Cablegate: Announcing the 2009 Iraq/Afghanistan Cycle

O 272028Z MAY 08


E.O. 12958: N/A



REF: A) STATE 36313 B) STATE 24893


1. Last year, our Foreign Service and Civil Service
colleagues made their considerable talents available in
support of our top foreign policy priorities in Iraq and
Afghanistan, as we anticipate happening this year. They
responded to our Department's call, and volunteers staffed
every position in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Secretary is
asking that all of us once again consider directly
supporting our efforts by volunteering for service in these
two countries. Following is the text of a personal message
from the Secretary which will be followed by a video to be
released early this week (available on BNET and via links
on the Assignment~Iraq and Assignment~Afghanistan websites
listed in para 13).

2. Begin text of Secretary Rice's message:

I want to thank the dedicated men and women of the
Department of State, Foreign Service, Civil Service,
Locally Employed Staff, and retirees alike, who have
stepped forward to serve at our missions in Iraq and
Afghanistan. I am proud of their achievements at the
forefront of diplomacy and national security, in
fulfillment of two of our country's highest foreign policy
priorities. I am asking that you consider joining this
highly motivated team of professionals as we look for
volunteers for positions opening in 2009.

I visit Iraq and Afghanistan on a regular basis and have
seen our efforts firsthand. Working closely with other
civilian colleagues, our military, and Iraqi and Afghan
counterparts from all levels of government and civil
society, the Department of State is making a difference in
the lives of ordinary people. We are helping to rebuild
local and national governments, foster economic
development, and promote reconciliation. The results are

Our brave volunteers are doing a tough, but necessary, job
far away from family and friends. Employees and families
deserve the nation's gratitude.

I can assure you that they have mine, and I encourage you
to join our teams in Baghdad and Kabul.

End text of the Secretary's Message

3. This telegram, which incorporates changes based on last
year's assignments cycle, lays out this year's process for
filling these two priority posts. Many of the changes are
intended to address concerns regarding transparency and
accuracy. We are also starting earlier this year in order
to give our colleagues additional time to consider
volunteering, discuss the issues with their loved ones, and
digest the details of the process. We also believe that a
more timely assignment process will allow our colleagues to
take better advantage of the significantly enhanced Iraq
and Afghanistan-related training opportunities being
offered by FSI.

4. As the Secretary has noted in her message, the
dedication of the men and women of the Foreign Service and
Civil Service who have already stepped forward is inspiring
and she knows that others will join them on the cutting
edge of diplomacy. Our decision to staff Iraq and
Afghanistan before proceeding to other worldwide
assignments, as discussed in Ref A, reflects the vital
importance of these two countries to our strategic foreign
policy goals. As in the past, we hope to staff both with
qualified volunteers.

5. With the release of this message, the 2009 vacancies in
Iraq and Afghanistan, including out-year language positions
with language training included in the tour of duty, will
be advertised in FSBid and will be available for immediate
assignment for Foreign Service and Civil Service volunteers
starting June 10 - two weeks after the positions have been
advertised. The Iraq-Afghanistan assignment cycle will
last throughout the summer. At the appropriate time, the
Director General will consult with the senior leadership of
the Department to determine how best to complete the Iraq-
Afghanistan assignment cycle prior to the end of September.
See para 23 for a timeline for key elements of the Iraq-
Afghanistan cycle.

6. To facilitate the assignments process this year,
employees with the necessary qualifications who bid on
stretch or out-of-cone positions in these two countries can
also be brought to panel beginning June 10. These
provisions allowing immediate consideration of stretch
assignments are more flexible than in the regular
assignments process and provide employees the opportunity
to secure their assignments early in the Iraq-Afghanistan
bidding cycle.


7. We are also proposing, for Iraq only and pending
further discussions with AFSA, that the Department's firm
commitment to assigning qualified bidders on PRT positions
to one of their top five onward assignments be replaced
with a broader version of the successful "linked
assignments" program implemented for some grades/cones
serving in Iraq last year. Under this proposal a Foreign
Service employee may be paneled to his/her onward
assignment for 2010 at the same time as he/she is paneled
to a 2009 Iraq assignment.

