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limbo

The benefit of serving at a large post like Nairobi is that there are more opportunities for spouses. For example, the State Department has an Expanded Professional Associates Program (EPAP) through which the Department designates entry-level Foreign Service positions for EFMs. Not every embassy has EPAP positions, but Nairobi, because of its size, is fortunate to have two – one in General Services and the other in the Economic Section – and both were open this year.

The idea behind the EPAP program is to encourage spouses to experience Foreign Service work and to leverage their employment for subsequent entry into the Foreign Service. The program is administered from Washington, meaning that even though the candidate applies for a specific job at a particular embassy, acceptance into the program makes one eligible for EPAP employment at other posts in the future. S started the multi-step EPAP application process a few weeks after joining CDC. She submitted her application in January, took an English test in February, interviewed in April, and in May received an offer for the Environment, Science, Technology, and Health (ESTH) position in the Economic Section. After significant debate, S accepted the offer the first week of June, when we returned from R&R. However, the EPAP program requires a security clearance, so despite accepting the job, S could not start working.

The security clearance is a long and arduous process. It took S two weeks to gather the requisite information to complete the online questionnaire that chronicles the past 10 years of residence, education, and employment. A month went by after she submitted the form to HR, then another. Whenever S asked, HR would reassure her that the process takes time and she would be contacted for her security interview soon. Eventually, S called the Diplomatic Security office in Washington and learned that HR had not released her questionnaire, meaning that it sat untouched in Nairobi for two months. Consequently, the investigation did not get underway until mid-August and is still ongoing. Given how long it took D to receive his clearance and based on the experiences of other spouses S has met, she could have a long wait ahead.

S is very interested in the ESTH portfolio and curious to find out if she’ll like FSO work and the switch from development to diplomacy. She’s found ways to get involved peripherally, attending a briefing here and there or helping the understaffed Economic Section when asked. In some ways, S feels like she’s doing the Section a disservice, as the portfolio has to be covered by one of the FSOs or gets less attention than it should. Until her security clearance is completed, S remains in limbo, having accepted a job she cannot start and continuing to work at CDC, where her supervisors know she is leaving.

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