Talking Out


Talking Out is the Journal’s opinion discussion board, a spot for energetic dialogue of points affecting the U.S. International Service and American diplomacy. The views expressed are these of the creator; their publication right here doesn’t suggest endorsement by the American International Service Affiliation. Responses are welcome; ship them to

I’m not a “automobile man.” Whereas I benefit from the freedom of the open highway and admire the massive SUV that has adopted our household from submit to submit, courtesy of the federal authorities, it’s the “utility” of the SUV that’s key for me and, maybe, for a lot of others within the International Service. Though we’d actually take pleasure in our specific journey, we acknowledge that the hazards of abroad life are prone to convey scratches, dents, fender benders and undoubtedly a whole lot of onerous miles. One finest not develop into too connected.

But beneath present follow, overseas affairs companies are spending tens of millions of {dollars} annually delivery privately owned autos (POVs) around the globe for members of the International Service like me. I would favor to buy a car on arrival at submit however have chosen to not repeatedly as a result of it doesn’t make financial sense.

Merely put: The shortage of excellent details about the comparatively closed and fairly restricted markets for expat automobiles at most posts makes it troublesome to seek out the appropriate automobile at a good worth.

Relatively than danger it, many FS members select the default method of delivery a car to submit. This can lead to, to make use of my newest expertise, delivery a well-used car with an optimistic Kelly Blue E-book worth of $7,000 from Amman to Accra at a delivery value to the U.S. authorities of $2,400, not together with demurrage and in-country transport. This isn’t the financial determination I’d make if I had been footing the transport invoice myself.

By my tough estimate, the State Division spent greater than $21 million delivery POVs in 2018. Primarily based on information from the Transportation Administration Workplace, International Service members shipped greater than 4,500 POVs to and from abroad posts that 12 months. The prices are huge, and they don’t take into consideration the substantial in-house administrative and logistical work hours required to get all these autos from level A to level B.

One other Possibility

What if FS members got a alternative when planning a everlasting change of station (PCS): ship your car to submit at authorities expense, or obtain a POV stipend? That stipend might be used for the acquisition of a brand new automobile at submit, utilized towards public transport prices or used nonetheless you see match.

The stipend might be calculated as a flat fee relying on vacation spot (e.g., from continental U.S. [CONUS] to West Africa, one to Europe, one to South America) or as some portion of the quoted delivery value. Both method would end in substantial value financial savings for the federal government, and the elevated flexibility would cut back a few of the hassles related to the PCS course of.

On a sensible degree, everybody would profit from a extra formalized technique for gathering and sharing details about the native duty-free car market.

Including this allowance wouldn’t require any main regulatory modifications or legislative fixes. The Secretary of State already has the authority to pay bills associated to a PCS beneath 22 U.S.C. Part 4081. The stipend may develop into a part of the advantages bundle administered by the Workplace of Allowances. Just like the International Switch or House Service Switch Allowances, the POV election can be one other part of the SF-1190 to finish on the time of switch.

This new method would shift some burden to FS members to extra fastidiously take into account their choices on the new submit. On a sensible degree, everybody would profit from a extra formalized technique for gathering and sharing details about the native duty-free car market.

So usually, transitioning officers and specialists are guided solely by a handful of labeled advertisements within the submit publication and anecdotal chatter. The uncertainty this causes in the course of the already anxious PCS course of seemingly leads some to ship their car by default. Underneath the brand new stipend system, the final companies officer may work with the group liaison workplace coordinator to offer extra systematic information about native car gross sales.

By supporting and incentivizing International Service workers to make knowledgeable selections about shopping for or delivery POVs, it’s seemingly that the variety of autos shipped between posts or from submit to CONUS would lower considerably, whereas shipments from CONUS to submit would in all probability stay secure. Consequently, the availability of duty-free automobiles in the marketplace at posts would theoretically improve, seemingly decreasing asking costs or at the least offering a wider choice.