8. The senior leadership of the Department has given its
support to this proposal and has encouraged the regional
and functional bureaus to work in close cooperation with
HR/CDA to make it effective. Under this proposal,
employees of all cones and specialties may work directly
with regional or functional bureaus and their CDOs to
formulate linked assignments. All bureaus will make their
best efforts to facilitate this process and will provide
clear explanations to HR/CDA in cases where a proposed
linked assignment is not possible (for example if an
employee does not have the necessary qualifications to do
the job). HR/CDA and NEA will work actively with bidders
and bureaus on these linked assignments and will enlist the
support of their leadership where necessary. Both NEA and
the other bureau concerned must concur on the proposed

9. Linked assignments may be made to one-grade stretch
positions (up or down) and, for generalists, may be in cone
or out of cone assignments. Specialists will generally be
expected to look for linked assignments in their areas of
specialty. Also, some functional bureaus may not be able
to offer a full range of linked assignments due to limited
position availability at certain grades. In all cases,
however, specialist bureaus will make every effort to
accommodate employee preferences for onward assignments, as
they have in the past.
HR/CDA will support any linked assignment agreed to by both
bureaus and the employee as long as the guidelines
regarding grade and cone/specialty are met. In addition:

-- Employees will be responsible for initiating the search
for a linked assignment. Unlike last year, bureaus have
not been asked to select specific positions as potential
linked assignments. Instead employees interested in
linking should check bureau web pages for lists of
projected vacancies and contact bureau EX offices or desks
to discuss options. CDA will have links available to those
bureaus with projected vacancies sites.

-- Linked assignments to DCM and PO positions will not be

-- Should agreement on linked assignments prove to be
unobtainable between NEA and the other bureaus, the
employee's bid on Iraq will not be retained unless he or
she wishes to proceed without a linked assignment (or
agrees to a different linked assignment option).

-- This incentive will be available to employees who
volunteer for Iraq service by August 1, 2008.

10. Note that this proposal to expand the option for
linked assignments is currently being discussed with AFSA
and we hope to update the Foreign Service shortly to
confirm the status of this program and provide further


11. The recruitment effort this year is beginning earlier
and will be even more proactive and targeted than in the
past. HR/CDA is reviewing the list of eligible 2009
bidders to find those who are particularly well-qualified
to staff key positions in Iraq. We will inform those
individuals in the coming days that they are part of a pool
of the best qualified potential bidders who will be the
primary (but not exclusive) focus of recruitment efforts
for Iraq. In addition, should the DG determine that
identification procedures need to be used later in the
cycle to staff unfilled positions, these individuals will
also comprise the primary pool for identification. We will
actively encourage them over the coming months to bid on
those positions in Iraq for which they are particularly
well qualified. We repeat, however, that this is not the
only group from which we will recruit for Iraq or from
which we will accept bids. The entire Foreign and Civil
Services have a robust pool of talented individuals who
have much to offer through service in Iraq and also in

12. The list of positions for which we sought particularly
well qualified bidders and the criteria we considered in
assessing employee qualifications is available through the
links on the newly-created HR/CDA webpage:

( _afghanistan/)

The criteria include factors such as the employee's grade,
cone, language ability (where relevant) and grade-
appropriate experience for a particular job. We have not
included in this review those employees with other than
class one or class two medical clearances. We recognize,
of course, that some of those who have the requisite skills
for a given position may also have unique situations, apart
from medical restrictions, that could make it difficult for
them to serve in Iraq. However, it is not necessary now
for officers who are informed that they are among the best
qualified for a given position to send personal statements
or take any other action during the recruitment period.

--------------------------------------------- -----------
--------------------------------------------- -----------

13. To assist those bidding, we have updated the
"Assignment~Iraq" website:

( nment_iraq/)

and created an "Assignment~Afghanistan" website:

( nment_afghanis

as well. HR has also placed information about specific
positions on the HR/CDA webpage listed above under
"Iraq/Afghanistan Cycle." All three of these web pages
will be "live" as of OOB
Washington on May 27.

14. The current Iraq and Afghanistan Service Recognition
Packages will be released septel. In the interest of
transparency and to assist our colleagues in their decision
making, HR/CDA will also release via FSBid the complete
Open Assignments 2009 Summer Cycle in early July to allow
everyone to see the full range of available 2009 assignment
options as they consider bids on Iraq and Afghanistan.
FSBid also contains an Iraq/Afghanistan 2009 cycle with all
jobs advertised. Position descriptions and language
designations are included. The jobs and their position
descriptions together with additional resource material
have also been posted on the intranet HR/CDA webpage noted
above to make it easier for colleagues to access and review
them. To place bids or to determine whether or not a
particular job remains vacant, please use FSBid. If FSBid
is not accessible, a bidder should contact his/her CDO via
fax or e-mail, requesting that a bid be entered on his/her
behalf. Civil Service colleagues should express their
initial interest in Iraq or Afghanistan assignments to NEA
(Laura Starr -; Tony Spakauskas - ) or SCA (Sumera Ashruf -; Jane Ross - ) for

