The Foreign Service Journal, November 2021

84 NOVEMBER 2021 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Update on Priority Issues for Members STATE VP VOICE | BY TOM YAZDGERDI AFSA NEWS Contact: | (202) 647-8160 Here’s a snapshot of some significant issues we are working on for our mem- bers. AFSA remains hopeful that by the time of publica- tion, any of these issues that are not fully resolved will have at least received a response so that AFSA, if necessary, can take further action. Payroll problems. This continues to be the issue generating the most com- ments and inquiries (and complaints) from members. Since the new payroll sys- tem was introduced in Feb- ruary, nearly every employee has been affected. Active- duty employees, contractors and retirees have reported issues ranging from not get- ting paychecks at all to not receiving hardship or dif- ferential payments. They’ve also reported missing leave hours and deduction issues, including some affecting their Thrift Savings Plan. AFSA, itself, has not been immune. Some new members, fresh out of orientation, have seen their AFSA dues deducted from paychecks, but AFSA isn’t receiving the funds. As we reported in August, the leadership at Charleston Global Financial Services told us that the number of cases, while high, had stabi- lized, and that by the end of September (pay period 19) retroactive payments were to be completed. That deadline is very near as of this writing. And while we hope it will be met, we’re prepared to take further action as needed. AFSA will in any case advocate for interest to be included in these pay- ments. If payments are not completed by the deadline, AFSA will demand that State Department leader- ship provide the people and resources needed to fix this problem immediately. TICing out at FS-2. It used to be that during a normal career span, FSOs could expect to reach the FS-1 level. That certainly is not as true today as it was when I joined in 1991. Indeed, in 2014 and earlier, the number of FS-2 generalists promoted to FS-1 exceeded 15 percent. In 2017 and 2018 the rate fell below 10 percent. In 2019 it improved slightly to 10.1 percent, and in 2020 it rose to 11.9 percent. A big part of the problem is the feast-or-famine way new hires are brought into the Service; that has made the FS-2 to FS-1 jump hyper- competitive at this moment. In any event, we have heard from members who are in danger of TICing out at the FS-2 level. As a result, I have writ- ten to the Bureau of Global Talent Management asking for data on the number of generalist FS-2s who could potentially reach their TIC dates in 2022 and 2023; the number of FS-2s who were separated for expiration of TIC in 2017-2020; and, for comparison purposes, the number of FS-2s who were separated for expiration of their TIC in 2014 and 2010. Investment accounts closing for overseas members. Several of our overseas members have told us that their investment accounts are in danger of being abruptly closed due to conditions of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act that prevent investment firms from providing certain financial services to anyone who is located outside the United States. But our members are not expatriates who per- manently reside abroad and pay taxes to host governments. FS members pay taxes only to the U.S. government, and the FATCA should not apply. We have written letters to individual account manag- ers, but with varying degrees of success; we are working with the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs and the Treasury Department to arrive at a global solution for all our members. DETO tandems with military members. In a recent letter to GTM, I took up another issue important to members: AFSA supports an effort by several State and USAID employees who are military or Department of Defense spouses and domestic employees tele- working overseas (DETOs) to be able to work while at post. The problem is that these DETOs are not being approved for overseas work if they cannot meet chief of mission (COM) security standards or if obtaining approval would require significant regional security office resources—even when they are living in military base housing with their spouses. This is particularly common in countries with large U.S. military bases, such as Germany. It seems to AFSA that a memorandum of under- standing could be developed that would transfer COM authority to DoD for security and other potential respon- sibilities that might arise. This arrangement is already in place for POLAD posi- tions; why shouldn’t DETOs be included, as well? If the State Department is interested in keeping families together, promoting employment for tandems and ensuring workplace flexibility, this is a prime example of where it can make a difference. We will continue to raise the issue and keep you informed. Please write us at We only know of problems, concerns and ideas when our mem- bers inform us. Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving! n