Note: The following entries are collected from the private blogs of U.S. Foreign Service employees and their family members. All are written in their private capacity, and publicly available on the Internet. If you are a blog owner and would like an entry removed from this site, please contact me through my contactify email. Click on the links to read the full text of the blog posts.  

On Pay Cuts.
From The Afghan Plan | February 26, 2011

[T]here's a movement to blanket congress with letters (I wrote mine, though not nearly as eloquently as others), though the Foreign Service undoubtedly lacks the numbers to make a difference. Even writing my Congresswoman felt futile, since I live in DC and my Representative in Congress has no vote.

My response has not been outrage so much as a lingering sadness; the entire ordeal (including some of the ugly, you're-probably-overpaid/stop-your-whining/if-you-complain-you're-not-a-patriot rhetoric it's stirred up) has made me question what I'm doing here. I had assumed upon signing up for this job that I'd have lots of these moments -- that I'd find myself questioning U.S. policy, or that we'd take repeated, terrifying incoming and I'd be unwilling to leave the base because of it, or that I'd miserable in the wake of casualties and question the logic of continuing on. But that none of that ever happened -- I've never wavered in my desire to be here or in my commitment to this place. At least until now, when the House voted to cut my pay. It really isn't the money (the bill is ambiguous and almost certainly won't pass the Senate or the President) -- it's the sentiment that goes along with it.

People have said that we're taking a pay cut because we enjoy our work too much, but that seems ridiculous -- like they should only pay people for working a job if it makes them miserable. The same cuts were recommended by the White House's Bipartisan Fiscal Commission, though budgetarily speaking, cutting 16 percent of 7,500 people's salary is not a significant figure, and it certainly doesn't explain why we alone were singled out. Moreover, the commission noted that even with the pay cuts, the Foreign Service will remain a highly competitive and sought after: some 25,000 people apply for 300 to 900 jobs annually. But I find that rationale to be wildly offensive -- that they can cut our pay with impunity because of how imminently replaceable we are.


Writing My Senator
Nomads by Nature | February 28, 2011
We are on our 4th overseas assignment. We have lived very frugally in Europe with a very unfavorable exchange rate and damp, cold weather. We have lived under constant surveillance in a Communist country with extreme pollution that took  health tolls on our family. We have lived under a Sultan in a city with costs of goods higher or equal to  Switzerland and kept ourselves covered in temperatures over 130 for cultural sensitivity to our host government. We serve now in a high crime African post where corruption abounds causing everything to be extremely expensive or a hassle to get.
Between my husband and I we are a former U.S. Marine, a Gulf War Vet, an Air National Guard, a Marine Corps Spouse with a deployment, a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, a former immigration legal assistant, a former Consular Assistant, a teacher, and  a Foreign Service Specialist.  We aren’t any more, or less, special than any of the other fine folks that serve along side us. We are hard workers. And like us, our fellow State Department crew are also patriots and have served and continue to serve the U.S.A. with honor and due diligence. Don’t forget: our children serve, too, each day, in their upheavals, their limitations, their sacrifices, and in their interactions with people from around the world through school.


Foreign Service Pay, Congress, and what I Want
From Brian | Hick/Hitchhiker/...Diplomat (!?)
February 27, 2011:
I want Congress to trim my paycheck by 16%. If your argument is that our country is broke, I can do my part to help out the country during this difficult time. I also want other things.

I want the members of Congress to live in my house for a week. I want to laugh with them as they notice the ants crawling on their suits (the ants here are Everywhere, Always) and then give them a towel to rest their head on as they spend all night throwing up from E Coli. I want to joke with them about how their stools will never be normal.


That Could Have Been Me: 61 of 365
From Becky (direct from a border town) 
Small Bits
February 26, 2011

All the time I drove I was wondering how to get my youngest out of her 5 point carseat and onto the floor on the car should we get caught in a shooting. The day she got big enough for a booster that used a regular seat belt (and learned to undo the seat belt) was the day I let out a huge sigh of relief.

