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Taken Question
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
November 1, 2007
Question Taken At November 1, 2007 Daily Press Briefing

Iraq Staffing

Question: How many active duty Foreign Service employees are in the Department?

Answer:

As of September 30, 2007, we have 11,467 American Foreign Service employees, including 6,588 Foreign Service Officers and 4,879 Foreign Service Specialists.

Question: How many State Department employees have served in Iraq?

Answer:

Since 2003, over 1500 State Department personnel have served in Iraq.

Question: What percentage of positions in Iraq has been filled for 2007?

Answer:

We successfully filled 94 percent of our positions in Iraq for 2007, including those in Baghdad and in the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs), with volunteers. Because of staffing deficits, our overall fill rate worldwide is 79 percent.

Question: How many more positions do we have to fill this year than last year in Iraq at this time?

Answer:

We have already filled approximately 200 positions in Iraq with volunteers for Summer 2008. This year, we have 80 more positions to fill than we had last year at this time. We would note that all of these positions are for next summer. They are not immediate openings.

Question: How many people received notification that they were prime candidates for Iraq?

Answer:

Approximately 200 people received notification that they were prime candidates for Iraq.

Question: How were Prime Candidates chosen?

Answer:

We first looked at each specific unfilled position and developed criteria with which to describe what a “Prime Candidate” for each position would look like. We then listed all employees who met the pay-grade and career track criteria. We also considered functional experience and, where needed, language and area experience.

Many positions do not require language or area expertise.

Question: Can an individual on the prime candidate list choose whether he or she wants to serve in a PRT or at Embassy Baghdad?

Answer:

No, they are on lists for specific jobs. Some are on lists for Embassy Baghdad and PRTs. There are specific lists for specific jobs. However, an employee may volunteer for an unfilled job in Iraq for which they are qualified at any time.

Question: Has the Department of State ever used directed assignments before?

Answer:

Yes, we have. Throughout our history, we have adapted to meet the challenges before us. On April 25, 1969, 13 members of the 86th class of Foreign Service Officers were assigned to the CORDS (Civil Operations and Rural Development Support) program in Vietnam. There have also been directed assignments to Central America and to Africa.

Question: Why didn’t the Secretary put out a call for volunteers earlier?

Answer:

The Secretary put out a call for volunteers in July of this year.

Question: How many positions does the State Department have to fill for Summer 2008?

Answer:

There are a total number of 252 positions in Iraq that the Department has to fill for Summer 2008. Including Iraq, there are a total of 3,577 positions world-wide available for Summer 2008. There are over 750 unaccompanied or limited accompanied positions.

Question: How many positions need to be filled through the prime candidate process?

Answer:

Approximately 48 positions need to be filled through the prime candidate process. This number is changing as volunteers are vetted and assigned. Of those positions, approximately 27 are at PRTs and 21 are at the Embassy.

Question: How many American Foreign Service employees have been killed in Iraq?

Answer:

Three American Foreign Service employees have been killed in Iraq since the war started. One additional person died of natural causes.

Question: When do we expect assignment panels expected to begin making the necessary assignments through identification?

Answer:

Assignment panels are expected to begin making the necessary assignments on November 13, completing the process before the end of the month.

Question: Can you provide background on Foreign Service Compensation Reform (formerly called Pay Modernization)?

Answer:

Locality Pay was created by legislation in late 1991 to remedy pay differences between federal and private jobs. The first pay adjustments took effect in 1994. Since then, locality pay has been an important and growing component of the basic salary package for federal civilian employees.

The law excluded most civilian employees overseas, including the Foreign Service, in effect creating two different basic pay schemes for those employees: one for those assigned domestically and the other for those assigned overseas.

Employees whose duty stations are located in 31 specific regional areas in addition to the catch-all “Rest of the U.S.” category are eligible for locality pay. There is no authority to provide locality pay or its equivalent to employees overseas.

Other exceptions to the locality pay system include the Senior Executive Service and Senior Foreign Service, all of whom receive the same base pay whether they are assigned to Washington or overseas, plus additional overseas incentives.

The uniformed services are not covered by locality pay legislation. All employees regardless of location receive the full annual pay adjustment.

The Department has worked hard to resolve the disparity in pay for our Foreign Service employees stationed abroad and domestically for several years. We were unable to gain the necessary support for the legislation needed to eliminate the disparity.

With the introduction of pay-for-performance for the Senior Executive Service, we were able to obtain legislation that eliminated the gap for the Senior Foreign Service – but only the Senior Foreign Service.

Using that as an example, under Secretary Rice we gained Administration support for seeking legislation that would couple Foreign Service comparability pay with a proposed pay-for- performance system.

The Department worked throughout 2006 to develop a legislative proposal that had the support of AFSA, the other foreign affairs agencies, and OMB. We came close to having the legislation passed by the Congress in late 2006 but were unsuccessful.

We have resubmitted our proposal as part of the Authorization Bill for FY08-09 that was forwarded to Congress on May 25, 2007, and is currently being considered by majority and minority staff of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

2007/958


Released on November 1, 2007

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