Sunday, February 17, 2013

Extracurriculars

One of the joys (and the challenges) of working at a small post is that you end up doing all kinds of things that aren't in your job description. This is why all job descriptions include the phrase "other duties as assigned." The next several weeks will be particularly busy for me as I tackle all kinds of projects above and beyond my consular role.

There's the usual visa and passport processing, of course. I also chair the Interagency Housing Board, which is responsible for making housing assignments for incoming personnel. We're in for an intense summer transfer season with more than half of the embassy staff turning over in the space of six months, so I've been putting in a lot of time with spreadsheets trying to make sure we have a house for everyone. Just when I thought I had it all worked out we got word that one more person would be coming in this spring, so we had to scrap the whole thing and start over again from scratch. I think I've got it sorted out now, but if any more new staff drops into our laps we're in trouble.

I am also in charge of coordinating the embassy's annual budget request, which involves getting input from the various agencies at post, making sure the numbers all add up, and writing narrative justifications to explain how our chosen resource allocation helps meet U.S. foreign policy goals. I don't usually have much to do with the financial side of the house, so this is a new experience for me. I look forward to finding out what the hell a "sub-object code" is. Apparently it's important.

And then there's the ambassador's upcoming trip to one of the more remote areas of Guinea, which I get to plan and participate in. This will be a great opportunity to get out from behind the visa window and see some more of the country, but it's also a real logistical challenge to make sure the ambassador can go where he needs to go and do what he needs to do in an area with very little of the infrastructure - good roads, hotels, gas stations, restaurants, etc. - you need to support this kind of endeavor.

Conakry's consular section is pretty sleepy compared to others around the world, but you can't say I'm not keeping busy.

2 comments:

  1. Very cool stuff. Again, I know I'm a few years late, but why wouldn't a management officer be doing most of the things you mentioned here? As a hopeful FSO one day, I've been researching the different cones and whatnot. Is Conakry so small that there is no dedicated management officer? Thanks for the great blog!

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    1. Conakry does indeed have a management officer. All posts do, though at the very smallest he/she may wear other hats as well. However, housing assignments are made by a board with representation from all offices and agencies to avoid capricious or preferential housing assignments. (Housing is a huge quality of life issue at post.) The budget request is a policy document as much as an administrative one, as it aligns resources to mission goals (as established in another strategy document), and also requires the input of many people at post. For trips and visits, a control officer is assigned to coordinate all the moving pieces, though there's a lot of delegation of different bits underneath that, including to offices within the management section. Getting things done in the FS is almost always a team effort.

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