I have run out of roads that haven't had some type of daytime incident during our time here. We rarely go out at night anymore.

Foreign Service "Cushy" Lives: 10 Ways to Help Debunk the Myth in Congress and Elsewhere

From DiploPundit | February 26, 2011


Current Events (Or Why We Deserve This Pay Cut)
From Email from the Embassy
Friday, February 25, 2011

So you see, all you Foreign Service Officers out there, it's your fault all of these congresspeople think you deserve a pay cut. They have no idea what work you put into that recent visit. They don't know what you just gave up in order to make sure their visit was a success. They don't understand that your life isn't all cocktail parties interspersed with awesome trips to exotic locations. They don't know that you live in a place where your every move is recorded. Or maybe you live in a place where the locals want you dead. Or you live in a place where your baby has nightmares from the malaria medication. Or your spouse isn't allowed to work because the host government forbids it. Or maybe you're black, and the locals don't like black people. Or maybe you're gay, and that's a punishable offense in your host country. Or you're a woman, so you have to cover up when you walk outside. Or the signs are all in Arabic, so every time you leave the house, you're lost, and you can't ask for directions. Or maybe you went permanently deaf in one ear while you were serving in a country without proper medical care. Important Politician didn't see any of this from the window of the Prime Minister's residence.


A Bit of Fretting and A Lot of Annoyance
From Life After Jerusalem

You see, we are real Americans. We work real jobs. And let me tell you, most days, you get more than your nickle's worth out of all of us. Even in language study, I put in my time, because the government needs me to be able to speak this language to effectively serve our country overseas. And in my last two assignments, those eight hours you paid me for each day were much more like 14-16. But I don't get overtime because I am a salaried, not hourly, employee. And I am fine with that.

My Letter to Congress Regarding Overseas Comparability Pay
From Four Globetrotters
February 26, 2011

I spent my first Christmas in the Foreign Service at the morgue identifying the body of an American citizen who had been killed in a home invasion.  I spent another Christmas in the putrid morgues of a small sub-Saharan African country searching frantically for the wife and two children (ages 4 and 7) of an American citizen who had been aboard an aircraft that crashed upon take off.  I loaded my children onto a plane bound for Sierra Leone --where my parents were stationed -- when the situation in Togo, my second post, devolved rapidly after the death of President Eyadema.  We may actually be the only people ever to evacuate family to Sierra Leone.
When a member of Congress and her staff were abandoned during this unrest at a downtown hotel  by their Government of Togo hosts, I was the only American besides my then-husband, the Regional Security Officer, who could drive an armored vehicle.  The Ambassador dispatched me, and I drove through barricades and crowds to reach her and her staff and transport them safely to the Embassy.  My husband couldn't go because he was off responding to a distress call from one of our Embassy families.  Their house was being invaded.


AFSA: Template Letter to CongressFrom AFSA: Update: OCP, Pay Freeze, Possible Government Shutdown, February 24 2011

AFSA reminds active duty Foreign Service employees that it is illegal to lobby congress using official time or government resources.  If you write or call your congressional representative, do not use government time or resources (such as a government computer, letter head, telephone, etc).  If you meet in person with a congressional representative, you must take annual leave or schedule the meeting on your lunch hour.  In addition, make clear that you are writing or speaking in your individual capacity as a constituent and not as a representative of your agency.    


Let's Talk Money: Dear HR1, Please Get Your Hands Out of My Husband's Paycheck
From: A Daring Adventure
February 23, 2011

I was horrified to learn today that my husband's paycheck is under assault.  Here's how (the simplified version). 

Federal employees' salaries are made up of different pieces.  For example, my husband has a "base" salary, which you can find here (very first page).  He was hired as a 5, and is still a 5, so that gives you a general idea of what this single-income, four-person family is looking at in terms of base salary.