Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Daniel K. Akaka and George V. Voinovich sent a letter today urging the Department of State to address the Locally Employed (LE) staff compensation issues reported by the Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). More than 51,000 foreign nationals who make up the LE staff provide essential support to diplomatic operations, including administrative, programmatic, and security support, among other vital functions, in about 170 overseas missions.
According to the OIG, many LE staff receive inadequate compensation, which has resulted in some LE staff having to cut back on meals, having their children work to earn money for the family, or foregoing prescription medications. Also, this has caused higher workforce attrition, recruitment difficulties, and low morale.
The OIG identified a number of factors contributing to this problem, including too few personnel in the office that manages LE staff salaries, a lack of transparency in the compensation review process, insufficient coordination between offices in setting and funding compensation levels, and poor use of information technology.
“I expect that the State Department takes these issues very seriously, and so I am requesting information on their progress to address the concerns the Inspector General identified. The State Department must resolve the problems that have led to inadequate locally employed staff compensation,” Akaka said. “By not properly valuing the efforts of the foreign national workers dedicated to supporting U.S. diplomatic operations, the U.S. undermines its image abroad and hinders its foreign policy.
Senator Akaka is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which has responsibility for national security staffing. Senator Voinovich is the Subcommittee’s Ranking Member.
The OIG’s report on LE staff compensation can be found at:
Senator Akaka and Voinovich’s letter to Secretary Clinton appears below:
June 5, 2009The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton Secretary U.S. Department of State 2201 C Street, NW Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Clinton:
We are writing to express concern and to request information about the Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) findings and recommendations in a recent report regarding current compensation levels for locally employed (LE) staff hired by the United States at embassies and other posts (ISP-I-09-44). In addition to performing functions that support our overseas missions, LE staff provides essential knowledge and insight needed to strengthen United States diplomacy.
According to the OIG, the State Department in many locations has not succeeded in providing LE staff with sufficient and competitive compensation. This appears to be harming recruitment and retention efforts, and negatively impacting employee morale. We were troubled to read the OIG’s finding that a high percentage of lower-level LE staff is not able to meet basic living expenses on their current salaries. Providing inadequate pay counters the Department’s efforts to advance U.S. interests abroad by allowing the perception of the U.S. as an employer that treats non-Americans unfairly.
The OIG report identified several issues contributing to the overall problem: a shortage of personnel in the Compensation Management Division of the Office of Overseas Employment, the lack of transparency in the compensation review process, inadequate coordination within the Department on financial decisions affecting LE staff, use of outdated technology, and the lack of a central database to track compensation.
We applaud the Department’s establishment of a Working Group to focus on recruiting and retaining qualified LE staff and resolving issues pertaining to salary adjustments. However, further action is necessary in order to fully address the issues at hand. Therefore, we request that you provide the Department’s response, planned actions, and timeline for addressing each of the OIG’s recommendations, both formal and informal.