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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 02/23/2011

House spending bill cuts pay for overseas diplomats

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Among the dozens of amendments included in the House's historic spending bill is a provision that cuts the paychecks of America's overseas diplomats.

At issue is overseas comparability pay, a compensation system designed to provide the 13,000 Foreign Service officers and other government officials stationed abroad with the 24 percent locality pay rate earned by federal employees working in the Washington area.

Locality pay differs from city to city, and is meant to put government salaries on par with salaries earned by private-sector workers in comparable positions. For years, only the most senior Foreign Service officers earned locality pay.

An amendment successfully added to the spending measure passed over the weekend, sponsored by Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), would strip overseas comparability payments out of the federal budget, saving about $140 million annually, according to his office.

"At a time when other federal employees have had their salaries frozen or reduced, we cannot and should not be giving massive, automatic pay raises to any federal employees," Reed said. If the cuts are made, the government would save about $427 million by the end of fiscal 2013, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates.

The president's bipartisan fiscal commission also recommended canceling locality pay for overseas diplomats. Though proponents believe the payments are necessary to address recruitment and retention concerns, "the foreign service career field remains highly competitive with 25,000 applicants competing for 300 to 900 positions annually," the commission concluded.

But Susan Johnson, president of the American Foreign Service Association, said the proposal "is penalizing Foreign Service officers for doing what is at the core of our mission: to go overseas, to serve our country in increasingly complex places. It's sending a signal -- contrary to what we've been hearing from both sides of the aisle -- about the importance of diplomacy as part of our state-craft."

She acknowledged that many diplomats earn hardship payments for tough assignments -- ranging from 15 to 25 percent of a workers' pay. But any cuts in locality pay would negatively impact future retirement benefits.

Remember -- the House bill as enacted has no hope of Senate passage or earning President Obama's signature, so this proposal -- while interesting and certainly controversial -- may not survive.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Cabinet and Staff News: President Obama to nominate Dan Shapiro as U.S. ambassador to Israel. First Lady Michelle Obama provokes a food fight that refuses to die. Meet Mrs. Obama's mystery shopper. David Plouffe is syncing up with Democrats. FEMA's deputy administrator was in New Zealand when an earthquake struck. Lillian McEwen, Clarence Thomas's ex, pens sexually charged memoir that adds little to Anita Hill saga. Rahm Emanuel elected mayor of Chicago.

CIA:
In aftermath of shooting, rising skepticism about American presence in Pakistan: Raymond Davis's name has become a byword for a presumed army of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of shadowy American operatives stalking Pakistani streets.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT:
Four hijacked Americans fatally shot by pirates near coast of Somalia: Four Americans on a yacht hijacked by Somali pirates were fatally shot by their captors Tuesday as U.S. forces were trying to negotiate their release.

Reversing itself, Navy grants ensign conscientious objector status: Michael Izbicki, 25, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Hartford in November, asking for an honorable discharge as a conscientious objector, contending that the Navy's hearing on his two requests were deeply flawed with legal, factual and procedural errors.

VOICE OF AMERICA:
VOA Web site apparently hit by Iranian hackers: They hit the site Monday afternoon, replacing pages with a statement saying in Persian and English that "we have proven that we can."

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By Ed O'Keefe  | February 23, 2011; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener, Workplace Issues  
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Comments

One has to remember that civilians serving in hot spots do not get all the perks that the military does - not even when they stand side by side. This is one way to redress the balance. But this does follow the Republican idea that is someone works for the USA government they must be too lazy to steal.

Now do you really think we will send our best to represent us?

Perhaps a few. But if they are our best and are in harm, why rob them to save such small amounts.

Have you heart the phrase penny wise and dollar foolish?

Posted by: GaryEMasters | February 23, 2011 6:23 AM | Report abuse

This means nothing. Start by getting rid of 25% of diplomatic workers. And start at the top. There is nothing more irritating than seeing some federal employee tooling around in a $50,000 Cadillac with diplomatic license plates on the bumper like they are better than the very citizens they are supposed to be serving. Today they serve mostly corporate overseas interests and not our democracy.

And based on the events unfolding in Africa and the Middle East as well as in the rest of our sphere of little influence, they should all probably be fired.

Most of these folks have shuffled paper for years and are hanging around waiting to get pensions before they hit the jackpot by selling themselves and their connections to the highest corporate bidder. Who are they kidding?

Just another example of how taxpayers have been conned by the elite in Washington.

Posted by: wesatch | February 23, 2011 6:24 AM | Report abuse

The real money is with the contractors. In Iraq and Afghanistan, they can easily pull down $150,000/year a person. Sure, it's a war zone, but we have to establish limits. Same goes for military pay, pensions, and disability payments.

Posted by: magnifco1000 | February 23, 2011 6:35 AM | Report abuse

Make pay a sliding scale with your net worth. There are lots of millionaires that are diplomats and use it as a status symbol, scale their pay back while bumping those that actually need the money.
And don't even think of touching military Pay, Pension and disability, unless you mean having it increased. I gave blood sweat and tears for this country and deserve every bit of the disability payment I get, and then some.

Posted by: Krazijoe | February 23, 2011 7:01 AM | Report abuse

Foreign Service (FS( personnel have constituted less than half of embassy staffing for decades. Any overseas staffing reductions need to be made within that context. DoD represents a large number and then there are FBI, homeland security, commerce, DEA, and other agency personnel.
Military personnel don't take pay cuts to go overseas yet FS do while military received pay raises last year and this year. And, more ambassadors have been killed in the line of duty over the past 40 years than generals. Like military officers, foreign service officers do not receive any overtime pay despite workweeks that regularly exceed 40 hours.
That said, there is room for savings. Close a few embassies/consulates. Our future won't be shattered. At what a modern embassy costs to build, maintain and staff, there would be greater savings. Having embassies virtually everywhere needs scrutiny - we did close the embassy in the Seychelles in the 90s (you mean you hadn't noticed?). Embassy security staffing doubled or tripled since the mid-90s. While there are threats to embassies, can increases of this magnitude be maintained? All agencies pay rent at some locations overseas because Congress never allocated funds to purchase more housing. Not all overseas housing needs to be government owned and there are costs to owning, but a cost benefit analysis should be used to make the determination. Why pay rent for say the ambassador's house in Geneva, Switzerland which costs $750K per year or more? Reduce Washington overhead - bureaucracies grow and a little pruning is in order.

I have reservations about the argument of well there are more applicants than there are positions so we can cut pay. How many of us would like to have one of the CEO jobs that pays $10 million or more? Probably more than 25,000 so can we cut CEO pay? The Cubs are paying $10 mil this year for a guy who hit less than 200 last year. Bet a lot of people would like that job too. But some would say it's competitive. Well, if 25K are competing for maybe 300 jobs, isn't that competitive too? And, if you can "win" that competition, presumably you are more talented. Consequently, why apply the argument to just one subset of competitors? There are other ways to reduce spending at State and ones that would save more (see above).

