The best Government Job Source

International Cooperation Specialists

Significant Points

This series includes all classes of positions the duties of which are to advise on, administer, supervise, or perform research and operational work in the planning, development, and implementation of foreign economic assistance programs undertaken by the United States. These duties require a knowledge of economic, social, cultural, and political conditions in the country of assignment and of United States foreign policy.



Under the Mutual Security Program, the United States undertakes to promote world peace and its own security by the development of economic, political, and military strength among friendly nations. The Mutual Security program is an integral part of the foreign policy of the United States; as such the formulation and coordination of broad policies for this program are a function of the State Department. The agency which administers the Mutual Security Program is responsible for implementing these policies and objectives through the formulation, development and administration of technical cooperation, and economic assistance programs.

These programs are undertaken on the basis of formal agreements and arrangements with the governments concerned. The agreements cover mutual commitments as to the kinds of aid and assistance to be provided by the United States, and the nature and extent of the host country's participation.

The agency administering the Mutual Security Program establishes missions within the host country. These missions, which include technically trained personnel, plan and formulate the assistance program in conjunction with officials of the host country, subject to approval by headquarters, and conduct operations for the effective execution of the program.

For each mission operating in a host country there is established at headquarters a desk officer position which is the operating link between the overseas mission, the technical and operating divisions of the parent agency, other government agencies, national and international financing and service agencies, the host country embassy, etc.


Annual guidelines are issued to each overseas mission. These include (1) guidance on such matters as the basic assumptions on world conditions, policy and objectives, on the nature, form, size, and execution of the assistance program etc., and (2) procedural instructions on format, time schedule, etc. for annual submittal of programs for each country.

On the basis of these guides, a mission prepares its program proposals for the coming year.

These proposals are reviewed, modified, and approved by the headquarters agency and other interested agencies. The modifications are sent back to the mission which then prepares a detailed budget submission. Program adjustments are made, as called for by the President's budget, new developments, changes in policy etc., and the Congressional presentation document is prepared.

The economic assistance programs are developed to accomplish specific objectives of the United States and of the free world which are based upon an analysis of their interests in the country involved. The program development process starts with the identification and precise statement of United States and free world country objectives; then the problems which must be solved in order to attain those objectives are defined and analyzed; and, finally, programs are developed to solve these problems and thereby to make possible the attainment of such objectives. The total program, however, must also go beyond this point; the aid level proposed must take into account other country-wide factors; such as the aggregate demand for resources of these and other activities in relation to the resources from all sources which, it is anticipated, will be available to the country. Other factors taken into consideration in planning aid programs are: limited resources, political considerations, ability of the host country eventually to take over and operate the facilities and institutions to be created, etc.


The desk officer (who is referred to in the grade level distinctions as International Cooperation Officer) serves as the operating contact point between the overseas mission and the headquarters agency, and, through the headquarters agency, with all other interested United States foreign and international technical and finance agencies, and foundations. Utilizing the technical services available to him, he is the focal point through which all of these resources are brought to bear upon his country of assignment. At the same time he is the means through which the plans, objectives, and problems of the mission are made known to the headquarters agency.

The desk officer participates in the development of the basic policies and guides which are furnished to the mission for developing its project proposals. He reviews and analyzes the mission proposals and formulates and recommends programs and projects that encompass the total mutual security program for the country. This requires examination of the total country program from the point of view of (1) its applicability to critical sectors of the country's economy, (2) program balance, (3) ability of the United States to provide effective assistance in the particular country, (4) absorptive capacity of the country's economy, and (5) the accuracy and reasonableness of cost estimates. He collaborates with all other interested Government agencies at each major step in the program process to make certain that the country program will be consistent with United States foreign policy objectives. He may participate in the negotiation of agreements for the conduct of programs in the country.

He recommends approval of the proposals submitted by the mission as revised and is responsible for justifying them to other segments of the headquarters agency. In all of the activities described above, he works closely with the United States Operations Mission in the country.

The desk officer is responsible for the continuing review and evaluation of the country programs in relation to their effectiveness in (1) supporting United States and free world policies and objectives and (2) in meeting the needs and requirements of the country. He accomplishes this through review of progress reports, statistical data, and material emanating from the mission or from other sources within the country, through discussion with mission personnel called in for consultation in Washington, and through official trips to the mission for purposes of consultation, inspection and review. He provides advice and assistance to the mission director in problems of internal mission management, staffing, and operations, and assures that the mission is receiving adequate management support from the appropriate headquarters offices.

The desk officer also reviews and evaluates reports of special program reviews conducted by Congressional groups, agency evaluation teams, the General Accounting Office etc., drafts responses, and recommends and follows up on appropriate corrective action to strengthen operations or staffing, change program emphasis, etc.

International Cooperation Officer Specialist GS-0136-13

A typical assignment for an International Cooperation Officer at this level is to serve as desk officer for a country which may be characterized in the following manner.

1. The Characteristics of the Country's Program for Economic Development

The country program is designed for long-range economic development and growth. There is a technical cooperation program in a majority of technical fields. The specific projects undertaken, considered as a whole, affect the major facets of the country's economy. At this level there may also be found limited defense support and other economic assistance programs which do not affect the work of the desk officer to the extent described at the GS-14 level.

