178. Memorandum From the Chief of the Inter-American Affairs Assignment Division, Office of Foreign Service Career Development and Assignments (Watson) to the Under Secretary of State for Management (Read)1


  • Tandem Couples

Action Memorandum

Some time ago you asked for information covering several points related to “tandem couples:”

(A) How many State employees are members of “tandem couples?”

(B) How many of these employees have been in a Leave Without Pay (LWOP) status?

(C) What has been the duration of such LWOP’s?

(D) How many are now in LWOP status?

The data you called for is provided herein. However, some clarification is in order since much of this information we know to be imprecise to varying degrees:

a) PER’s computer data base is limited to the information on marital status which is provided voluntarily by employees, i.e. whether an employee is married to another “tandem” employee (world-wide available employee of State, USAID, USICA). This information is received via annual Personnel Audit Reports (PAR’s), submitted (or not) by employees. Thus, this information is not necessarily complete. In an effort to ensure that no “tandems” wishing to be identified as such are overlooked because of gaps in our data base, we are sending a circular cable to all posts (TAB F)2 and will publish a Department Notice along the same lines.

b) Where the information in the data base has been judged incorrect by PER/FCA Career Development and Assignment Officers, it has been corrected; i.e. known separation of a spouse from the Service(s), marriages, divorces.

c) In certain cases we know that the period of LWOP for a spouse was a function of the assignment of the other spouse; in other cases [Page 705] this may also have been the case for a part of the LWOP period, but not for all of the LWOP period; or the LWOP may have been for personal convenience, as opposed to unavailability of an appropriate position for assignment.


A State employee is defined as a member of a “tandem couple” if the State employee is a “world-wide available” employee (world-wide tenure code) and married to a “world-wide available” employee of State, USAID or USICA.


This paper brings to light several factors not previously known:

(a) The number of State “tandem employees” (366) is about 50% greater than we had previously believed, since a substantial amount of the information we have gathered is not included in PER’s computer driven data base. We would anticipate a further increase in this number as we receive responses to the cable and Department notice mentioned previously.

(b) Approximately 5.3% (366) of State’s 6,794 world-wide available employees (6,794 figure from data as of 12/31/79) are members of “tandem couples.”

(c) About 13% (47 in number) of these “tandem couple” employees have been in LWOP status for some time during the period beginning in January, 1973 to February 1, 1980, as a function, we judge, of the lack of an appropriate overseas assignment opportunity co-located with the other spouse.

(d) 81% of these 47 LWOP’s have been for periods of less than one year. About 20% (10 employees) of the 47 LWOP employees have been in LWOP status for periods totalling more than a year. Three employees have been in LWOP status for periods totalling more than two years (Ernestine Heck, Lee Reynolds and Barbara Thomson). (Period covered 1973–1980.)

(e) 66% (242) of the 366 “tandem couple” employees are presently assigned overseas; 34% (124) are assigned domestically.

(f) FSO/RU/R’s comprise 61% (223 employees) of State’s 366 “tandem couple” employees; FSS’s comprise 39% (143 employees).

(g) Of the 242 “tandem couple” employees assigned overseas, 36% are in EUR posts, 21% in ARA posts, 19% in NEA posts, with 13% in AF posts and 12% in EA posts.

For comparison purposes, assignment distribution of all world-wide available employees abroad also shows comparable percentages serving in ARA, EUR and AF, with 15% in EA posts (compared to 12% “tandem”) and 14% in NEA posts (compared to 19% “tandem”).

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(h) Of the 242 “tandem couple” employees assigned overseas, 59% are assigned to non-hardship posts, and 41% to hardship posts.

For comparison purposes, of all 4,187 (as of 1/31/80) State employees assigned abroad, a recent analysis by PER/MGT/HRM indicates that approximately 50% are assigned to non-hardship posts, and 50% to hardship posts.

(i) Of the 366 “tandem couple” employees, 340 (93%) have State spouses, 15 (4%) have USICA spouses, and 11 (3%) have USAID spouses.

Next Steps

Our data on tandem couples is now substantially improved, and will become more complete as we add from responses to our cable and Department Notice. We should have this additional information in about four weeks. Once it is in hand, we plan to submit to you a paper outlining various options for dealing with tandem assignments and proposing consultation with AFSA.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Under Secretary for Management (M), 1980, Box 3, Chron March 31–April 5, 1980. No classification marking. Sent through Barnes.
  2. Tabs A–F were not found attached.