Posted by: RichardCollins | February 23, 2011 7:10 AM | Report abuse

The GOP/Tea Party members really are out of control with the thought of taking Diplomats pay. What they make is not my concern but that with the job they are entitled to the set pay package. I suppose next the GOP will go after travel reimbursement and the govt employees will have to pay for their own travel - unless the govt is shut down and they are not working. But also I can see the Republicans taking away combat pay for those serving in the war zones and then disability moneys already given to Veterans, and on and on the list will go. Meanwhile GOP/Tea Party members will continue to have full bank accounts back home and here as their pay nor of their staff's has been cut and most of them by their inherited wealth appear not to need the federal paycheck anyway. And they say that they are doing what the American people voted them into office to do! No they are way beyond that and now are off on to their own stages and grandiose personalities enjoying the sound of their own voices cutting this and cutting that all w/o emotion and feeling!

Posted by: davidmswyahoocom | February 23, 2011 7:21 AM | Report abuse

The GOP/Tea Party members really are out of control with the thought of taking Diplomats pay. What they make is not my concern but that with the job they are entitled to the set pay package. I suppose next the GOP will go after travel reimbursement and the govt employees will have to pay for their own travel - unless the govt is shut down and they are not working. But also I can see the Republicans taking away combat pay for those serving in the war zones and then disability moneys already given to Veterans, and on and on the list will go. Meanwhile GOP/Tea Party members will continue to have full bank accounts back home and here as their pay nor of their staff's has been cut and most of them by their inherited wealth appear not to need the federal paycheck anyway. And they say that they are doing what the American people voted them into office to do! No they are way beyond that and now are off on to their own stages and grandiose personalities enjoying the sound of their own voices cutting this and cutting that all w/o emotion and feeling!

Posted by: davidmswyahoocom | February 23, 2011 7:21 AM | Report abuse

Another example of the Republicans being Republicans. If it is a human, knock it down, starve it, and send the savings to corporations.

Posted by: GBED989 | February 23, 2011 7:45 AM | Report abuse

Hmm, I am supposed to leave for Baghdad in early May. Not willing to work for 24% less than those coming from DC, however. (And that is just the Feds.) Guess I will need to change my plans. Love my country and all, but not willing to be screwed over to do it. Let them hire a contractor--costs more, knows less.

Posted by: Nuancematters | February 23, 2011 8:26 AM | Report abuse

It is about time we got some accountability for these overseas diplomats who failed miserably to foresee the rebellions now breaking in Arab countries. We pay them to attend parties and have lunch with their foreign friends to get intelligence pointing to these disruptions. So why did they so miserably fail to see this coming, and why the State Department dithering over a proper response. I say we punish these diplomats for their lack of foresight and cut their pay. Hit them in the pocketbook and they will pay attention to the work they are supposed to be doing.

Posted by: edwardallen54 | February 23, 2011 8:46 AM | Report abuse

The GOp has lost their minds but just in case they are serious lets start cutting at home. First, cut the Speakers salary by 15% and lets raise his contribution for his healthcare by 35%. Than slash all salries of congressman/congresswoman by 18%. They make $174,000 a year for working very little. So from $174,000 x 18% reduction, new salary $142,00, way to much for a republican anyway. So $31,320 x 560( I think)= $17,539,200 saving a year time 10 year..Nice amount of saving..Than cut their staff by a third, their free limo ride and 40% of their*deductions* for job related expenses. I bet their deduction if put under review we would see a lot of abuse. Lets start there and work on down. The speakers salary and those in position of leadership salary should also get teh ax. Than and only than come talk to me. Lets share the pain my rep in the house and the senate.

Posted by: Realistic5 | February 23, 2011 8:53 AM | Report abuse

I love to hear all these babbling idiots yammer about that which they know NOTHING about. No idea what these people earn, what they do and what impact reductions would have.
Just a string of cut this, cut that - but don't cut "my" programs. Hypocrites.

Posted by: pjohn3 | February 23, 2011 8:56 AM | Report abuse

GOP opinion: "You get more action at the point of a bayonet than you do with tea and a bunch of palaver. Close the State Department. Hire mercenaries."

Posted by: BlueTwo1 | February 23, 2011 9:32 AM | Report abuse

There is nothing more irritating than seeing some federal employee tooling around in a $50,000 Cadillac with diplomatic license plates on the bumper like they are better than the very citizens they are supposed to be serving.
--------------------------------
You appear to completely unaware of how those plates work. Anyone on in the US whose vehicle has a Diplomat plate is an employee of a FOREIGN embassy or consulate. If a member of the US diplomat corps were driving a vehicle in the states, it would either be their personal vehicle, bearing the state plate where they are legal residents or one that has a State Department plate if they are using a "company" car. US diplomats have no privaledges that the average citizen in this country. It is only members of FOREIGN embassies that have perks like diplomatic immunity, however are technically not exempt from traffic fines (parking or speeding tickets) and their vehicle can be towed from No Parking zones.

Posted by: schnauzer21 | February 23, 2011 9:35 AM | Report abuse

"the foreign service career field remains highly competitive with 25,000 applicants competing for 300 to 900 positions annually," the commission concluded.

----------------------

I think that tells you all you need to know.

There's not enough data here to make a proper analysis, but there are plenty of perks with Foreign Service. Housing is paid for, there's a cola allowance, the first $80K of salary is tax free.

It's worth debating this measure -- whether all the positions should ALSO continue to be entitled to a 25% pay bump. Is this figure also used to determine retirement benefits? If a proper analysis is to be done, a lot more information is needed, and not just a knee jerk one paragraph article in the Post.

It sucks to try and balance the budget, but the alternative is raising all of our taxes.

Posted by: postfan1 | February 23, 2011 9:36 AM | Report abuse

The American people elected a bunch of no-nothings in November 2010, and Reed is one of them. There are few good reasons why you don't want to starve your diplomats: you want qualified people; they work in war zones; and you don't want them to be tempted to take bribes--especially given the sensitive nature of the work.

Posted by: bikes-everywhere | February 23, 2011 9:43 AM | Report abuse

But Susan Johnson, president of the American Foreign Service Association, said the proposal "is penalizing Foreign Service officers for doing what is at the core of our mission: to go overseas, to serve our country in increasingly complex places. It's sending a signal -- contrary to what we've been hearing from both sides of the aisle -- about the importance of diplomacy as part of our state-craft."

Whatshisface "Davis" is a diplomat, the president said so. He gets to ride around town and shoot foreigners while his fellow diplomats run people over.

