And I need your help…

I know lots of folks reading this won’t do anything about it, and that’s ok.  But if I can get a couple of you to help out, it could make a difference.

Congress just voted to reduce Karl’s salary in 24%.  Yep, a salary cut to a Federal employee.  Fun, no?  Considering I cannot work while following him in his career (very few wives get to work, due to the scarce options of employment in both the embassies and in the foreign countries you’re posted at), being a one income household will be tough to make ends meet if he does get a pay cut.  We already knew he would get an 8% pay cut when we move overseas, because they were still implementing the new changes that would prevent him from losing that money (but we were warned when he started that because of the salary freeze, that 8% might never come), but now they’re saying that the 16% of his salary that he already gets — posted on his offer letter and what not — will be literally reduced (so a total of 24% pay cut as soon as we land in Manila).

In short, please write to your senator about this.  I will now shamelessly copy what A Daring Adventure posted on her blog, because why re-write what has already been explained so perfectly?  Of course, some of the details between her husband’s and Karl’s situation, are slightly different  (we don’t have any kids, and Karl is a Class 4, not a 5), though the end result is the same, we’re all getting a pay cut.  So here you go:

“Let’s Talk Money: Dear HR1, Please Get Your Hands Out of My Husband’s Paycheck

I was horrified to learn today that my husband’s paycheck is under assault.  Here’s how (the simplified version).

Federal employees’ salaries are made up of different pieces.  For example, my husband has a “base” salary, which you can find here (very first page).  He was hired as a 5, and is still a 5, so that gives you a general idea of what this single-income, four-person family is looking at in terms of base salary.

On that same page, you can see that federal employees also get, above and beyond their “base” salary, what is called “locality” pay.  Locality pay is a percentage of their base salary.  Thus, if you’re a new State hire and you come in at the first Step of 5, your “base” pay is $42,948.  If you’re in Washington DC, you also get 24.22% added on as your “locality” pay.  (And trust me, that doesn’t even *touch* how expensive it is to live here.)

It used to be that, when stationed overseas, State Department Foreign Service folks didn’t get any “locality” pay.  I mean, even a quick glance at that locality chart shows you no foreign city names, right?  But then, a few years ago, the government slowly began phasing in a plan to eventually give Foreign Service folks stationed overseas “locality” pay equal to Washington DC’s.  It’s being phased in slowly.

Now, as part and parcel with the proposed Continuing Resolution HR1 (so as to try to get some sort of federal budget together?), which has already passed the House, this locality pay for overseas employees (but ONLY overseas State Department employees!  Other Departments like FBI and ICE folks overseas have ALWAYS gotten locality pay while overseas!) would be GONE.

I spent a while this afternoon calling my two Senators in my home state (and I also followed up with heartfelt emails) begging them to not let this happen to my family.  Because what would happen to my family is that, when we went to China, my husband would literally lose 24% of his salary overnight.

We are a one-income family.  With two children.  You have already seen my husband’s base pay range.  We’re not wealthy.  We can’t afford to lose my husband’s locality pay when we go overseas.

Are you with State?  Are you not, but feel badly for us?  Call and/or write your home state’s two Senators (it’s actually super easy to do it online).  Tell them not to let Foreign Service employees who are overseas get their paychecks effetively cut by 24%.  Tell them not to let HR1 do that to us.


[Articles about this can be found here and here.]


If you want to help out, and would like a sample letter, this was posted in one of our Yahoo groups:


Dear ,

The House recently passed Amendment 583 (led by Tom Reed NY-29) to the FY2011 budget (H.R. 1) which would reverse the Overseas Comparability Pay initiative that was to give Foreign Service Officers serving out of the country the same locality pay as their counterparts (and every other federal employee) serving in D.C. As a constituent, I wish to express my strong disagreement with this amendment.

According to the Congressman’s Reed’s website, this amendment “removes automatic 24 percent pay raise for foreign service officers.”This statement, which went on to be conveyed on the House floor, is grossly inaccurate.

Prior to 2009, foreign service officers abroad received ~20% less than their counterparts in D.C. Meaning, if an officer moved from D.C. to another country, he or she took a ~20% pay cut. Officers abroad received no locality pay due to an unintended consequence of the federal pay system. In fact, every federal employee receives locality pay while working stateside. Currently, the D.C. locality rate is 24.22%, 28% for
New York, et cetera. Even those not living in any defined locality area in the United States receive greater than 14%.

Thanks to a bipartisan effort, the Congress agreed in 2009 to institute full locality pay for foreign service officers over a three year period (1/3 of the D.C. locality rate per year). Thus, today foreign service officers receive 16.52% locality – still a pay cut when coming from D.C.

Should Congressman Reed’s amendment become law, all foreign service officers abroad will instantly experience a 16% pay cut! This includes our diplomats helping distressed Americans in Egypt and Libya and would include the hundreds of State Department and USAID foreign service officers serving alongside our military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This was clearly not a “raise” for Foreign Service Officers, but a correction of an oversight which has put stress on 13,000 families who do not have the benefit of having dual incomes, due to frequent moves
and limited availability of jobs in the countries where they are assigned.

Please take the time to research the Reed amendment and educate your fellow colleagues on this issue.



Whether you are writing to your senator or not — thank you for reading.  Put yourself in our shoes — if your salary was going to be slashed by 16% overnight, wouldn’t you also post it on your blog and try to get as much help as you can?


Filed under Foreign Service

3 responses to “And I need your help…

  1. Absolutely horrible. Will do after work. We’ll probably see more of this though…

    • Thanks, Michelle! This came in a proposal to cut costs with things such as “sewage in Tijuana” included (and that one makes sense to cut it). Karl was like “great to know that they think my salary is comparable to sewage.”

  2. anon

    As someone who deals with those messages in a Senate office, a couple of points:

    1) Call and use your Senator’s and Representative’s web forms. Phone calls and web form messages are usually accounted separately. Don’t forget that call the primary state / district office as well.

    2) When sending a message via a web form, use standard text (like the message above) BUT add a paragraph or two near the beginning to personalize it. The standard text will help the office sort it out, but the personal text will likely also get read.

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