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and now we wait

It boggles the mind how long some things take in the Foreign Service. For example, although we know our transfer dates, we still don’t have travel orders, which means that the dates could theoretically shift, even though they’ve been agreed on for months.

While there is good reason for the transfer process to be consultative, it also feels needlessly cumbersome. In our case, D’s onward assignment has a July 2013 start date and his predecessor plans to leave early to mid-July, which is when Chisinau would have liked D to arrive. We moved to Nairobi mid-June of last year, so obviously D’s current bosses would have liked him to stay until June of next year. Factor in training (7 weeks) and home leave (4-6 weeks) and you can see why the negotiations can get tricky.

After multiple consultations with his current supervisors and his would-be supervisor in Chisinau over the summer, D settled on a May 2 departure from Nairobi and an early August arrival to Moldova, but HR balked. Assignments are made by month so a July start date means that one can arrive July 1, July 31, or anytime in between. Try to arrive June 30 or August 1, however, and HR will react as if you’ve just upset the balance of the universe.

The reason we wanted an August transfer date was to maximize our home leave, which is typically taken at the end of an overseas tour. Home leave is a Congressional requirement meant to ensure that diplomats continuously serving abroad do not lose touch with the motherland. As such, it comes with a myriad of regulations. For example, although D will accrue thirty work days of home leave by the time we depart Nairobi, he is only obligated to take twenty of them. HR wanted D to take the minimum and arrive in Chisinau by July 31 “to prevent a staffing gap.” It was only by pointing out the obvious fact that there would still be a gap if his predecessor left mid-July that D convinced HR to accept the dates to which both Nairobi and Chisinau had already agreed.

Before travel orders could be processed, we had to update our medical clearances, which fortunately did not take long. The orders were then drafted and sent to the budget office for funding authorization and the process stalled again. The budget office processes orders chronologically by transfer date, and D’s assignments technician informed him that they were just beginning to work on January orders. With a May departure date, it seems unlikely that D will see his before next year even though he began the transfer process in early August.

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