Susan Johnson, if you are so concerned about America's foreign service officers then why didn't youse guys object when the president lumped you in together with Blackwater mercenary cowboys? It's too late now. The world's diplomatic establishment and foreign governments will be searching all of our diplomats for Glock handguns.

Posted by: glenmayne | February 23, 2011 9:48 AM | Report abuse

@postfan1

You are incorrect: the first $80K of salary is *not* tax free. You are thinking of the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, but federal employees, cannot claim that. Foreign Service Officers pay full federal, state, and Medicare/SS tax on their salaries.

Also, please note that COLA only exists at posts with high costs of living. The US dollar doesn't go very far in many parts of the world these days.

Posted by: Bureaucracy101 | February 23, 2011 9:50 AM | Report abuse

That's not a very good idea. It opens up a lot of temptation to Foreign Service getting "buttered up" in untraceable ways in overseas locations and regions - often unknowingly. Ideally, I'm sure, many of them hope to be functional, good representatives of our country - often in less than ideal host countries or conditions. And the hours worked are, I imagine, sometimes pretty variable.

How about cutting spending from projects that have cost overruns, perpetually rolling and extended end dates, and that have been compromised through unsecured computer systems at contractors? Remember the Marine 1 fiasco?

Remember, we're taking this hit now, so that future generations might not have to. As opposed to ignoring the bulk of the problems, because of political sensitivities, and "political entitlements."

This will produce the United States being the world's best investment - because they'll know its real.

Posted by: cooney_colin | February 23, 2011 9:53 AM | Report abuse

I am an FSO, and generally agree with postfan1, except for this:"the first $80K of salary is tax free." It is not- that is only for U.S. citizen civilians living abroad. We pay taxes on 100% of our salary, even if serving in combat zones (and lots of us are), whereas our military colleagues are tax exempt in combat zones no matter the job or distance from combat. For the record my "equivalent rank" for military courtesy and pay is Lt. Col, I am not comparing myself to an E4 who lives in the field and runs a high risk of death or injury.

I'm actually o.k. with not getting the salary bump this year- times are tough and we all need to do our part. What I am not o.k. with is politicians who cavalierly slash people's future earnings by 10% or so without understanding the issue.

Many federal agencies found in U.S. embassies have long paid the D.C. locality pay, and I am sure they will continue to do so.Good for them. I for one, will be looking to return to D.C. after my current tour in one of the most dangerous cities in the world. I love my country, and my job, but I love my family more. My first responsibility is to keep them safe and to provide for them- something I can better do with that D.C. locality pay.

Posted by: Brewer1056 | February 23, 2011 9:54 AM | Report abuse

@wesatch

As pointed out above, the $50,000 Cadillacs you see around town with diplomatic plates are for *foreign diplomats*, and they are almost certainly official vehicles.

U.S. diplomats don't get dip plates inside the U.S. They get normal plates. Just like everyone else. Even the elites.

"Elites." You schmuck.

Posted by: Bureaucracy101 | February 23, 2011 9:56 AM | Report abuse

@wesatch

As pointed out above, the $50,000 Cadillacs you see around town with diplomatic plates are for *foreign diplomats*, and they are almost certainly official vehicles.

U.S. diplomats don't get dip plates inside the U.S. They get normal plates. Just like everyone else. Even the "elites."

Posted by: Bureaucracy101 | February 23, 2011 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Why do Feds steal, lie, take bribes or give up classified info? Over 90% of the time its for money. They are having financial problems.

If Michelle Bachman nad her Tea Party cadres want Feds to earn the same pay as their constituents stocking shelves at Wa l mart. The go for it. Just think of the quality the tax payer will get when they hire Air Traffic Controllers, Intell Analysts, Security Specialists, Accountants and Special agents from Wally's World. Now the quality of govt lawyers would go up dramatically if they hired from Wal Mart for these positions.

There are contractors at the Pentagon who executive assts ie secretaries hauling town over $100k. When these postions were Feds they wer GS 9 and maybe one GS11. Neither makes a $100k

Posted by: sheepherder | February 23, 2011 9:59 AM | Report abuse

"There's not enough data here to make a proper analysis, but there are plenty of perks with Foreign Service. Housing is paid for, there's a cola allowance, the first $80K of salary is tax free."


Please take the time to LEARN about the FS beofre you criticize it. "The first 80K of (my) salary is tax free" is wrong in two major ways -- 1) The Foreign Earned Income exemption does not apply to government employees -- I pay taxes, like all Americans living and working in the US, on every dollar of my salary. And 2) have a look at the FS salary tables -- my overseas base salary never hit anywhere near 80K. Maybe after 10-15 years or so in the service it might -- but not now. Then remember my spouse doesn't have the legal right to work in his field overseas -- how much income is our family losing there? And while some posts have cost of living adjustments, they only apply to a fraction of my salary.

Go ahead, please -- debate, seriously, whether a diplomat should be paid more for living and working in places like Dhaka, Ougadougou, Port Moresby, and the scores of other hardship posts available to diplomats, than my colleagues assigned to DC. While I think the answer is absolutely "yes," I acknowledge there actaully is a serious argument to be made on the other side. But its an argument that you will have to make yourself, based on fact and not prejudice.

Posted by: warmfuzzymom | February 23, 2011 10:00 AM | Report abuse

I've never been a Federal ambassor or employee, but the reason why so many of the political apointees are rich is that the foreign service expects ambassadors to subsidize the very low allowances given to them to run the embassy.

Posted by: funfun881 | February 23, 2011 10:09 AM | Report abuse

I took a 35% pay cut to become a Foreign Service Officer - I did it because I love my country and wanted to serve overseas. However, this is not a volunteer job - I expect a salary and benefits to compensate me for the 70 hour workweeks that I routinely put in. I do not get overtime, my pay is frozen (like all federal employees), I serve at a very high hardship post (though not the highest), and I want to be treated fair. Many employees in my Embassy will keep their overseas locality pay while my pay is cut (this only applies to Department of State and AID). If we are at the point where my salary has to be cut 14% to balance the budget, why not all federal employees overseas. Or better yet, why not cut the 24% locality pay for DC federal employees. That would result in significant cost savings - however, you get what you pay for and all sorts of other unintended consequences will play out. I probably will start working a 40 hour week, and give up the extra 30 hours of work I have been "donating" to the government. And no, I do not have a 50,000 Cadillac to drive around - I had to buy my own car with my own money. When I do need an official vehicle, its usually a beat up Mitsubishi van or a JEEP. I also have to pay all the taxes that any other American pays in my income bracket.

Posted by: Bevinbell | February 23, 2011 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Another way to cut spending is to STOP ALL these FACT FINDING TRIPS SENATORS TAKE. if we are paying the foreign service empolyees to do the same thing way pay twice.

If the foreign service employees aren't doing the job bring them back and send someone that can do the job.

