Hastings Urges Secretary of State Tillerson to End Hiring Freeze of American Diplomatic Spouses
Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) sent the following letter to Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, urging him to end the hiring freeze of American diplomatic spouses and expedite the review of diplomatic security clearances (Please find below and attached a copy of the letter):
July 18, 2017
The Honorable Rex W. Tillerson
Dear Secretary Tillerson:
I write to express my deep concerns regarding the effects of the current hiring freeze on spouses of American diplomats serving overseas. These hardworking and dedicated individuals deserve to not only be hired, but to be hired in a timely manner that also includes an expedited system of review for spousal diplomatic security clearances.
As you are aware, the Department of State’s current hiring freeze guidance stipulates that positions which are vacant or will become vacant that were most recently filled using a mechanism other than a Personal Services Agreement (PSA) may not be filled at this time. As a result, Appointment Eligible Family Members cannot be offered positions due to the ongoing freeze on Family Member Appointments (FMAs) and temporary appointments. As the summer transfer season continues, hundreds of American diplomatic positions worldwide will be left vacant, including national security positions at large U.S. diplomatic missions in Moscow, Beijing, and Frankfurt. When the transfer season concludes, Appointment Eligible Family Members (AEFMs) who play essential roles in the day to day functioning of overseas posts worldwide will be unable to fill these important positions. This will not only significantly impact morale and weaken the ability of American embassies and missions to function efficiently, but it may also harm Foreign Service retention, because of the inability of the spouse to work.
An equally significant challenge is the long wait times for spouses hired before the hiring freeze seeking security clearances. This backlog has become even more severe, because spouses are not able to finish their security clearances before departing to their new overseas assignment, at which point the process must restart. Foreign-born American citizen spouses are particularly prone to long wait times stretching into multiple years.
In an effort to resolve these issues, I respectfully request that you use your authority as Secretary of State to reexamine the hiring freeze of American diplomatic spouses, and work to efficiently fill some of the vacancies in our missions with these motivated individuals.
Furthermore, it is critically important that the security clearance process be expedited, in order to ensure that positions are filled in a timely manner.
I thank you for your time and attention to this important matter, and look forward to your response. Please do not hesitate to contact my office at (202) 225-1313, should you have any further questions.
Congressman Alcee L. Hastings serves as Senior Member of the House Rules Committee, Ranking Democratic Member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Co-Chairman of the Florida Delegation.