Monday, July 10, 2006

Bureaucratic Frustration

Posted in Foreign Service Life, Generalities at 8:06 pm by graceandpoise

Warning: venting follows.

You would think that an organization such as the State Department whose staff is constantly required to flit to and fro around the globe would have the travel thing down to a fine art. Unfortunately, this is very much not the case. Travel orders (the piece of paper that is the key to accomplishing absolutely everything else) are apparently among the most difficult commodities to come by in the Foreign Service. Among the list of things travel orders are essential to doing: purchasing plane tickets, packing one’s possessions for the move, applying for a visa to the country one is moving to, proving to the mobile phone company (or the landlord or any number of other entities) that the government really is sending you to a foreign country. Really, nothing gets done without that piece of paper.

Ostensibly, one should be in possession of travel orders at least 45 days before planning to get on a plane. At least that’s what the regulations say. In actual practice, I am sitting here with less than 20 days left before I am on a plane and I am without travel orders and without a way to get them anytime soon. As it turns out, the computer system is currently down for a scheduled upgrade until the 19th (exactly one week before people are supposed to come and pack away all of my stuff).

As maddening as this is, there are stop-gap measures for some of the things that need travel orders to get accomplished. For example, I have been able to make travel reservations, just not to buy the tickets. I’ve arranged the date for the people to come and pack out my stuff, but they’ll be unable to go through with it unless they see my travel orders at least five days in advance of the date in question. And today, I talked the person who is supposed to be generating my travel orders into filling out a different form for me so that I could apply for my visa to Korea (another thing I was supposed to have done 45 days before departure).

I’m still stressed about it, though, and I’ll probably be in the travel orders office on the 19th or 20th (whenever their computers come back on-line), hovering and annoying them until I get that piece of paper. If I do not receive my travel orders on or before the 20th, all of the arrangements I have made could very well be thrown completely off and my departure may have to be delayed. Not an exciting prospect at all.


  1. KG said,

    I can think of at least one person who would not only not be upset if your departure was delayed, but would also consider it rather ironic.

    That said, don’t consider hovering being annoying. Generating orders is not particularly difficult, but it takes a certain amount of persistence. In a normal context, that might be annoying. In this one? Crucial.

  2. Laurie said,

    stay positive & i’m sure everything will work out 🙂

  3. Dina said,

    Uh, we are still waiting on medical clearances for my daughter, so that we can get travel orders so that the movers, who are scheduled to come in TWO DAYS can move us. Big fun.

  4. Shawn said,

    You can try the back door and see if someone in transportation can get them for you. That’s what I had to do for my initial orders since my travel tech never once returned a call.

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