If fact let's start at home by having our elected officials work at least a five day work week instead of the present three day worl week. There's no budget and where are our elected officials? Talk about overpaid!!!

Posted by: doughboy96 | February 23, 2011 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Too bad that too many have absolutely no idea of what the Foreign Service employees face with their assignments to countries that enable them to get post differentials. I went through 5 coup d'etats in Laos (real bullets, real morters) with weather temperatures on many days exceeding 125 degrees, one small bedroom air conditioner, packs of wild (and mostly) rabid dogs running wild, meager medical facilities, and I was very comfortable driving my 6 year old Volkswagen. I went through 3 coup d'etats with postings in Africa with many of the foregoing comments applicable. Despite the dangers and (mostly uncomfortable) living conditions, I loved my foreign service career! Those who now see a 'great savings' by eliminating post differentials should have some of these experiences.

Contractors in many countries could manage to save their entire salaries paid because they received enormous amounts of severence pay of for living in various countries that did not offer the "comforts of home."

Everyone should be thankful and grateful for those who serve our country in Embassies and Consulates around the world.

Posted by: rbsher | February 23, 2011 10:18 AM | Report abuse

okay - cut 61B from Fed Budget, cut overseas pay. NOW - cut Congressional pay and perks and size of staff. Pay cut may have to be enacted now to be effective next session, but housing allowances, travel allowances and especially office staff size and compensation can be cut now. And charge them for sleeping in their offices (either make them pay for the use of the heat, water etc out of their housing allowance, or charge them with fraud for taking a housing allowance and not using it on housing)

Posted by: humbleandfree | February 23, 2011 10:19 AM | Report abuse

What the public doesn't know is that FSOs get free housing, free utilities, free R&R tickets, a free ticket home every 2 years for home leave, locality pay, hardship and danger pay in some countries, and for some positions, a free Embassy car + free gas, free cell phones, free health care through the Embassy nurse, free private school education for their children, and free dip pouch privileges for mail (or FPO/APO). FSOs are talented people, but they really live like America's elite - there are many who live overseas, have virtually no living costs and spend their net pay strictly on food and fun, while others squirrel away millions over a 20 year career. There will always be plenty of candidates for the FS even if some of these perks are cut.

Posted by: samwoods77 | February 23, 2011 10:19 AM | Report abuse

GOOD! and cut Congressamn and Senate Pay by 20%

AND SHUT DOWN THE GOVERNMENT!

The democrats had the house for 40 years in a row -- and completly screwed this country -- so DON't tell me it is the republicans tax breaks for the rich oir the republicans are going to eliminate unions-- how stupid!

Slash all federal programs NOW!

Posted by: fngVP | February 23, 2011 10:22 AM | Report abuse

The R's want a 25% pay cut for diplomats, but only when they are assigned overseas, not on DC assignments?

Yes, there are hardship payments -- so, for example, an employee could work in Libya or DC and make the same amount. What will they choose?

How about instead of just targeting overseas personnel with a 25% pay cut, they cut all Federal employees' pay 25%, including Congress. Pass that and be a real hero!

Posted by: unagi | February 23, 2011 10:25 AM | Report abuse

I am an FSO, and generally agree with postfan1, except for this:"the first $80K of salary is tax free." It is not- that is only for U.S. citizen civilians living abroad. We pay taxes on 100% of our salary...

I'm actually o.k. with not getting the salary bump this year- times are tough and we all need to do our part. What I am not o.k. with is politicians who cavalierly slash people's future earnings by 10% or so without understanding the issue.

Posted by: Brewer1056

------------------------------

Thanks for the correction. My main point was that the article included just enough information to get a knee-jerk reaction, but not enough to actually understand the issue. I didn't realize that FSOs weren't eligible for the foreign earned income exclusion.

As for some of the other comments:

1) Hardship pay is a completely different subject. I'm completely on board with higher pay for hardship assignments, and I think that argument makes a lot more sense than bumping salaries across the board to live in desirable locations.

2) Good point about supporting spouses.

3) A 25% "comparability pay" stipend that affects retirement calculations is certainly worthy of debate. Why should foreign service get a 25% higher retirement than other government workers?

4) Certainly there are hardships associated with foreign service, but I think most would agree that the benefits are much higher.

Posted by: postfan1 | February 23, 2011 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: postfan1 | February 23, 2011 9:36 AM said: "the first $80K of salary is tax free"

That is incorrect. Federal employees working overseas, including FS, pay income taxes on all their income.

I won't bother will all the other lunacy I see in the other comments...

Posted by: sendthemhome | February 23, 2011 10:40 AM | Report abuse

The usual assault on workers that's more about dienfranchising them and cutting their pay than on real budget savings. Killing the Bush tax cuts would be a simpler way to balance the budget. I would imagine that the people behind this either have never travelled abroad or have wasted countless dollars on their own shopping trips to Paris and Hong Kong.

Posted by: thebuckguy | February 23, 2011 10:42 AM | Report abuse

did i miss the story aboout republicans announcing that they were going to work for free and live on what lobbists give them(and dempcrats too)?

Posted by: perryrants | February 23, 2011 10:46 AM | Report abuse

postfan1 -- regarding your #3:

diplomats do not get an extra 25% in their retirement calculations. The issue is that all Federal workers -- with the exception of diplomats under the rank of Senior Foreign Service who are assigned overseas -- get a locality payment.

This includes the majority of personnel assigned to an embassy. It just doesn't include non-senior State and USAID FSOs because they are on a different pay scale (foreign service not civil service).

State is currently implementing a multi-year phased, catch-up that would result in non-senior FSOs getting paid the same as their colleagues.

Rep Reed proposed rolling that back.

If that happens, then in retirement, these FSOs would continue to make 25% less than other colleagues. The pay gap for these employees would persist into retirement.

Note also that locality pay grows almost every year, so without the adjustment, in 20 years or so, non-senior FSOs would lose about half their pay if they left DC.

Posted by: unagi | February 23, 2011 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Aren't these the same politicians that fought to extend tax breaks for millionaires? Now, they are crying poverty and willing to deny the average citizens government services.

Posted by: rcvinson64 | February 23, 2011 10:57 AM | Report abuse

This is just more of the war on public workers that is going on at the state level in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio. I think it is time for the unions who represent federal employees and federal employees themselves to follow the Wisconsin lead before it is too late.

Posted by: Prosperity2008 | February 23, 2011 11:02 AM | Report abuse

It seems to me that the whole comparability/locality pay issue is a thorny one.

The foreign service determined that their senior diplomats weren't getting paid competitively with industry, so they came up with the concept of locality pay. Now all foreign service employees in the Washington D.C. area get this differential, which over time has grown to be 25% of their salary.

Now THIS isn't fair, because foreign service employees working overseas (70% of the workforce) don't get that.