15. HR/CDA recognizes that the Iraq and Afghanistan
timeline will require employees to make decisions on
bidding jobs in those countries before promotions are
announced, before bids in the regular cycle are due, and
before DCM/PO committees have met. If a volunteer for Iraq
or Afghanistan is promoted and wishes to look at a
different position in either country or at their linked
assignment, HR/CDA, and the concerned bureaus will work to
meet the needs of newly-promoted employees on a case-by-
case basis. Also, as noted above, stretch assignments for
bidders with the necessary qualifications for the positions
will be considered from the start of the cycle.

16. Bidders who wish to compete for DCM/PO positions for
2009 should be aware that those positions will almost
certainly not be reviewed by the DCM committee prior to the
completion of the Iraq/Afghanistan Cycle. They should also
be aware that if they are assigned to Iraq or Afghanistan
during the cycle, those assignments will take priority over
their DCM bids. We recognize that this may make for
difficult choices for some bidders, but we nonetheless
strongly encourage officers bidding DCM/PO positions to
give very careful consideration to assignments in Iraq and
Afghanistan. The significant responsibilities and high
profile of many of these positions are career enhancing and
could strengthen your qualifications for a DCM/PO position
in 2010.

17. Fair share bidders are strongly encouraged to consider
service in Iraq and Afghanistan. As an added incentive,
the regular season assignment rules that require a bidder
to bid exclusively on domestic jobs or be subject to fair
share bidding rules will not apply to bids on the
Iraq/Afghanistan Cycle. Submitting a bid on Iraq or
Afghanistan positions does not preclude bidding exclusively
on domestic jobs in the Regular Cycle. Should you choose
to bid overseas in the Regular Cycle, any bids submitted in
this cycle can be considered a part of meeting fair share
bidding requirements in the regular season. As with all
fair share bids, they must be replenished as the
Iraq/Afghanistan positions you bid are filled.

18. In regard to medical clearances, we urge colleagues
interested in volunteering to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan
to update their medical clearances as soon as possible.

--------------------------------------------- --------------
--------------------------------------------- --------------

19. In order to fulfill our obligation to employees who
will be serving in Iraq and Afghanistan starting in summer
2008, we will allow them to accept handshakes on Open
Assignment Cycle positions for 2009 as soon as those jobs
are advertised in July. As "differential bidders," these
employees may receive handshakes for a one-grade stretch
position. Furthermore, given that senior promotions will
almost certainly not be released prior to bidding by
officers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, we will allow FS-
01 bidders in Iraq or Afghanistan to accept a handshake for
an OC position pending release of the promotion lists. If
the bidder is not promoted, however, they will require a
senior cede in accordance with current procedures, before
their bid can be considered further. Iraq/Afghanistan
service will, however, be taken into account as a positive
factor when reviewing the request for a senior cede.

20. Employees serving in an Iraq PRT in 2008-2009 still
have the Department's firm commitment to assigning them to
one of their top five at-grade, in-cone choices. HR must
be in receipt of your job preferences before the Open
Assignment Cycle begins in October in order to ensure that
other employees are not paneled to the jobs. Further
information on this process will be provided by your CDOs
in the near future.


21. We hope that this cable will be a helpful first step
in our effort to inform all our colleagues about the
details of the Iraq-Afghanistan cycle. Please do not
hesitate to contact your CDO or any of us in HR/CDA with
any questions. HR/CDA is also willing to arrange DVCs with
posts abroad or group discussions with colleagues in
Washington as requested.

22. We appreciate and respect the service of those of our
colleagues who have already served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This year many more of us will join those ranks. We hope
that once again we will be able to demonstrate in a
concrete way that we know our duty and, as members of the
career Foreign Service, have stepped forward in service to
our nation.


23. Iraq-Afghanistan Assignments Timeline:

May 27 - Release of cable announcing Iraq-Afghanistan cycle
and opening of cycle positions in FSBID.

May 29 - Well-qualified candidates will be contacted and
urged to volunteer.

June 2 - Release of cable with Iraq and Afghanistan Service
Recognition Packages.

June 10 - Assignments of Iraq or Afghanistan volunteers

July 1 - Release of Open Assignment 2009 positions in

September - Completion of Iraq and Afghanistan Assignment

October 1 - Start of 2009 Open Assignments Cycle.


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