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Archive for September 2011

RQ: Do You Get Airline Miles for Official Travel?

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A reader asks,

Do you get airline miles for official travel?  How many miles per year do you fly (on average)?

Yes.  I think it used to be against the regulations, but maybe the trade-off was that we no longer automatically get business class.  It’s become easier since I joined to earn a big pool of airline miles with the carrier agreements like the Star Alliance and smaller mergers like that of United and Continental.  Online tracking and the USG’s ebooking service (the much-maligned e2 Solutions) has also simplified things greatly (yes, I am old enough to remember the days before you could log into your reward program online). Read the rest of this entry »


RQ: Do You Get Paid Overtime?

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This week’s Reader Question concerns overtime.

As a government worker, do you get overtime?  How often do you find yourself working late?

Overtime pay is very inconsistently implemented.  Sometimes you get overtime, sometimes you dont.

Domestically, funding for overtime is usually decided at the division level.  I’ve never gotten overtime while in Washington, and the times when I actually would have earned it were few and far in between.  Instead of overtime you get compensatory time off.

Overseas, overtime pay is a post decision.  I’ve almost always received overtime pay overseas to some extent. Read the rest of this entry »

Sorry Peter Van Buren, You Asked For It

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Wired Magazine’s Threat Level recently reported on a veteran Foreign Service Officer, Peter Van Buren, in danger of losing his job for posting links to classified Wikileaks cables on a public blog.   This is despite multiple internal warnings on the intranet homepage (including several e-mails, Department notices, a guidance section on the intranet homepage regarding Wikileaks, a Wikileaks Task Force (“WTF”), and post-specific guidance from the management offices regarding the breach).  The defense that facilitating access to already-publicly available (but still classified) information also holds no water, as all Department employees were told specifically of the potential consequences of viewing or linking to classified cables on unclassified systems or to unauthorized persons.  In fact, even viewing a classified cable on an unclassified system would have required an incident report.

For those Foreign Service Employees that love their references, here are just a few to chew on (and yes, Mr. Van Buren – you agreed to abide by the FAM, FAH, and all other U.S. laws as a condition of your continued employment by the State Department… just as we all did).

3 FAM 4139.3 Freedom of Expression Read the rest of this entry »

Post-9/11 Diplomacy: The U.S. Foreign Service on the Kojo Nnamdi Show

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The Kojo Nnamdi Show on NPR hosted U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter, American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) President Susan Johnson, and Foreign Service Officer Matthew Asada.  They discuss the Foreign Service in the post-9/11 world.  The interview is a bit lengthy, but there were some interesting tidbits if you’re interested in joining the Foreign Service or if you are interested in how 9/11 affected U.S. diplomacy.

For those who are already in, most of it is well-worn (in my opinion).

The full transcript can be found here.  Among some interesting quotes,

MUNTER     12:11:40

Since that time and the recent years, I’ve been ambassador in Serbia, two tours in Iraq and in Pakistan. And I think that going to places like Iraq and Pakistan in a post-9/11 era is something that Foreign Service officers not only will think is possible, but will expect.

JOHNSON   12:37:51

Well, it’s entirely appropriate. And AFSA is very supportive of full implementation of what’s called Diplomacy 3.0 and that hiring surge for the State Department as well as for 50 percent increase in AID capacity. We are about 17 percent of the way there. That is that, since this started, we’ve increased the staff by about 17 percent on the way to that 25 percent target by 2013.

…However, looks as though, in the current situation that we’re facing, fiscal, political, et cetera, that there’s a real danger that this will be interrupted, and we will not be able to meet that target, certainly not in the timeframe of 2013. I hope that we’ll be able to keep that trend going in the right direction because it is critically important.

Written by OSB

24/09/2011 at 06:24

Travel Warning: Libya

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Consular Affairs issued a Travel Warning for Libya on Thursday.  On a related note, US Embassy Tripoli has reopened. The travel warning reads as follows:


September 22, 2011

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all but essential travel to Libya due to the ongoing unrest. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning dated August 23, 2011 to note the resumption of Embassy operations and continuing limitations of consular services to U.S. citizens.

The United States recognized the Libyan Transitional National Council (TNC) as the legitimate governing authority of Libya on July 15, 2011 and returned our Deputy Chief of Mission on September 10, 2011 and resumed Embassy operations in Tripoli, Libya on September 22, 2011. However, services available to U.S. citizens in Libya are limited to emergency services. Individuals requiring routine consular services or assistance in obtaining immigrant or non-immigrant visas to the United States should apply at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate outside of Libya. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by OSB

24/09/2011 at 03:50

RQ: What Do FSOs Do When Not At Work?

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This week’s reader question concerns social life overseas.  It asks,

What do Foreign Service Officers/Specialists do when they’re not working?  How is the social scene?  Do FSOs tend to clump or do they “go local”?

The answer, of course, is all of the above.  Obviously it depends a great deal on where one is posted.  Those serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Pakistan (AIP) will not be going off the compound very much.  Each post has its own unique social culture.  Even in places I wouldn’t consider very dangerous, sometimes the current work force just isn’t interested in going out much.  Other times the embassy community is very tight knit and very supportive of one another (there’s something about being trapped together in Lagos that really brings a group of Americans together…).

Every post (that I’m aware of) has a person serving as the Community Liaison Officer, commonly referred to as the CLO (pronounced “kloh”).  The CLO is responsible for organizing events for embassy staff and their family members.  Quiz nights, dinners, group tours of historic sites, shopping trips, barbecues, are all arranged by or with great assistance from the CLO.  Some CLO offices also have collections of books or DVDs for loan, and contain lots of helpful information on local sources of entertainment.

The CLO is an important factor in keeping morale high.  In my opinion, holing up in your government housing is a good way to go crazy during your tour.  Participating in the embassy community, while not only one of the Foreign Service dimensions, is a good way to network both for yourself and your family.

Be sure to check out past Reader Questions in the Archives.

Travel Warning: Algeria

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Consular Affairs issued a Travel Warning for Algeria today.  It reads as follows:


September 19, 2011

The State Department warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Algeria. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Algeria dated March 16, 2011 to update information on the current security situation in Algeria and the continuing threat posed by terrorism, and to reiterate information on security incidents and recommendations on security awareness.

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens who travel to Algeria to evaluate carefully the risks posed to their personal safety. Terrorist attacks, including bombings, false roadblocks, kidnappings, and ambushes occur regularly, particularly in rural areas such as the Kabylie region of the country. The use of suicide bomb attacks, particularly vehicle-borne attacks, emerged as a terrorist tactic in Algeria, including in the capital, beginning in 2007. The group that claimed credit for the December 11, 2007 suicide car-bomb attacks in Algiers has pledged more attacks against foreign targets and specifically against U.S. targets. The same group is believed to operate in southern Algeria and to be linked to the kidnapping in February 2011 of a western tourist in the southeast, near the Nigerian border. This regional kidnapping threat was noted in the Department of State’s Worldwide Caution dated July 26, 2011. Read the rest of this entry »