So an initiative to even up a small percentage of employees with the private sector in Washington D.C. has now blossomed into giving all foreign service employees worldwide a 25% raise.

Now I get it.

Posted by: postfan1 | February 23, 2011 11:16 AM | Report abuse

The Corporate Party, sorry I mean Republic Party, wants everyone to earn 10 bucks an hour or less, regardless of training, education or skills. Just like in Cuba.

Posted by: mongolovesheriff | February 23, 2011 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Did I somehow miss hearing about congressional Republicans calling for their own salaries to be cut?

Posted by: SouthernerInDC | February 23, 2011 11:22 AM | Report abuse

I have just watched some of my friends complete the A100 course to start their FS careers. To suggest that there isn't room for cuts is laughable. If they list their residence as outside of DC when starting their training (many list their parents' address if they do live in DC to get the benefits), they get free luxury apartments in Arlington while training at the Foreign Service Institute. Additionally, for the first part of their time in DC, they get $70 per diems on top of their salary. I don't disagree with extra pay for having to work in a miserable or dangerous place, but it's not like these people live difficult lives with regard to their current compensation. The person who mentioned all the free perks in an earlier post is correct. Frankly, I don't think the majority of people in the FS applied for the money. And as the article mentions, there are plenty of applicants, and plenty of well-qualified applicants who are rejected with no explanation of what qualifications are required to join.

Posted by: kahuna613 | February 23, 2011 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Diplomats are overpaid as it is. They hide a lot of it in their benefits, shipping cars from country to country every two years, importing Coke and Cheerios because they're afraid to experience local culture, spending years in paid training for a yearlong assignment. The list goes on.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | February 23, 2011 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Another chance to set the record straight (I am at home by the way, not doing this from work):

-What the public doesn't know is that FSOs get free housing, free utilities: Yes, just like the military.

-Fee R&R tickets: only at some posts, and only in bad/dangerous places. Once we are back in the U.S. it's our dime.

-A free ticket home every 2 years for home leave: which we are required to take, and to spend at least 20 days in the U.S. on our own dime. Have you ever spent 20 days in a hotel with three kids, or visiting relatives? I don't know anyone who has an empty home to go to for those three weeks. I wracked up about $4k in debt on my last "home leave."

-locality pay, hardship and danger pay in some countries: Yes, in some. And all of it except danger pay is taxed.

-and for some positions, a free Embassy car + free gas: Only the Ambassador and DCM

-free cell phones: for the 24 hour days we are on call

-free health care through the Embassy nurse: in some places, normally where health care is substandard

-free private school education for their children: Yes, we can send our kids to overseas American schools. They serve too, you know. Have your kids had giardia, or needed rabies pre-exposure shots? Can they play outside without fear of kidnapping or rampant violence? Welcome to the world of my kids. The least they deserve is a good, American style, education.

-and free dip pouch privileges for mail (or FPO/APO): This is as free as postal service is for you, and many posts have very severe restrictions. We pay postage just like you do, and are very limited in what we can receive. Peanut butter here costs $12 a jar, and I can't buy it over the internet for my kids because it is prohibited as a "liquid." Amazon would not ship a case for my ipod to a DPO address. The list goes on...

-FSOs are talented people- thanks

-but they really live like America's elite - fair enough in some cases

-there are many who live overseas, have virtually no living costs and spend their net pay strictly on food and fun: and car payments, and day care and mortgage payments at home, and credit card debt, student loans, etc, etc, etc. We have most of the same bills you do.

-while others squirrel away millions over a 20 year career: I'd love to know how they do that

-There will always be plenty of candidates for the FS even if some of these perks are cut: agreed.

Again, all I ask is that the people making these decisions understand what they are talking about.

Posted by: Brewer1056 | February 23, 2011 11:30 AM | Report abuse

When these fools cut their own pay and benefits I'll take them seriously.

Posted by: jckdoors | February 23, 2011 11:34 AM | Report abuse

"But any cuts in locality pay would negatively impact future retirement benefits"

Why would they're retirement be based on locality pay? My military retiremet did not include locality pay.It should only be based on a base pay!! These folks have been extremely well compensated...

Posted by: mark0004 | February 23, 2011 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Brewer, you have to pay for your housing for 3 weeks out of every 104? Sounds rough. I have to pay for mine....100% of the time. I live in DC, I don't get any sort of bonus for living in DC, in spite of the high cost of living.

To be clear, I really don't object to free housing for government workers serving overseas....but honestly, if you act like your life is that much more difficult (or at least not terribly different from everyone else) when such a large expense as housing is really not part of your budget, how do you think normal working people in average jobs in the US get by?

Posted by: kahuna613 | February 23, 2011 11:46 AM | Report abuse

samwoods -- you're wrong/misguided on much of what you say. It's true I get free housing; if I had to pay for my own housing in any of my 4 overseas postings it would have cost more than my salary each year. Housing in foreign capital cities for anything approaching comparable middle class housing costs 2-5x more than at home. And USG does pay for my children's education -- because there are no public schools in most foreign countries. Sometimes (like now) that education is likely better than they would have gotten at home, sometimes (like our last tour) worse. My current house -- a living room and kitchen downstairs, 4 BR for my family of 5 upstairs. Woo hoo! Take that, middle-class taxpayer -- I'm livin' large!

I don't think it's outrageous that my employer pays for me to get home leave -- i.e. fly home in between assignments every 3 years, or that I get extra pay for putting my family in harm's way, or -- ooh! what extravagance! -- mail service. I have never gotten free gas or car -- I drive a 2003 minivan -- wow, I'm really living it up at the taxpayer's expense! And I only bought it for 50% higher than U.S. bluebook, given that I bought it overseas.

I have been hospitalized, been in live fire zones, seen my family in danger that they would NEVER have experienced at home, ID'd bodies, been the first U.S personnel in car-bombed buildings, had colleagues killed and wounded in the line of duty -- all for my job. In fact, I bet that most FSOs are in far more danger in our jobs than most military personnel, most of the time.

While I'm not thrilled that I take a paycut for all the wonderfulness of living where I have (Cent Am, MidEast, W. Africa, now S. Asia), I'm also not complaining.

But I do resent know-nothings spreading lies about it.

Posted by: wenteast | February 23, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Why don't we demand that senators and congressmen/women take salary cuts, themselves?

Posted by: binaryboy | February 23, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Why won't Congress cut its own pay? If they just trimmed their pay down to $100k/year, they'd save around $40 million. It's not like most of them aren't independently wealthy, what do they need their paychecks for? If they went one year without pay, they'd save the US close to $100 million.

