WP - Iraq Jobs for U.S. Diplomats Still Not Completely Filled
There seemed to be a lot less press about that part though.
WASHINGTON IN BRIEF
Wednesday, November 14, 2007; Page A05
Iraq Jobs for U.S. Diplomats Still Not Completely Filled
A State Department deadline for diplomats to object to being posted in Iraq passed yesterday with 23 jobs next summer in the Baghdad embassy and outlying provinces still unfilled, officials said. Volunteers for the posts will be accepted until tomorrow, when a personnel panel will begin filling the jobs with "directed assignments."
As it turned out, State kept the window open for volunteers even as the personnel began reviewing statements from the "prime candidates."
Late last month, State notified 200 to 250 diplomats that they have been identified as "potential candidates" for 48 unfilled jobs, and it asked them to volunteer for Iraq. Those who do not want to go were told they could submit one-page explanations of compelling reasons.
The actual phrase was "prime candidates." These were officers up for re-assignment next year who were in the correct grades and had the requisite experience for the particular jobs that remained unfilled.
The "compelling reasons" were explanations as to why a particular officer should not be assigned to Iraq.
Since then, 25 have volunteered, and officials said yesterday that 12 more potential volunteers have come forward and must be vetted. Tomorrow, the panel will begin examining the files of those who have not signed up to fill whatever jobs remain. Officials said that, next week, they will begin notifying those selected. Those who refuse to go would be subject to disciplinary action, including dismissal.
Again, the strategy of continuing to solicite volunteers while the personnel system worked to identify and vet possible involuntary assignees for those positions worked out this time. The Foreign Service is grossly undermanned at present and I don't expect this strategy will work a second year in a row, not without a drastic downsizing of our FSO "footprint" in Iraq.
Even if the current administration were to authorize and begin a crash program of hiring to make up the Department-wide FSO shortfalls, it wouldn't have a positive impact towards filling these same positions again next year. Most of these positions are in the mid-grade and OC levels; that is the FSO equivalents to majors, lieutenant colonels, colonels, and brigadier generals. Commissioning a whole lot of the FS-equivalents of lieutenants and captains now wouldn't even begin to make a difference at even the lowest mid-grade rank ( FS-03 grade equivalent to military O-4 or major) for another five years.
It may not actually be as bad as that, since the first year group or two of the Diplomatic Readiness Initiative (DRI) hires are hitting the mid-grade ranks these days. Those are essentially the post-9/11 FSOs. Unfortunately the DRI was wound up a couple years ago so attrition is again taking its toll as hiring is again at levels below attrition.