In recent years, the U.S. Foreign Service has been on a hiring/spending spree. The rate of FSO hiring more than doubled in FY 2009 and FY2010. That the hiring boom happened to coincide with the worst American economic downturn in decades was a welcomed relief for seasoned folks (like Mr. Crab) who were looking for a new career, or recent college grads who were jumping into the global recession dead pool. It was a good time to join the Foreign Service. Sadly, the hiring hey-days are coming to an end.
This belated post below comes from Harry Kopp, co-author of Career Diplomacy (an excellent must-read for any FSO candidate or current employee):
The Department of State, even more than other agencies, is likely to see its budget cut as austerity becomes fashionable in the administration and on Capitol Hill. The change in mood is reinforced by the change in parties and personalities in the House of Representatives, where Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida will replace Howard Berman of New York as chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Kay Granger of Texas is likely to replace Nita Lowey of New York as chair of the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations. CQ Today, part of the Congressional Quarterly family of publications, wrote that Ros-Lehtinen “said she was prepared to ‘propose a number of cuts to the State Department and foreign aid budgets,’ which said have ‘much fat’ in them. Her spokesman, Brad Goehner, said the chairwoman was not prepared to release those proposals, but had already submitted them to the Republican leaders for their input.”
The Department of State’s hiring program, carried forward under the name Diplomacy 3.0, will likely come to a halt. The program as originally announced in 2009 planned to increase the size of the foreign service by 25 percent over fiscal year 2008 levels over five years, ending in fiscal year 2013. It now appears that the program will end, or be suspended, well short of that goal. When hiring with fiscal year 2010 appropriations ends, as it soon will, the Department will have achieved an increase of about 15 percent over the FY 2008 base, adding about 1,900 foreign service employees (1,200 officers and 700 specialist), bringing the total service in the Department of State to about 13,400 (7,500 officers and 5,900 specialists).
If new hires in FY 2011 are held to the number needed to replace retiring employees and other departures, the number of new hires will drop from a projected level of around 830 under Diplomacy 3.0 to around 400, which is projected attrition. Similar levels are likely in FY 2012 as well. That means tougher competition for candidates.
On top of that, the State Department is currently operating in a "Continuing Resolution," meaning the FY2011 budget has yet to be signed.
Bottom line: It's going to be a lot tougher to join the Foreign Service in 2011. Best of luck to all who are studying for the February FSOT, and to folks waiting patiently on the A-100 registers.