‘Nearly all’ State Dept. SES, senior Foreign Service members eligible to retire in next 10 years

Within the next decade “nearly all” of the current senior Foreign Service members will be eligible to retire, as will 80 percent of the current Civil Servic...

New workforce numbers from the State Department show that nearly half (42.5 percent) of the State Department’s Senior Executive Service employees and almost a quarter (23.7 percent) of its GS-15 employees are currently eligible to retire.

Within the next decade “nearly all” of the current senior Foreign Service members will be eligible to retire, as will 80 percent of the current civil service’s SES, according to the agency’s five-year Workforce and Leadership Succession Plan, which it released Feb. 14.

“These high percentages are to be expected since most officers do not reach the Senior Foreign Service (SFS) until they are near retirement eligibility, which is currently 50 years of age with 20 years of service,” the report states, also noting that the 10-year projections remain consistent with numbers it reported last year.

In addition, more than 20 percent of its IT and procurement workforces in the civil service are eligible to retire.

Source: State Department/Amelia Brust, Federal News Network

Hiring freeze led to higher vacancy rates

The State Department reports the agency’s short-lived hiring freeze increased its vacancy rate in the civil service by about 4 percent between April 2017 and 2018.

The report notes that foreign and civil service vacancy rates had only slightly varied from year-to-year between fiscal years 2012-2017, “reflecting the more static nature of overall staffing levels.”

Last May, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, less than a month into the job, lifted the agency’s hiring freeze, which contributed to low workforce morale and preventing the spouses of diplomats from filling positions.

State Dept. projects attrition rates

The State Department projects that between FY 2018 and 2022, it will lose an average of 510 employees in the Foreign Service under attrition, about 3 percent higher than last year’s projected average.

Of those 510, the agency expects about 80 percent will retire from the Foreign Service, while 20 percent will separate from the agency for non-retirement reasons, which include resignations, terminations and deaths.

In FY 2017, 70 percent of all separations in the Foreign Service were retirements.

The outlook for the civil service, however, tells a different story. Between FY 2018 and 2022, the agency expects to lose more than 650 employees a year under attrition — 70 percent of which it expects will be non-retirement separations.

However, the agency has made assurances that those percentages still fall within normal levels.

“Notwithstanding the fact that historically the number of non-retirements exceeded the number of retirements in the [civil service], the Department is closely monitoring retirements in the CS,” the report states. As baby boomers become eligible to retire and leave, the Department is tracking patterns that are used in projecting when employees will retire.”

The average State Department employee has spent 14.5 years in government service, and nearly 12 of them with the agency.

Source: State Department/Amelia Brust, Federal News Network

Agency touts diversity in recruitment

The agency has touted a “diverse group of new career full-time permanent employees” from its outreach and recruitment efforts. Nearly 42 percent of the agency’s new hires in FY 2017 were women, and 10 percent were Hispanic.

State Department data shows that by the end of calendar year 2018, more than 7 of its workforce identified as Hispanic, and more than 43 percent were women.

By comparison, 71 percent of  State employees were white, compared to less than 15 percent African American, more than 6 percent Asian and nearly 5 percent multi-racial.

The State Department manages its recruitment and marketing campaign through a team of 16 diplomats-in-residence, 10 Washington-based recruiters and its own marketing team.

The report points to the agency’s wide array of fellowships as a “vital” opportunity to bring greater diversity to the Foreign Service.

In order to attract more IT recruits, the State Department launched the Foreign Affairs Information Technology (FAIT) Fellowship as a pilot program in 2017. Last fall, the agency received applications for its third class of fellows.

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