The OpSec Blog

Security and privacy information and advice at home and abroad.

Archive for March 2012

Travel Warning: Chad

leave a comment »

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

Chad

March 29, 2012

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Chad and recommends U.S. citizens avoid all travel to eastern Chad and border regions. High levels of violent crime and a continuing risk of clashes between the Chadian government and armed groups exist in these areas. In particular, there is a heightened risk of carjacking and kidnapping for ransom within these conflict zones. The U.S. Embassy in Chad has prohibited travel by official U.S. government personnel to all areas outside the capital, N’Djamena, and its immediate environs without express advance authorization. U.S. citizens affiliated with humanitarian relief efforts should review security precautions and consider measures to mitigate exposure to violent crime. U.S. citizens residing in Chad should exercise caution throughout the country. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Chad dated August 16, 2011, to make note of a change in the Embassy’s policy toward minor dependents, and to update U.S. citizens on the current security situation in Chad.  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by OSB

29/03/2012 at 16:20

Travel Warning: Yemen

leave a comment »

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

Yemen

March 27, 2012

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the high security threat level in Yemen due to terrorist activities and civil unrest. The Department urges U.S. citizens not to travel to Yemen. U.S. citizens currently in Yemen should depart. Effective September 1, 2011, the Department of State lifted the Ordered Departure status for U.S. government employees at the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a. The embassy remains a restricted staffing post. As staff levels at the embassy are restricted, our ability to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency remains limited and may be further constrained by the fluid security situation. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning for Yemen issued on September 2, 2011 to provide updated information regarding the security situation in Yemen. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by OSB

28/03/2012 at 15:16

Travel Warning: Mali

leave a comment »

Consular Affairs issued a Travel Warning for Mali on March 25.  It reads as follows:

Mali

March 23, 2012

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Mali at this time because of current political instability in the country, and continuing threats of attacks and kidnappings of Westerners in the north of the country.  Malian mutineers have taken control of the presidential palace and closed the country’s land borders and airport.  Radio and television stations are off the air.  The situation on the ground remains fluid and unpredictable.  This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Mali dated March 16, 2012, to update information on current events in Mali.

On Wednesday, March 21, a protest march from Kati, a few miles outside of Bamako, to the Presidential Palace resulted in a military mutiny by a group of lower-level officers and enlisted men who declared themselves to be in charge of the country.  This group detained, or attempted to detain, a number of government ministers and others.  Law and order is not assured.  There are random reports of looting of gas stations and other businesses.  A number of vehicles have been stopped and seized by the mutineers.  While there has been no violence directed specifically against U.S. citizens or westerners in general, the overall situation remains unsettled and potentially dangerous.  There have been sporadic reports of gunfire throughout the capital city of Bamako and other regional capitals, including Gao and Mopti-Sevare.  The airport and all border crossings remain closed.  The mutineers declared a curfew to be in effect until Tuesday, March 27, at 7:30 a.m.  More precise details about the curfew have not been released.  The Embassy advises U.S. citizens presently in Mali to shelter in place until further notice.  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by OSB

25/03/2012 at 14:01

RQ: Tandem Couples

leave a comment »

A reader asks,

What advice would you give a would-be tandem couple?

Disclaimer, I am not part of a tandem.

Tandem couples refer to couples in which both husband and wife are employed as direct hires in one of the Foreign Services (State, Agriculture, Commercial, or USAID).  Same-sex couples whose marriage is not recognized in the States also qualify as tandems, but situations in which one is a direct hire and the other is employed as an EFM at post does not qualify as a tandem.

The most obvious benefit from being a tandem couple is to have both adults bringing in an income and building on their careers.  You also get some preference for assignments if there is a good fit for both of you at a post.  The downside of being a tandem is that there aren’t many places that have open spots, so tandem couples wind up in Washington a lot more than their non-tandem counterparts or one half does an out-of-cone or out-of-specialty tour more frequently than they might like.   Since both parents work it is difficult to care for small children as a tandem, but this situation can be alleviated somewhat with a nanny or leave without pay.  Tandem couples face similar challenges that families with two working parents do with respect to “family logistics” at post.

My advice to a tandem couple would be to keep an open mind.  While this goes for any FS employee, tandems especially need to look at Washington DC as an opportunity and not a sentence.  Tandems should also start the bidding/lobbying process extra early, 2 years in advance (1 year before you actually bid) is not unheard of.  Pull every connection you have during the lobbying process and make it obvious to the assignments panel that the assignments you and your spouse want are obviously the assignments you are going to get.

Finally, if you both are brand-new to the Foreign Service you must be married before A-100/Specialist orientation to be given consideration as a tandem couple.  There are no exceptions to this rule.

Since this post is more of an “outside looking in” perspective, I’d love to hear some perspectives from actual tandem couples.  Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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

Travel Warning: Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza

leave a comment »

Consular Affairs issued a Travel Warning for Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza yesterday.  It reads as follows:

Israel, the West Bank and Gaza

March 19, 2012

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, and about threats to themselves and to U.S. interests in those locations.  The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to remain mindful of security factors when planning travel to Israel and the West Bank and to avoid all travel to the Gaza Strip.  This replaces the Travel Warning issued June 22, 2011, to update information on the general security environment.

The Gaza Strip and Southern Israel

The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to the Gaza Strip, which is under the control of Hamas, a designated foreign terrorist organization.  American citizens in Gaza are advised to depart immediately.  The Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt allows for some passenger travel, though coordination with local authorities — which could take days or weeks to process — is reportedly required.  Travelers who enter the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing from Egypt must also exit through the Rafah crossing.  The Israeli authorities do not permit such travelers to exit through the Erez crossing into Israel except in situations of extreme humanitarian need.  Travelers entering the Gaza Strip may not be able to depart at a time of their choosing.  Delays of days or weeks are common.  U.S. citizens should be aware that as a consequence of a longstanding prohibition on travel by U.S. citizen employees of the U.S. Government into the Gaza Strip, the ability of consular staff to offer timely assistance to U.S. citizens there is extremely limited, including the provision of routine consular services. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by OSB

20/03/2012 at 02:41

Travel Warning: Mali

leave a comment »

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

Mali

March 16, 2012

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risk of travel to Mali, and recommends against all travel to the north of the country due to threats of attacks and kidnappings of Westerners. In addition, the National Movement for Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA) and other armed groups have attacked several locations in the north and engaged in battles with the Malian military. The conflict has sparked civil disturbances and attacks against ethnic minority groups in Bamako and other cities in the south. U.S. citizens are also advised that presidential and legislative elections scheduled to take place in April-July may result in increased civil disturbances. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Mali dated October 4, 2011, to update information on events in Northern Mali, and to inform U.S. citizens of the upcoming presidential and legislative elections. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by OSB

18/03/2012 at 13:16

RQ: Calling the Registrar

leave a comment »

One question on many candidates’ mind is

How often is it appropriate to call the registrar to find out my standing?

While there’s no definite answer to this question, in my humble opinion I think you should call as often as you want to.  The registrar’s job is the manage the register and keep those on it informed of their place.  While it might be too much to call every day, I don’t think anyone should feel bad about calling once or twice a week, especially if there’s an upcoming A-100 or Specialist orientation (offers start going out 2-3 months prior).

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