A few of us would nonetheless select to ship a automobile to submit however then promote it there, seemingly elevating the standard of obtainable POVs. As well as, sellers is likely to be extra keen to barter in the event that they knew their stipend may make up at the least a few of a shortfall in gross sales worth. Consumers would possibly equally be keen to extend a proposal, figuring out that the stipend will increase their buying energy.

Buy at submit will imply much less awkward time counting on sponsors, new mates and taxis on arrival at a brand new project whereas ready for a shipped car to (lastly!) meet up with us. Finally, there might be a treasure trove of delivery and market information from throughout the globe that would result in an fascinating case examine for any of our in a position economists.

Common POV Delivery Prices, 2018

(in U.S. {dollars}, together with ELSO storage costs however not demurrage or different native prices)

Supply: Division of State Transportation Administration Workplace

Further Advantages

This proposal would additionally assist FS members keep away from operating afoul of native legal guidelines and lesser-known division rules. For instance, some nations have restrictions on the age of POVs that may be imported into the nation, however there’s often no corresponding requirement that autos be shipped out of nation as they attain that threshold. Typically, POVs might be introduced into the nation and stay there within the expat market.

Equally, encouraging native shopping for would defend FS members from subsequent modifications in import necessities or restrictions, reminiscent of a current decree in Ghana assessing an import tax (probably borne by the worker) on POVs with an engine dimension higher than 2.9 liters.

The four-year substitute rule present in 14 FAM 615.4 would nonetheless apply, however solely to the precise cargo of a POV from the USA. So in case you obtain the stipend, you wouldn’t be permitted to ship a POV at authorities expense till 4 years had handed from any prior POV cargo from the USA, however you would obtain the stipend for one more PCS within the intervening 4 years.

Every International Service member would have the ability to select the most effective method for his or her scenario, with the stipend serving as a further incentive to purchase and promote regionally, thereby growing the dimensions of the native market.

Along with the comfort and price financial savings that may outcome from this method, one other vital good thing about this transformation can be to restrict the worldwide hurt attributable to sending so many automobiles on the excessive seas. The detrimental environmental influence of worldwide delivery is nicely documented, and the risk to our oceans is barely getting worse.

The outcome: fewer FS automobiles in transit, much less spent by the division on delivery annually, a smaller administrative burden and fewer detrimental influence on the atmosphere.

The Worldwide Maritime Group estimates that annual carbon dioxide emissions from delivery had been equal to 2.2 p.c of all world human-made emissions, and that fee is rising. By decreasing the variety of POVs shipped, the division can be slicing its carbon footprint and its contribution to ocean air pollution.

Furthermore, decreasing our reliance on the worldwide delivery business will cut back U.S. authorities participation in a sector that, based on weak populations advocate Caritas Internationalis, “is usually characterised by insufficient salaries, troublesome work circumstances, violation of human and labor rights, compelled labor and trafficking. A lot of individuals employed as seafarers … are weak and potential victims of trafficking.”

The advantages of this method appear fairly clear. If we had the choice of a POV stipend as a substitute of cargo, some portion of us would settle for the allowance. The outcome: fewer FS automobiles in transit, much less spent by the division on delivery annually, a smaller administrative burden on embassy workers all the way in which from expeditors to the warehouse employees to the motor pool to administration counselors, and fewer detrimental influence on the atmosphere.

In a time of diminishing budgets and local weather change, shouldn’t each effort be made to maximise scarce assets?

Warren Leishman is a USAID International Service officer serving because the supervisory resident authorized officer on the company’s regional mission in Accra (though presently teleworking from West Virginia). Earlier assignments embrace Jordan, Ethiopia and Washington, D.C. This text displays his private views and never essentially these of USAID or the Division of State.


Learn Extra…

  • “Reclaim Your Unclaimed Property,” by Lori Johnson, The International Service Journal, Might 19, 2019
  • “Going House: The best way to Purchase a Home for House Go away and R&R,” by Donna Gorman, The International Service Journal, June 2018
  • “My Authorized Battle with the World’s Worst Property Supervisor,” by Aaron Karnell, The International Service Journal, Might 2017