Monday, October 17, 2011

Thanks to a Hardworking Congress, Some Feds in the Garden Countries of I'Af/Pak to Lose Some Benefits

Stephen Losey of Federal Times reported last week that federal employees deployed to the I'Af/Pak region who are not in the Foreign Service have now lost numerous travel, medical and leave benefits because those benefits were not renewed by Congress after they expired Oct. 1. Excerpts:

The following benefits, which are available to Foreign Service officers, will no longer be available to non-Foreign Service personnel posted in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan, according to the Office of Personnel Management:

  • Reimbursement of travel costs when going home on leave.
  • Reimbursement of travel costs when obtaining necessary medical care when such care is not available locally.
  • Reimbursement of travel costs when evacuating family members who are in imminent danger.
  • Reimbursement of travel costs when transporting furniture and other personal effects when moving to another duty station.
  • Mandatory leave for employees who have returned home after a three-year deployment. Agencies also will no longer have the option to offer leave to employees who had served in a war zone for 18 months.
  • Medical examinations, mental health care, inoculations, vaccinations and other preventative care.
  • A death gratuity equal to one year's salary when an employee dies of injuries sustained while supporting military operations.
Read in full here.

I have not read the OPM notice but I am presuming that these changes applies to non-Foreign Service and non-Defense employees serving in those three priority countries.

The 2010 OIG review of US Embassy Pakistan indicates that there are some three dozens non-State and non-DOD personnel in that country (DEA: 16, FBI: 7, DHS: 4, BBG:1, DOE: 1, NAS: 8, Treasury: 1).

On the U.S. Embassy Iraq staffing -- well, trying to pin down the staffing number over there, is of course, rocket science and I simply do not have the brains for it. Also, with the military withdrawal and the embassy taking charge, a whole lot of big numbers are bring thrown around - 5,000 - 17,000.  Security people is a big component but not sure how many non-State/USAID and non-DOD personnel will continue to deploy in Iraq and our consulates there when all is said and done in 2011. 

Due to the recent "flavor of the month" in Afghanistan, the civilian uplift staffing picture there is a bit more clearer.  Seven civilian agencies (State/USAID excepted) account for about 26% of the total civilian uplift.  So all those folks, plus some three dozens in Pakistan and an undetermined number in Iraq will be affected by Congress' non-renewal of warzone benefits.

In short, if they need mental health care after service in the warzones, they're basically out of luck?

This will have an impact to the employees already deployed there, but may have a larger impact on recruitment of employees for the 2012 assignment and onward.

From SIGAR/State OIG

Below is an excerpt from the SIGAR/State OIG review of the civilian uplift in that country:
[...] State increased its civilian personnel deployed to Afghanistan from 192 in January 2009, to 501 in March 2011—an increase of 309 personnel.

State has an additional 81 authorized full-time equivalent positions for the civilian uplift as of May 31, 2011, but the positions are currently unfilled. According to State officials from the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA), they will continue to place additional civilian personnel in these positions through fiscal years 2011 and 2012.

USAID had the second largest presence of any agency prior to the start of the uplift. USAID personnel increased from 85 in January 2009 to 307 as of March 2011, an increase of 222 personnel. USAID has an additional 80 authorized positions for Afghanistan that are currently unfilled. According to USAID officials, they will continue to place additional U.S. civilians in these positions in fiscal years 2011 and 2012.

As of June 2011, the other seven civilian agencies with a presence in Afghanistan accounted for an increase of 189 personnel, or approximately 26 percent of the total civilian uplift. These agencies provide personnel at the request and direction of the Chief of Mission in Afghanistan and State officials in Washington in order to meet the mission’s strategic goals. The Chief of Mission determines the number of authorized civilian uplift positions in consultation with each department.

DOJ accounted for an increase of 78 personnel, or 11 percent, of the total civilian uplift. The majority of these uplift personnel are employees of the Drug Enforcement Administration who work on mentoring and training Afghan law enforcement entities in an effort to promote the rule of law. In addition, they provide leadership and guidance in the conduct of bilateral counternarcotics investigations and operations. USDA has deployed 59 civilian uplift personnel as of June 2011, representing eight percent of the total civilian uplift. These employees primarily mentor Afghan government officials at the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock.

The remaining five agencies account for approximately seven percent of the total civilian uplift. DHS personnel advise, mentor, and train Afghan border, customs, and related entities to enforce Afghan customs and immigration law. Treasury places technical experts at Afghan government ministries where they provide assistance in four areas: strengthening budget and financial accountability, combating economic crimes and corruption, building internal audit capacity and increasing non-tax revenues, and achieving debt relief and improving debt management. Transportation personnel advise officials at the Afghan Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation on issues such as civil aviation law and surface transportation planning. HHS personnel work on health programs, such as programs to strengthen maternal and child health services in Afghanistan. Finally, Commerce personnel assist with efforts to promote Afghanistan’s economic development and trade. 

Related item:       
SIGAR Audit-11-17 & State OIG AUD/SI-11-45 Civilian Uplift | September 8, 2011

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