U.S. Government Jobs in Post-Conflict Stabilization, State-Building, Humanitarian Aid, and Development
Here are a set of links to various USG departments and agencies you can join if you want a career (or at least part-time gigs) in war zones or developing nations carrying out diplomacy, defense, and development related activities.
U.S. Agency for International Development
USAID is the premier USG agency charged with disaster response and international development. It’s tied with the U.S. military when it comes to post-conflict stabilization since so much of the “war after the war” is handled by troops on the ground. Click here for descriptions of the various career tracks and employment opportunities being offered. You can also click on these links for the currently available Civil Service (DC-based) positions, and both Junior Officer and Mid-Level career opportunities with the Foreign Service. USAID is also offering a couple Foreign Service Limited (temporary) appointments to send General Development Officers to Afghanistan, which you can find here.
If you have grad degree, you may want to consider the relatively recent Development Leadership Initiative. It’s a program that seeks to add 600 new Foreign Service officers to the agency by 2010. In the 1990s USAID was in many ways hollowed out and ended up more or less becoming a contracting agency that outsourced its work to NGOs and for profits that make up Development, Inc. DLI seeks to correct this, but the clock is ticking for those of you who want to get in while jobs are plentiful (relatively speaking).
Finally, there’s the Personnel Service Contracts. These are employment contracts between individuals and USAID and are used throughout the globe. You can choose a country where there is an AID mission and I’ve met some PSCs who are the entire AID mission, reporting to a regional office in another country. Click here for the FedBizOpps site that lists all the opportunities.
By which I mean the real military, such as the Army and Marine Corps. The Navy and the Air Force do good work, no doubt, but when it comes to post-conflict stabilization and state-building missions, their assistance falls mostly under logistical and other support services. This is not to say they aren’t on the ground at all, it’s just that for these two branches their primary missions involve air and sea dominance, and since humans don’t live in either of these places, most of the work is done by Soldiers and Marines.
If you really want to interact with the locals the best branch (as far as the Army is concerned) is Civil Affairs. You can join the CA branch immediately as an enlisted soldier, but as an officer you have to spend a few years in one of the basic branches. I recommend the Infantry, followed by Armor, since you’ll get to interface with the population a lot more than in a branch like Quartermaster or Adjutant General. If you’re female, the Military Police or Engineers are the best choices since being in the first two aren't options, and because MPs and Engineers do have a large number of responsibilities outside the wire. Click on the links to find the recruitment pages of the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps.
Department of State
Despite what many people claim or think, DOS is not really in the business of post-conflict stabilization or state-building.
As with USAID, there are several different ways to join. Your two main options are as a Foreign Service officer, or by joining the Civil Service, though there’ are other ways which you can read up more on at the DOS Career’s page. You can also take a non-career appointment as a direct hire, which has positions in the U.S. and abroad.
If you join the Foreign Service you’re going to spend your first few years sitting at a window processing visa apps and performing other consular services, which is a gate through which all FSOs must past. After that, depending on your “cone” (career field), you’ll be engaging in a variety of work overseas, including analysis (cables are the bread and butter of the Foreign Service) and “public diplomacy” activities to increase America favorability rating.
If you join DOS’s Civil Service, there’s a wide range of things you can do that are similar to what FSOs do overseas, but you be doing so domestically, and you’ll be avoiding the visa work. The main problem though is that you’ll be somewhat of a second-class citizen . . . DOS prioritizes the work and careers of FSOs over those in the Civil Service, and poor leadership and management skills help exacerbate the problem. The benefit is you get to remain in the U.S. and can spend your entire career in one location, and if you’re DC-based, can likely network your way up.
For immediate openings in Iraq and Afghanistan, (what’s known as 3161 positions, after the legislation authorizing the practice), you can go to USAJOBS and do a query by location. You can also just click here for Iraq, and here for Afghanistan.
The Peace Corps
If you’re young, joining the Peace Corps as a volunteer is a great way to get some local level development experience that you can leverage into a career appointment with State or USAID, or to get a job with non-governmental organization. You don’t even need a college degree . . . just be 18 and a U.S. citizen. You can even be a retiree. Joining the Peace Corps has some other benefits . . . you get free foreign language study and the opportunity to use it in your duty location, and there are also student loan repayment programs.
Being a Peace Corps volunteer isn’t necessarily easy, however. You’ll often be the only American in your village or town, and will be living amongst the people, which mean you’ll likely have the same quality of life standards. This isn’t a bad thing as it will help you bond with those you’re helping and better understand their needs (and appreciate how lucky one is to live in the U.S.). It also means you’ll have the sort of cultural immersion experiences few Western expats ever get to have. Click here for the how to apply and become a volunteer.
USDA Foreign Service
Until I started working for the Department of State, there was one facet of the U.S. government that I never even knew existed: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service.
Their mission is to “improve foreign market access for U.S. products, build new markets, improve the competitive position of U.S. agriculture in the global marketplace, and provide food aid and technical assistance to foreign countries.”
Right now there are USDA FAS personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan helping to assess agricultural needs and advise on projects to support agricultural reconstruction, as well as build the capacity of local agricultural officials to develop and implement agricultural extension and development programs. Since both countries have populations that rely to a large extent on subsistence farming and are capable of growing crops but don’t export them due to cost concerns, the work they’re doing is incredibly important.
The FBI, Homeland Security, or CIA
All these agencies have personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan and they are all intelligence focused. You’re not going to be doing humanitarian or traditional development work though you may engage in state-building via Security Sector Reform (SSR), which includes training and providing advisory support to local institutional leaders. For the most part though, you’ll be handling assets, conducting investigations, and analyzing information.
That’s all I have. I’ll be doing more jobs posts this week and next. If anyone reading thinks I’m forgetting any opportunties, go ahead and let me know in the comments section.