Letter Text (PDF)

Washington (September 8, 2023) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), along with Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), today wrote to U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power urging the Agency to immediately address longstanding workforce challenges and invest in career employees who are permanent staff by collaborating with federal unions, such as the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), to empower collective bargaining and union organizing while bolstering Foreign Service representation. According to AFSA’s then-Vice President for USAID Jason Singer, the Agency has increasingly relied on hiring non-career, temporary employees, thereby weakening federal unions supporting career employees and representation in the Foreign Service, and negatively impacting the agency’s operations and management.

To address ongoing workforce challenges across the federal government, Congress created the agency-level position of Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) who would serve as the chief policy advisor on all human resources management issues by selecting, developing, training, and overseeing a high-quality and productive workforce. However, the position at USAID has been vacant since 2022. From 2013 to 2022, the post was held by five different people, with an average tenure of fewer than two years.

In their letter to Administrator Power, the senators wrote, “[…] although USAID has increased its hiring of career employees, it continues to onboard non-career staff, including Foreign Service Limited (FSL) personnel, at a higher rate, and often at higher salaries and less stringent experience, education, and security clearance requirements, than their career counterparts.”

They continued, “[…] according to [the American Foreign Service Association], select contractors continue to occupy senior diplomatic positions on a long-term basis, including representing USAID in countries such as Costa Rica and Hungary, and at institutions such as the United Nations and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And in contrast to staffing at the U.S. Department of State, very few Foreign Service Officers currently occupy USAID’s most senior positions in Washington. This both effectively mutes the vital field perspective that the Foreign Service offers and constrains professional growth opportunities.”

The senators requested that USAID respond to the following questions on workforce rights by October 31, 2023, including:

  1. Why has USAID failed to issue a Workforce Report that addresses all the issues that Congress required it to address and that follows OPM workforce planning guidance? Is USAID working on a follow-up or amended Workforce Report that does so? If so, what is its status? If not, why not?
  2. Why has USAID failed to follow the workforce recommendations made by GAO? Does USAID need GAO assistance in analyzing the totality of the Agency’s staffing challenges and producing and operationalizing a comprehensive strategic workforce plan that adheres to OPM guidance?  If not, why not?
  3. In 2021, AFSA provided USAID with a report that detailed the Agency’s workforce challenges and included a plan and recommendations for addressing them. Has USAID considered the recommendations, implemented any of them, or meaningfully consulted with AFSA? If so, please provide supporting documentation. If not, why not?