Posted by: dkp01 | February 23, 2011 11:52 AM | Report abuse

kahuna613:

I am in no way stating that my life is "much more difficult (or at least not terribly different from everyone else)." Having housing as part of my benefits is a huge, huge plus. Having that house in a country where cholera is an issue, violence always a threat and food/water/electricity shortages common does tend to balance that out a bit. Not many of us are in the garden spots of the world- this is my second consecutive overseas tour in a post that is one level below Baghdad for hardship factors. My point on the home leave issue is that it's not "free" as another commenter had implied.

If you read my first post in this thread you'll see that I am not opposed to not getting the last third of DC locality pay given the current budget situation. I just ask that our elected officials understand what they are talking about- whether it be this issue or any other.

The Foreign Service does a terrible job at explaining who we are or what we do overseas. I welcome this thread as a chance to discuss it in more detail. Thanks for reading and replying to my comments!

Posted by: Brewer1056 | February 23, 2011 12:06 PM | Report abuse

One other thought on our "extravagant" salaries -- 98% of the time, your spouse can't work overseas, OR he/she makes a fraction of what he/she could at home. So that's a huge financial hit there.

And while now I earn a good salary, I admit -- I manage 40 employees and an operation that brings in around $22 million for Uncle Sam per year -- working up to the $90K I earn now included 3 yrs in the $30K range when we couldn't pay back my family the $5K we borrowed just to get through initial training.

Posted by: wenteast | February 23, 2011 12:13 PM | Report abuse

"But any cuts in locality pay would negatively impact future retirement benefits"

Why would they're retirement be based on locality pay? My military retiremet did not include locality pay.It should only be based on a base pay!! These folks have been extremely well compensated...

Posted by: mark0004 | February 23, 2011 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Diplomats are overpaid as it is. They hide a lot of it in their benefits, shipping cars from country to country every two years, importing Coke and Cheerios because they're afraid to experience local culture, spending years in paid training for a yearlong assignment. The list goes on.

Posted by: getjiggly1
=========

Go to a Nationals game. Afterwards, you'll know the difference between your rear end and third base.

Posted by: hofbrauhausde | February 23, 2011 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Diplomats have an exceptionally good deal. Here’s a partial listing of the benefits those of them working overseas are getting/have received:

• In 2009, an 8% pay raise
• In 2010, another 8% pay raise.
• Many days off per year, including:
o Up to 26 days paid regular vacation
o An additional 12 days “home leave” vacation.
o All 11 federal holidays.
o 13 sick days.
o Up to 9 foreign holidays.
• Retirement at age 50 with a pension of upwards from $40k per year for life.
• Free housing.
• Free tuition for kids at private schools (around $20,000 per kid per year).
• Tenure!
• Excellent health benefits.

Overall, a great benefit package negotiated by their union. But, the taxpayers seem to have said “no” to all of this by getting rid of the Democrats who’ve been supporting it.

Posted by: NatalyaS1 | February 23, 2011 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Diplomats have an exceptionally good deal. Here’s a partial listing of the benefits those of them working overseas are getting/have received:

• In 2009, an 8% pay raise
• In 2010, another 8% pay raise.
• Many days off per year, including:
o Up to 26 days paid regular vacation
o An additional 12 days “home leave” vacation.
o All 11 federal holidays.
o 13 sick days.
o Up to 9 foreign holidays.
• Retirement at age 50 with a pension of upwards from $40k per year for life.
• Free housing.
• Free tuition for kids at private schools (around $20,000 per kid per year).
• Tenure!
• Excellent health benefits.

Overall, a great benefit package negotiated by their union. But, the taxpayers seem to have said “no” to all of this by getting rid of the Democrats who’ve been supporting it.

Posted by: NatalyaS1 | February 23, 2011 2:31 PM | Report abuse

NatalyaS1:

Let me try to explain this again. For an FSO in DC (or ANY federal worker in DC) the pay is = pay grade + 24%.

Until 2008 if you left DC (and we are not allowed to spend more than 5 of any 8 years there, it is the FOREIGN SERVICE) after all you lost that 24%.

For doing your job. One quarter of your pay was cut.

In 2008 overseas comparability pay was introduced to rectify this cut over three years. That is what you see in 2008 and 2009.

I don't deny the compensation is good. I think we earn it. Ask the thousands evacuated from Egypt, Lebanese, Haiti or soon to be Libya.

Would you take a 24% loss of income if your job required that you perform it somewhere else? I didn't think so.

Posted by: Brewer1056 | February 23, 2011 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Why is the State Dept. the bad guy here? Other USG agencies receive locality pay when overseas so why not diplomats who are trying to bring peace to world? FSO's receive less overall compared to similar overseas jobs at DoD and CIA.

Posted by: jeendee | February 23, 2011 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Why is the State Dept. the bad guy here? Other USG agencies receive locality pay when overseas so why not diplomats who are trying to bring peace to the world? FSO's receive less overall compared to similar overseas jobs at DoD and CIA so if anything either cut the pay for these DoD and CIA positions or increase FSO pay.

Posted by: jeendee | February 23, 2011 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Lotsa comments from lotsa people who never spent a day in a hardship post. Unless you have been there and had to deal with the many problems and diseases associated with living in some of those really nasty places you have no right to get involved in this. I am NOT talking about Europe but rather the many "stans"and most of Africa.
Real easy to talk from your recliner in the USA.

Posted by: caseyb1 | February 23, 2011 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Why should people at the State Department
get paid LESS when they go abroad than other US government employees.

If this pay cut is enacted it will put stress on thousands of families who do not have the benefit of having dual incomes, due to frequent moves and limited availability of jobs in the countries where they are assigned.

Our diplomats have an extremely challenging job. We need to support them, and keep their pay free from massive distortions.

Posted by: TMonty1 | February 23, 2011 7:31 PM | Report abuse

@postfan1 (and others)

I will try again to explain locality pay. Before you post again, please do some research so you can avoid misrepresenting the issue.

postfan1 said:"The foreign service determined that their senior diplomats weren't getting paid competitively with industry, so they came up with the concept of locality pay."

Absolutely incorrect.
Everyone who works for the federal gov has a base pay, and then they have a locality pay on top of that that depends on where they live. Everyone. In DC the locality pay is 24%. This is not something the FS decided.

postfan1 said:"Now all foreign service employees in the Washington D.C. area get this differential"

ALL federal gov employees get the locality pay. ALL. OF. THEM.

When FSOs were posted overseas, their pay dropped back to base pay while the employees of EVERY OTHER US agency posted overseas kept their DC pay rate. This includes Dept of Agriculture, Commerce, FBI, DOD, IRS, DEA, and many others - at least 40 agencies have employees overseas. So all FSOs were getting 24% less than their overseas counterparts in other agencies. What's more, the FSO is required, as mentioned above, to serve overseas the majority of their careers. Other agencies don't require this, so the FSO was forced to take a 24% pay cut for most of his/her career vs. other agencies who NEVER had to take this cut.

