIS clock, we can improve equity and effectiveness as well as the long-termhealth and sustainability of our Foreign Service. n NEWS BRIEF CHANGES TO THE OVERSEAS SUMMER HIRE PROGRAM The Overseas Summer Hire Program provides an opportunity for FS dependent children visiting over- seas posts to gain work experience in the embassy. Many parents and college students make summer plans based on eligibility for this program. In March, parents learned that the department had reduced the upper age limit for OSHP from 24 to 21. AFSA protested, as did many parents; so, for 2018 only, the department reversed its decision and reverted to the previous upper age limit of 24. AFSA is not aware of any solid legal basis for the proposed upper limit age reduction, and we will continue to advocate for the higher age limit of 24. Members may wish to make known their opposition to this future change by emailing “DG Direct” at n