Working for the government, one gains an appreciation for the apparently limitless human ability to add needless layers of complexity to every conceivable mundane process. At times it feels like the entire bureaucracy is premised on the hedging and vacillations of a schizophrenic, which is all a long way of saying that we finally have out transfer timing figured out…we think.
Because D speaks a “critical needs” language, we found out our onward assignment a few days before arriving in Kenya. Our situation was more the exception than the norm – we have plenty of friends who are currently bidding on their next assignments and still don’t know where they will be headed in 5-6 months. For most of the last year and a half we have tried to live in the present and not give too much thought to our impending move to Moldova. Given how much we have both enjoyed living in Kenya, this was pretty easy to do.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end and the time has come for us to start making transition plans. And this is where things get complicated. Because the Foreign Service is perennially under-staffed, each transfer is accompanied by a three-way negotiation. The losing post is typically reluctant to let the employee go, while the gaining post wants him as soon as humanly possible, and often sooner. This is understandable as both posts are faced with almost certain staffing gaps they are trying to minimize.
And then there’s HR in Washington, which has to make sure that the employee gets necessary training and takes home leave. In our case, D was able to get approval from both his current and future supervisors for the transfer timing we wanted, but it took HR almost two months to give provisional approval for his proposed transfer timing. For some reason, transfer dates are determined by month only. Because D’s onward assignment was listed as July 2013, HR would have accepted any arrival date between July 1 and July 31, but try to arrive in August – even if it’s August 1 – and all hell breaks loose.
And then there’s the training component of this ridiculous equation. HR’s approval was provisionally given pending enrollment in the training class D had requested. The class in question is basic consular training, a course all entry-level officers must take because everyone has to do at least a year of consular duty. However, no one actually gets enrolled in the course until right before it starts. Instead, D’s name got added to a wait-list. So D needs to confirm his enrollment before his provisional transfer schedule receives official approval and he can’t confirm it until right before the course starts, which is of course way after we will return to the States (and presumably well after the transfer schedule is approved). Catch-22? You bet.
The kicker is that D called the office in charge of training and was told that he will in fact be enrolled in the course for which he’s wait-listed – no ifs, ands, or buts about it – he just can’t be enrolled in it now. At any rate, we are about 99.9% sure that our proposed transfer timing will hold, but there is no such thing as a sure thing in the Foreign Service, so we hope to share our transfer dates soon, once they are officially confirmed.