The Senior Foreign Service managed to fix that for their ranks. Until 2008, though, junior and mid-level FSOs still took a paycut when they went overseas.

Congress decided to end the inequity in three increases. That's the 8% "raises" mentioned above. And only two have been enacted, so FSOs are still paid 8% less than other US Agency employees. Also, realize that these "raises" don't increase the pay of an FSO in the US at all. Only those posted overseas. So it's not a "raise for all FSOs." It's merely getting the overseas FSOs up to the same salary as ALL OTHER overseas US agencies.

Pretty much every US agency employee posted overseas has the same benefits as FSOs, if not better. They get the same housing allowances, the same school allowances, the same COLA, etc. DOD and others have even better benefits than State Dept employees. If Congress wants to start trimming these benefits and pay, then I just hope they do so equally for ALL overseas employees, and then they contemplate the phrase "you get what you pay for."

About that "tenure" benefit. In the FS, when you're tenured it also means that you have a set amount of time to get promoted to the next level or else you're forced out, unlike other agencies where you can stay at the same grade for dozens of years with no consequences. So the tenuring cuts both ways.

I ask as others have that you do some research before vilifying the FS. The Military, DOD, IRS, FCS, CIA, FBI, and others are treated FAR better overseas than the FSOs, and these other agencies rely on FSOs in order to do their job. Equal treatment is the key issue here.

Posted by: LaMancha | February 23, 2011 9:08 PM | Report abuse

If Congress wants to save money, I imagine they can certainly start with their own staff and travel. I won't get into the details of the Congressional travel budget (it's unlimited - also known as bottomless), but you can see what your Congressman and Senators are paying their staffers here:
http://www.legistorm.com/

For instance, Sen. Cornyn of TX paid his staffers over $3.2 million in 2010, and I don't think that accounts for all their salaries.
http://www.legistorm.com/member/27/Sen_John_Cornyn_TX.html

And by the way, who do you think is required to arrange for hotels, transportation, communication, translation, and generally spend all their time accompanying Congress people and their staff while they travel abroad? That would be the FSOs.

Posted by: LaMancha | February 23, 2011 9:28 PM | Report abuse

Lots of misinformation here unfortunately. Most FSOs have the potential to make multiples more in the private sector and instead enter the service making anywhere from $40K - $80K depending on experience and degree. Further, other agency employees have long enjoyed comparability pay. And to address some specific inaccuracies:
---------------------------
"What the public doesn't know is that FSOs get...a free ticket home every 2 years for home leave"
---------------------------
At the end of their tour, the government pays the airfare to bring them home. Would you expect that if your job required you to move overseas that you'll be asked to pick up the travel expense?
----------------------------
"and for some positions, a free Embassy car + free gas"
----------------------------
FSOs do not get free cars and gas. Some diplomatic security personnel have Embassy vehicles which are used for patrols or official business. Again, do you know any police officers who buy their own vehicles?
-----------------------------
"free cell phones"
-----------------------------
For official/business use. Again, most employers don't ask employees to provide their own cell phones to conduce business.
------------------------------
"free health care through the Embassy nurse"
------------------------------
Most Embassies provide a very basic level of preventative care on site due to a lack of competent medical facilities in country. FSOs are still *required* to carry and pay for their own health insurance just like any other government employee.
-------------------------------

I have yet to meet an FSO who says they're in it for the money. Quite honestly they could all make more doing something else. You may also want to take a tour of the State Department sometime and check out the wall honoring those who have been killed while protecting American interests overseas. Check out the living quarters of 'pampered' diplomats serving in PRTs in Afghanistan. Ask yourself who it is that organizes the evacuation of American citizens from Egypt, Libya, Haiti and elsewhere. The 'cookie pusher' myth is just that.

Posted by: pnutbutter | February 23, 2011 9:44 PM | Report abuse

There are five circumstances in which Raymond Davis, the American killer caught in Pakistan, might have diplomatic immunity. They are these.

1) He was notified in writing to the government of Pakistan as a member of diplomatic staff of a US diplomatic mission in Pakistan, and the government of Pakistan had accepted him as such in writing.

2) He was part of an official delegation engaged in diplomatic negotiations notified to the government of Pakistan and accepted by them.

3) He was a member of staff of an international organisation recognised by Pakistan and was resident in Pakistan as a member of diplomatic staff working for that organisation, or was in Pakistan undertaking work for that organisation with the knowledge and approval of the Pakistani authorities.

4) He was an accredited diplomat elsewhere and was in direct tranist through Pakistan to his diplomatic posting.

5) He was an accredited courier carrying US diplomatic dispatches in transit through Pakistan.

2) to 5) plainly do not apply. The Obama administration is going for 1). My information, from senior Pakistani ex-military sources that I trust, is firmly that the necessary diplomatic exchange of notes does not exist that would make Davis an accredited US diplomat in Pakistan, but that the State Department is putting huge pressure on the government of Pakistan to overlook that fact. This passes a commonsense test - if the documents did exist. La Clinton would have waved them at us by now.

A brilliant article here by Glenn Greenwald.
http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2011/02/21/heartsandminds/index.html

Posted by: coiaorguk | February 24, 2011 7:51 AM | Report abuse

My husband is a FSO working as a consular officer. I'd like to thank the other Foreign Service members who have commented for accurately correcting the misconceptions that exist about what our life is really like as diplomats, and the families of diplomats living overseas. I concur wholeheartedly.
However, because this is an issue about money, and the Republican Party believes strongly in capitalistic principles, I want to look at the issue from a slightly different perspective and examine what a good investment FSOs, (in particular consular officers)are.

I will give concrete examples with facts that I know to be correct and using simple math.
In his first 4 months at post my husband adjudicated and processed more than 10,000 visas, each of which cost the applicant $140. That was income to the government (not just Dept of State as the proceeds help support other govt agencies as well) of $1,4000,000. Projected for an entire year, the direct income that he produces is around $4,200,000. Not a bad investment considering his salary, including hardship pay, COLA, and the contested overseas comparability pay is less than 6 figures. Even when you add in other benefits, like housing, some moving expenses, airline tickets, education for our children, a surplus of nearly $4,000,000 remains to support the US missions overseas per year. And that is only taking into account the work of one consular officer.

