Monday, February 10, 2014

First Day of Orientation

From Defense to State

There's a noticeable difference between going to work at the Pentagon and arriving at the Harry S Truman (HST) building (formerly called Main State).  The sizes of the Departments of Defense and State just aren't on the same scale. I was curious about the actual numbers so naturally I looked them up on Wikipedia. I was just going to write a little bit about my in-processing day but... squirrel!

The Pentagon (photo Wikipedia)

I used to ride the metro to the Pentagon using its dedicated metro station. Other people arrived at the bus transfer hub, acres of parking, or slug lines. I'd arrive in a sea of 28,000 people (plus 3,000 non-defense support) herded like cattle through security into the 6.5 million sq ft building. It's a huge crowded headquarters. There's also many more lower level headquarters around the world needed to manage a whopping 3.2 million servicemembers (including National Guard) and civilians. According to this BBC News article, the DoD is the world's largest employer ahead of China's Army, Wal-Mart, and McDonald's. The article says China's Army may be a bigger employer if the size of their civilian staff was known. Regardless, my new employer isn't even in the same league since it's #12 in size of the executive branch departments.

Harry S Truman Building (photo Wikipedia)

My arrival today at HST was by way of the Foggy Bottom metro station. It's not too far away but it's definitely not there for the sole purpose of serving the State Department. Foggy Bottom metro is actually surrounded by George Washington University. The HST building is about 1.5 million sq ft with 8,000 employees. It's still a big headquarters but it's obviously not as massive as the Pentagon. State's website says there are 9,000 civil service and 12,000 foreign service (like me) personnel in the entire department. We'd all fit very easily in the Pentagon with lots of room to spare. State also employs 37,000 foreign service nationals (non-US support personnel) but even adding them in is just a drop in the bucket compared to the 3.2M people working under the DoD.


I only need to metro to HST a few times since the bulk of our orientation and training is at the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington VA. There really isn't much to say about the in-processing day itself because it's similar to previous government employee in-processing I've done. We recited the oath of office, filled out new employee paperwork, got our IDs, and received a variety of new hire briefings. It was very professional and well structured throughout the day. It's definitely nothing to be nervous about if you've never worked in a government job. Everyone seemed to be happy and friendly so the vibe on the first day was a good one. :-)

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