Monday, March 30, 2015

Making Tenure as a Foreign Service Specialist


Where were you when you made tenure in the US Foreign Service? I was in Saudi Arabia, just a few hours' drive north of the Yemen border and only a few days after the Kingdom launched airstrikes against Houthi rebels. Less dramatically, I was sitting in a meeting with the commissioning agent for our project reviewing the facility systems commissioning schedule when the Project Director glanced up from his white Blackberry and said "Congratulations, you just made tenure!"

The cable announcing the results of the 2014 Winter Session of the Specialist Tenuring Board came out today, announcing that many of the Foreign Service Specialists who joined the State Department with me have been recommended for tenure. Woo Hoo!

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So, what does it mean to get tenure?
The sole criterion for a positive tenuring decision will be the specialist candidate’s demonstrated ability to perform satisfactorily in the occupational category in which the candidate is serving and the potential, assuming normal growth and career development, to serve effectively in the Foreign Service at higher levels with greater responsibilities in the specialist’s occupational category. (3 FAM 2254.1)
By that defintion, I'm not really sure how you wouldn't get tenured, but it's hard to find someone who hasn't since the folks who don't get tenured within four years are separated from the Service. Okay, I guess technically I've been there, done that. But what are the perks?
  • We get a certificate with our name on it
  • We are now considered "Mid-Level Employees", so any requests to curtail or extend our current assignment have to be approved by both the entry level Career Development Officer (CDO) and the Mid-Level CDO.
  • We get to use the DS-5055, a slightly shorter form for our annual Employee Evaluation Report.
  • Specialist candidates recommended for tenure by the Tenuring Board will be given career appointments under section 303 of the Act, to take effect within one month of the Tenuring Board decision. Career appointments in the Foreign Service will make specialists subject to the time-in-service/time-inclass (TIS/TIC) mandatory retirement provisions.

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So, tangibly, it doesn't really seem to mean that much, but it is kind of fun to refer to myself as a "Tenured Member of the US Foreign Service." Also, it's pretty awesome to receive nearly instant congratulatory messages from my peers around the world, specifically Benin, Chad, England,  Kosovo, Mauritania,  Mexico,  New Zealand, Norway, Russia, and Swaziland. Move over Pitbull, I'm the new Mr Worldwide.
Attempting to "go local" in a dust storm.
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