5 year rule

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Library: Peace Corps: Legislation : Legislation: June 21, 2004: Headlines: Legislation: Congress: PCOL Exclusive: A Critical Flaw in the Proposed Peace Corps Safety and Security Bill : 5 year rule

By Sandra Mullen (adsl-67-123-78-181.dsl.snfc21.pacbell.net - on Thursday, July 01, 2004 - 8:10 pm: Edit Post

I have recently been on the Board of a not for profit organization which has been plagued by the problems a two tiered system can inflict. It is very painful to work at undoing such a mistake once it has become established. Morale concerns and power struggles are baseline issues. I see no good reason to change our established 5 year limit.

By Rick Knox (06-093.151.popsite.net - on Saturday, July 03, 2004 - 7:58 am: Edit Post

I served with the first Ethiopian Peace Corps group (1962-64) and left at the end of my two years. Subsequently, I served a year on the staff of the Peace Corps magazine (1965-66).

Since then, I have served with a not-for-profit international organization, joining in 1975 and intending to leave within three years. I live in Wales and am currently Associate Director for Western Europe, after 29 years on board. It has been a fantastic privilege.

The organization's initial overseas duty tour was two years and out. Eventually, we realized that we were losing highly-motivated, well-trained, cross-culturally sensitive individuals to other groups like ours who offered career programs.

We added a career option in two-year increments, and suddenly 75% of our overseas staff re-enlisted.

Today those who have stayed on are some of the most experienced, knowledgeable and cutting-edge people I know. They continue to contribute to the depth of the organization's expertise, give excellent input to the leadership, and provide the knowledge based on experience rather than theory that is crucial in areas like security and safety.

In the federal government an agency can be stuck with career-based longevity issues, but it's not necessarily correct to assume that the accumulated wisdom based on years of experience will constitute a liability.

The key will be finding the right people for the job who are truly motivated by service values rather than personal gain.

Maybe that's hard to do in politics and commerce, but it's worth trying.

By RPCV ( - on Saturday, July 03, 2004 - 11:55 am: Edit Post

The weakest point of currently proposed changes in the 5-year rule is the evolving two-tier system (mentioned above), in which some departments / positions will continue to be term limited while others will not. The management problems - including the influence of career over non-career and manipulation of exempt job profiles - that'll develop over the next decade are obvious. The decisions being made now to devise broad exceptions to the 5-year rule are politically motivated and organizationally myopic.

It would be better to create the non-career alternative as the exception to back stop gaps in management as needed than to allow a two-teir system, in which significant proportions of staff are career and non-career, to evolve. However, the best solution is to retain the 5-year rule for all, allowing for third tours of duty at the director's discretion.

A study of the current system - i.e., 5-year rule with flexibility for up to 15% of staff receiving a third tour plus one additional year (or a potential total of 8.5 years) - should be conducted before exceptions are made permanent or congressionally mandated. PC needs to weigh the pros and cons. Advances in knowledgement management systems, flexibility to contract experienced former PC officers as consultants and trainers and the third tour option with cap represent a few ways that PC deals with the turnover created by the 5-year rule. On the other hand, it makes planning a career difficult and PC might be losing good candidates.

On a related matter, vast improvements in timely recruitment and advance commitment to CD and APCD candidates is both possible and very much needed. After 40+ years, candidates are still informed of hiring decisions with only a very short time (a month)before the tours of duty begin. Selected candidates must then quickly leave current jobs, arrange to move overseas, attend overseas staff training, etc. It's difficult to imagine why this process has not been improved, but I would venture to say that it's connected with term limits of politically appointed and staff leadership.

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