179. Memorandum From the Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Personnel (Barnes) to the Under Secretary of State for Management (Read)1
- Families at Post
As the attached memo notes, one element of the “stay-at-home Foreign Service” image abroad in the land has been a growing perception that a significant number of Foreign Service officers and staff who have families are in fact going to posts abroad without their spouses and children.
To get at the real story—and as part of a broader effort to document the difficulties of staffing hardship posts—we sent a cable to all posts2 asking how many employees with families were at post either alone or with only part of their immediate family present. The responses, summarized in the attached memo, were broken down by the differential level of the post, by the employee grade level, and by the reason (or reasons) for the absence of all or part of a family.
In the absence of comparable data from an earlier period, interpretation of our overall finding that 91% of employees with family at non-evacuation posts have all or part of their families with them is hazardous at best. Is the glass half-full or half-empty? That is, are we looking at a chronic, but manageable problem, or at the tip of an iceberg which threatens to sink the ship? At first blush, we incline to a cautiously optimistic view, since we find the number of absent families to be less than we had expected (FLO shares this view). Within this total, we are also struck by the relatively small number of employees (29 worldwide) who cited “spouse’s career” as the primary reason for the absence of their families from post, since we had anticipated that this phenomenon would have a more marked impact on service abroad than is yet the case, and by the significantly larger number (79) whose families are away from post because of “children’s education.” Finally, we note that the percentage of employees without family remains constant from non-differential through 20% posts, but rises sharply at [Page 708] 25% posts3—thus suggesting that greater financial rewards may not in themselves solve our problem.
Because our data represent only one point in time, and are not part of a trend line, we recommend that they be taken with a large grain of salt. Nonetheless, we believe this information, albeit imperfect, should be shared with the Foreign Service as a whole, and plan to use it as the basis for an appropriately caveated article in the Newsletter.4 For the longer term, we propose to repeat the worldwide survey two years hence (allowing time for a turnover of most personnel now at posts), and expect that the information gathered at that time—and the resultant trend line—will give us a better sense of the real dimensions of our problem.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Under Secretary for Management (M), 1980, Box 4, Chron May 5–10, 1980. No classification marking.↩
- Not found.↩
- The differentials describe the amount of additional pay based on one’s salary for serving at a hardship post.↩
- See “Family Separation Problem is Subject of a Survey,” Department of State Newsletter, June 1980, p. 22.↩
- No classification marking. Drafted on April 24 by Robert Homme (PER/FCA/EUR).↩
- Not found.↩
- Reference is to a section in the data tables, which are attached but not printed.↩