PEACE CORPS TRANSITION BRIEFING BOOK 2017

PEACE CORPS TRANSITION BRIEFING BOOK 2017

Human Resources Overview

PEACE CORPS STAFF

Domestic
Headquarters 764
Regional Offices (or other domestic locations) 136

Overseas
US Direct Hire 187
Foreign Service National 82
Personal Services Contractor 3013

TOTAL 4182

At the same time in 2016 there were 7,213 PCVs (therefore, more or less, one employee for every two Volunteers. The total number of PCVs also declined in six years, down from 8,655 PCVs in 2010.)

You can read all the numbers in the briefing book, (but not names that have been redacted.) Thanks to Joanne Roll (Colombia 1963-65) for getting the Transition Book on an FOI request.

Read the Transition Briefing Book 2017 (redacted) (1)

 

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  • Thank you for your relentless hard work. That seems like a lot of support staff. The first question might be, are volunteers encountering better support? My son just came home after more than two years in Panama. Modern communications made it possible to be in contact with him as often and as long as he wanted which was very often. I did not notice any perceptible improvement on support but rather a maze of new rules. The main office was beautiful. So beautiful that my son’s boss only bothered to visit him once, dressed in a suit. He drove in, literally got his imported shoes muddy, swore and got back in his fancy car. When my son had a problem which resulted in a serious leg injury, the PC sent their new security force to interview neighbors with the assumption that he was a lying sack of shit. Of course, these are anecdotal.

    When my son was finishing his training, I asked him to let staff know I planned to fly there for the swearing-in ceremony. Staff told him that I was not welcome as if this was some sort of skull and bones affair. First, I called and emailed staff but nobody had time to answer. So, I called a few people in D.C. and all of a sudden, they had time! They pivoted and welcomed me. Once there, hardly anyone gave me the time of day except to blow smoke up my ass. It’s not worth mentioning names because I do not think this is a personal type of problem but rather, an over-staffed office that has lost its way, supporting the volunteers.

  • So almost three-fourths of Peace Corps staff are Personal Service Contractors. I may be ignorant, but what is a PSA? A doctor? A consultant? A security guard? It looks like there are two PSAs for every five PCVs, so I’m really curious to know what they are. (After service are they considered RPSCs?)

    • Thanks for the links. Reading some of the documents gave me a lot more sympathy for the politicians who keep saying we need to shrink our government (if only the part that would shrink would be the excessive bureaucracy).

  • As mentioned in an earlier post, originally the ratio of support staff to volunteers was 1 member of staff for every 5 volunteers which was taken from a World War II formula. We would assume that the ratio would improve given the amazing changes in air travel, highway construction and most importantly, communications. However, the ratio has gone the other way. Today it is 1 staff member for every 2 volunteers. The fact that we do not understand who these employees are or what they do is poor accounting and probably by design. We should not have to search report after report for simple answers, neither should Congress.

    I served between 1975 and 1977 (Honduras) but had the privilege of visiting the Ecuadorian Peace Corps office in 1988. There were already new security measures in place and an office that put the Honduran former office space to shame. However, the number of people working there did not seem to be excessive. Years later in 2015 I spent 5 days in Panama City while my son was still technically a Trainee. I met him at the Peace Corps office twice. I understood the amazing security that was now employed. The office space made me take a deep breath since it could have been the headquarters for a multi-national. However, it was the number of employees that surprised me most with people running here and there, private offices and and a room full of desks and computers. I sincerely hoped for the best but as my son’s experience unfolded, I realized that the Peace Corps had evolved into a real bureaucracy with an incredible number of employees all trying to defend their own positions without really improving volunteer support. Actually, it seemed the exact opposite. It appeared that staff was conducting witch hunts.

    Very simple things like the monthly stipend became crazy. When I was a volunteer, the agency recognized that the cost of living varied greatly by region and our monthly stipends were adjusted accordingly. My son was in an area where food and housing was very expensive (relative other parts of the country). Before leaving, he granted me power of attorney over his finances and for this reason, I became aware that he was depleting his own savings to survive. When he approached staff about living allowances, they gave him a convoluted explanation about how it was based upon a yearly electronic survey with volunteers. He began checking and found out that many volunteers did not even respond or if they did, did not take it very seriously. His comments were ignored and like a good soldier, he just kept spending his own savings.

    Even housing was a nightmare. I just stayed with another volunteer for a few weeks and found my own place. In Panama, all volunteers were required to live with another host family for at least 90 days. My son’s host family took a dislike to him and wanted him out. The PC sent their Security Force to interview the family and neighbors, ultimately blaming him. Shortly thereafter, a member of the family turned out all exterior lighting and placed an engine in the path to his room. Late at night in the dark, he fell over this engine nd suffered serious cuts on both legs that eventually became infected. The PC continued with the “blame the victim” nonsense.

    He eventually found another place and was much happier. However, the PC support staff seemed to me to operate more like the dreaded Personnel Department of a large corporation. Everyone knows that that department only exists to help management, not workers. With country directors now earning $120,000 per year, the situation stinks. Instead of obsessive attention to the total budget, it is time to reevaluate the number of support staff. Also, it is a good time to reinstitute the 5 year rule. The professionalism that the agency has sought for two decades has resulted in a bureaucracy. If the PC is truly interested in “institutional memory” then invest in electronic libraries to be shared all over the world by volunteers. It’s crazy, baby! When I compared the official PC explanation of the World Map Project with the actual volunteer’s website, I realized that the PC wasn’t even capable of copying correctly! Just post stuff electronically and make it available fo those workers, the ones staff is supposed to support. Also, cut agency salaries. They are way out of line.

  • Charlie Peters headed Peace Corps’s famed Evaluation Unit from 1962 to 1968. He then went on to publish The Washington Monthly – a magazine that told the inside story of Washington DC and its bureacracy. Peters hated bureacracy and wrote this great description of how WashingtonDC bureacracy works. I read it, remember it, but can not find the actual quote.

    It went something like this: In Washington promptly at 9am, the Director meets with all his Deputy Directors. Then after a coffee break; at 11 am, the Deputy Directors meet with all their Assistant Deputy Directors to tell them about what was discussed at the 9am meeting. Then everyone goes to lunch. At 1 pm, the Assistant Deputy Directors meet with their
    Department Heads to inform them about what was discussed at the 11 am meeting. At 3pm, after the afternoon coffee break, the Department Heads meet with all their clerks and secretaries to inform them about what was discussed at the 1PM meeting. Then everyone goes home.

  • Lorenzo, Thank goodness, the 5 year rule does not apply to any of us in the RPCV community. We are the protectors of the Peace Corps history, values and future! As the author of Peace Corps Chronology 1961-2010, you demonstrate that all the time and I thank you every time I reach for it to research some fact.

    Not that many years ago, I said that I thought our Peace Corps experience had a half life of fifty years, now that I am older, I know how mistaken I was. I say now, the half life of our Peace Corps experience can not be calculated. It lives on, after we are gone, in the memories of our children and grandchildren and in books written – and gathers strenght from our collective memories and efforts.

  • Dear Edward, What a lovely thought, I will treasure it. thank you. But, you belong to the beginning – Ghana I. You exemply what Bob Klein wrote in his introduction to the history of Ghana I, “Being First” for all of us that were to come

    “It is not for you to compete the task, But neither are you free to desist from it.” Pirke Avot

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