The Foreign Service Journal, September 2022

AFSA NEWS 56 SEPTEMBER 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Family Member Employment: An AFSA Priority STATE VP VOICE | BY TOM YAZDGERDI AFSA NEWS Contact: | (202) 647-8160 Way back in 1992, during my first tour in Panama City, I remember hearing from our DCM during one of his weekly meetings with junior officers, as we were then called, about the significance of family member employment. “If your wife or husband is not happy, you won’t be happy or productive. And meaningful work makes people happy,” he said. His words have stuck with me. Fast forward to the pres- ent. The department has gotten better at helping find jobs in our missions overseas for eligible family members (EFMs), and technology has also played an increasingly critical and helpful role. But there are still things that can be done to improve employment prospects for family members and to build on what already exists. Security Clearance Processing. It takes too long to get the initial security clearance for EFMs. While there have been undeniable improvements in recent years, including the use of bots to reduce wait times for security clearance conversion and reciprocity with other agen- cies to one day and four days, respectively (see 22 STATE 7276), AFSA is still hearing about problems from our members. The department recently told AFSA that one way to expedite the process is to have EFMs join the Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC), where the quick provision of a “public trust” clearance can potentially speed things up for higher- level Top Secret and Secret clearances. (See https://bit. ly/FSFRC-GCLO.) Support for DETOs. AFSA strongly backs the Domestic Employee Telework- ing Overseas (DETO) pro- gram, which allows domestic direct-hire employees accom- panying their Foreign Service or Civil Service spouse on an overseas assignment to telework from post. AFSA is glad to see that this program has grown over the years. We welcome the flexibility that the department has dem- onstrated, such as a recent interim agreement between State and the Department of Defense, now in the final stages, that will allow DETOs married to military spouses to work frommilitary housing overseas. But, in general, the applica- tion process can take an inor- dinate amount of time. And AFSA does not understand why Civil Service DETOs, many of whom are married to FS members, do not receive at least some portion of local- ity pay, i.e., what the FS gets with overseas comparability pay, and differential payments at their posts, which their FS DETO counterparts receive. In the near future, AFSA plans to join with AFGE, the Civil Service union at State, to urge that this situation be rectified. A Viable Anti-Nepotism Process . On the margins of the annual chiefs of mission (COM) conference, AFSA hosted a June 22 breakfast for career COMs, chargés and principal officers. One issue brought to light was that anti-nepotism rules and regulations, which affect both EFM and DETO employment, take far too long to implement at post and have expanded beyond what is reasonable. One COM noted that the rules are needlessly complex and intrusive and can inter- fere with overseas operations. Another, who recently worked on these issues within the Bureau of Global Talent Man- agement, said that the office can turn around a decision in two weeks, but that the aver- age timeline is now far longer, with some decisions taking more than six months. To help cut down on the decision time, the department should send one complete set of standardized anti-nepotism review questions, instead of stretching out the process by asking additional questions in an ad hoc manner. Working Outside the Mis- sion. Many family members already have careers and skills that are readily portable to the host country. The department has more than 150 bilateral work agree- ments and de facto work arrangements allowing family members to work outside the mission without losing certain privileges and immunities. The Global Community Liaison Office also man- ages a Global Employment Initiative with global employ- ment advisers that covers more than 200 posts. (See Employment.) Robust department sup- port for family members who work on the local economy is vital, and AFSA encourages our members to explore this option where they can. We have raised and will continue to raise family mem- ber employment issues with Deputy Secretary for Manage- ment and Resources Brian McKeon and Director General Marcia Bernicat, and believe we have a productive ongoing dialogue. For AFSA to be as suc- cessful in our advocacy as possible, we need to hear from you. Do you believe you are receiving the support you need? Is the department walking the walk when it says that spousal employment is a priority? Please let us know at n The department has gotten better at helping EFMs find jobs in our missions overseas, but there are still things that can be done to improve employment prospects.