Consular work also benefits Americans domestically. At our post, about 97% of visa applicants are approved to receive a visa to come visit the United States. My husband will approve about 29,000 visas this year. On average, each of those visitors to the US will spend $1000 on tourism and on consumer goods. That means that each year, the work of one consular officer at our post, accounts for about $29 million dollars spent in the US. Looking at it another way, each work day my husband creates 2 jobs for Americans.
Currently citizens of our host country must wait almost 3 months to get a visa interview because the embassy is short staffed.The cost benefits to the American people could be even higher if the budget allowed for more hiring and the consular section could keep up with the demand.
When you do a cost analysis of the benefits to the american people and the government from the work of FSOs, then cutting the locality pay that EVERY OTHER federal emplyee both in the US and abroad receives, is not only mean-spirited and unfair, it just doesn't make sense.
I am proud of the work my husband does as an FSO. He and his colleagues work very hard and although we aren't currently living in a war zone or hostile environment, our family still has had to give up many of the "perks" of living in America for my husband's career. All we are asking is that we not be singled out for a pay cut, unless all government employees (including the legislature) share in this cost cutting measure.

Posted by: bar89 | February 24, 2011 7:55 AM | Report abuse

All of the following things are absolutely true about me and my life as an FSO:

1. I took a pay cut to join the FS;

2. I get free housing;

3. I live and work in a city where I routinely get notices about bombing incidents/security alerts;

4. I am entitled to one R&R with a paid ticket (up to a certain amount) during my tour here and one home leave (with a paid ticket) every two years;

5. I use public transportation at post, because I do not have a car (much less a free one with gas paid);

6. I have a cel phone for which I am not charged for work calls, but for which I am held responsible for my own personal use;

7. I pay exactly the same for postage as anyone else using the US Postal Service does;

8. I pay taxes on 100% of my income besides danger pay; I am required to pay for my own health insurance (which is more expensive than in the States, because it has to cover me overseas);

9. I did not get a raise when I moved to post overseas (and if anyone disputes this, I've got the pay stubs to prove it);

10. I make significantly less than 6 figures a year.

My job is amazing and I love it. It's an honor to come to work every day. In some ways, we do get good perks. But the amount of disinformation out there is astounding. (If anyone can tell me where to sign up for the free car, free gas, free cel phone, free trips, and tax-free income, let me know!)

Posted by: beckcl78 | February 25, 2011 7:34 AM | Report abuse

When I see the comments about $50,000 Cadillacs and serving corporate interests, I have to laugh. As a Foreign Service Specialist of 6 years (and previously an FSO of 9 years) maybe I'm missing the boat -- where do I sign up for all these supposed perks? My family and I have been living in an impoverished East African country for almost two years and driving a 1998 Jeep, as well as paying 100% of my taxes. I don't know where the Average Joe (that's you, wesatch) gets his information. Hollywood probably. No post I've ever worked at or visited has a Cadillac belonging to an American employee. We make far less than we could make in the private sector given our skill sets. And Congress has some nerve saying we are where they should be cutting the fat. If and when we travel, we get regular per diem and fly coach, as well as having to observe the Fly America Act passed by Congress, making sure we fly US carrier or US code share flights. Congress exempts themselves from this Act and flies whatever they want at taxpayer expense. Plus, their staffers routinely collect 200% per diem, which they pocket while trying to squeeze what they can get for free out of their 5-star hotels and what post can get them. I've seen congressmen and other big shots schedule long weekends to interesting places so they can shop or go to the ballet, again at taxpayer expense, while scheduling one short meeting on a weekend to justify the trip, knowing full well the meeting will never happen because foreign governments don't work weekends either, never mind the 3-day work weeks Congresspeople "suffer" through. Many of us have had holidays ruined so Congresspeople and their staff can be carted around like royalty in exotic locales, which they then say seem like easy places to live. They are easy, if you are chauffeur-driven around all day and do nothing but tourist activities on taxpayer money. Those of us who are here serving our country and taking pride in representing America abroad could easily resent the ridiculous characterizations we receive from those who are ignorant of what we actually do. However, most of us don't care, since we know the truth of the situation, and know that you don't (read "Atlas Shrugged" sometime). But next time you're traveling abroad, wesatch (probably never happened), and you lose your passport or get really sick or arrested, I hope for your sake we didn't close down our embassies or fire our overpaid staff, since your life could depend on the assistance we would provide you. And we are the people you'll come running to for help. For all those problems in the Middle East you mention, would you rather we squash popular revolutions? What exactly is your point? Before judging the FS, which has probably prevented more wars and conflicts than you will ever know about, get your facts straight and do some research before mouthing off.

Posted by: DiploG-Man | February 26, 2011 8:36 AM | Report abuse

First to"Wesatch": US Foreign Service Officers (FSO) (i.e. US Diplomats) do not get diplomatic plates serving in the US. Most of us do not drive fancy cars either. And to "Krazijoe" I don't know a single FSO who is a milianaire - only the politically appointed Ambassadors and the like are rich. The rest of us are working stiffs just like everyone else in America. We work without overtime pay, we give up our nights and weekends all too often in service to our country. We have been shot, kidnapped, our children sometimes suffer the anger of those who wish to harm Americans as well. We all serve in these dangerous places willingly because we believe in our country and want to serve.

All other Foreign Affairs Agencies had their base pay changed to the same rate as the DC Locality pay years ago. State Department FSOs are the only ones who didn't get it then. This pay is not a "raise" but a leveling of the playing field amongst Foreign Affairs Agencies. We buy homes in DC, just like other FAA officers do; then we're asked to go overseas again, where we'll lose 24% of our pay and still have a home to pay for in the States while maybe earning 20% hardship for the places where crime is drastically high, where we have to live with bars on all our windows and doors, where we put our families' lives in danger; and the FBI agent down the hall, the USAID officer, and the DOD personnel all get that 20% plus the locality pay they had in the States. Would you sign up to go to that place knowing all that? We serve side by side with the soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines in Iraq and Afgahnistan. Yes, FSOs earn good hardship and danger pay for it, but we pay a large some of that to the IRS - because unlike those soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines next to us, we have to continue paying taxes while serving in warzones. We risk our lives in the places just as much as our military do - even more considering we aren't issued guns to protect ourselves.

yes, there are a large number of people who take the Foriegn Service Exam each year. Most of these are young and inexperienced individuals - straight out of college. As people learn and move up in their career in the Foreign Service, they take on spouses and children and our spouses can't always find work, because we're moving all the time. So people with all the experience tend to move on to find better paying jobs. So if you think our foreign policy is messed up, consider how often we lose the brightest of the bright because they can't afford to serve their country any longer.

Posted by: huskergal72 | February 28, 2011 5:57 AM | Report abuse

huskergal72 you make some great points but..."where we put our families' lives in danger; and the FBI agent down the hall, the USAID officer, and the DOD personnel all get that 20% plus the locality pay they had in the States."

I can assure you that we at AID receive no such thing. We get the same overseas pay package as you State folks. If one of my colleagues told you that they are getting 'locality pay' on top of hardship, he or she is having a chuckle at your expense. I'll have to share that one around the mission.

Posted by: Seahawk02 | March 1, 2011 2:39 PM | Report abuse

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