The desk officer utilizes a familiarity with the total economic situation and prospects of the country in formulating and analyzing the technical cooperation projects and in evaluating their progress. He considers the impact of each specific project on the economic plan for the country as a whole and on the basis of its degree of success calls to the attention of the Mission Director the adjustments to be made in other projects, and the establishment of additional projects. The desk officer's judgments and recommendations in this regard have a significant effect on the economic development and progress of the country and the well-being of its people.

Characteristically the technical cooperation program is not complicated by the presence of defense support or other economic assistance programs as defined in the introduction.

2. Political, Economic, or Military Importance of the Country

Countries at this level are typically not generally recognized as leaders in their geographic region. The country may be a source of strategic raw materials or provide military bases for the United States, but the effect of its withdrawal from the mutual security system would be limited to its neighboring countries. The consequences of the judgments and recommendations of the International Cooperation Officer GS-13, are therefore usually not felt to any great degree beyond the country's own borders.

3. Internal Political Situation of the Country

While the country may have a politically unstable government which creates difficult problems in negotiating agreements from a long-range point of view, it has shown its ability to resist economic pressures from other nations that would be detrimental to the objectives of the United States and the free world.

International Cooperation Officer Specialist GS-0136-14

A typical assignment for an International Cooperation Officer at this level is to serve as desk officer for a country which may be characterized in the following manner.

1. The Characteristics of the Country's Program for Economic Development

Because the economic growth and development of the country are adversely affected (1) by the abnormal strain on the country's resources of a large defense establishment or (2) by the presence of a severe economic crisis such as inflation, lack of a stabilized currency, a fall in prices for the country's major exports, etc., the country receives in addition to technical cooperation defense support or other economic aid.

The presence of defense support or other economic aid programs affects the work of the desk officer in reviewing, formulating, and evaluating the country's total assistance programs. These aid programs require desk officers to have contacts and negotiations with either defense officials or representatives of international or United States fiscal agencies in order to take into consideration in determining the types and levels of United States assistance required, (1) the proposed programs of these other agencies, (2) the effects such programs might have upon the total economic development of the country, and (3) the country's ability to obtain other public or private financial assistance.

2. Political, Economic, or Military Importance of the Country

Countries at this level are typically among the political leaders in their parts of the world and have a strong influence upon their neighbors. The country may be an important foreign market of the United States or a major supplier of strategic raw materials. It may be such a factor in the mutual security system that a major change in its foreign policy would necessitate a radical revision of United States defense strategy. Consequently the judgments and recommendations of the International Cooperation Officer GS-14 not only affect the economy of the country itself, the mission programs and the military plans of the United States, but have significant repercussions on its neighboring countries.

3. Internal Political Situation of the Country

In addition to an unstable government characteristic of the next lower level, the country may also have strong political groups suspicious of the intentions of the United States and opposed to their country's accepting assistance from the United States.

In reviewing, formulating, and evaluating projects proposed by the mission for the optimum economic growth and development of the country, the International Cooperation Officer GS-14 must consider not only the economic factors governing these plans, as at the GS-13 level, but also such additional considerations as the degree to which projects must be delayed or postponed or different projects instituted in the light of the current views, influence, etc., of these groups.

In some instances, the country may also be accepting assistance from other countries with objectives differing from those of the United States. In these instances, in addition to purely economic considerations, the desk officer must consider the effect upon important groups within the country of projects proposed to be undertaken with United States support compared to those undertaken with support of countries with different aims and objectives.

International Cooperation Officer Specialist GS-0136-15

The level of work of the International Cooperation Officer GS-15 is characterized by assignment to a country of outstanding importance to the Mutual Security Program. Usually such a country's economic development is affected by (1) a heavy military drain on the economy and (2) economic or fiscal problems such as inflation, unstable currency, a fall in world market prices of the country's major exports, extensive war damage, a large refugee population, etc.

The country may be characterized as follows:

1. The Characteristics of the Country's Program for Economic Development

Countries at this level differ from those described at GS-14 in that typically their program for economic development is impeded by heavy military drains on the economy, and in addition serious economic or fiscal problems. Consequently they receive both defense support and other types of assistance such as grants, loans, or other economic aid. Presence in the country program of this combination of problems requires the International Cooperation Officer GS-15, to consider in his formulation, review and evaluation of mission proposals and operations of the interrelationships of the various types of assistance programs proposed and their joint impact upon the total economic development of the country.

When this combination of problems exists it is usually indicative of an extremely grave situation for the country's economy with consequent impact upon the interests of the United States and the free world. Therefore the contacts and discussions of the international cooperation officer with defense activities and with fiscal and lending agencies are increased and his judgments and recommendations may have a more serious effect upon the country's economic development and United States policies than those of the International Cooperation Officer GS-14.

Some countries at this level may not have a defense support component in their economic development program. In these cases, the severe fiscal and economic problems affecting the country create difficulties for the International Cooperation Officer equivalent to those created by a combination of defense support and other economic problems, as described earlier at this level.

In addition, some International Cooperation Officers may be assigned to countries whose world-wide importance, economic needs, development potential, and strategic importance are of such great magnitude that they create difficulties and complexities for the International Cooperation Officer which are equivalent to those described at this level.

2. Political, Economic, or Military Importance of the Country

The position of the country in relation to either the military or political aspects of the mutual security system is such that reorientation of its foreign policy away from the free world would almost certainly serve as a stimulus to several other nations to reappraise their own policies. As a consequence the judgments and recommendations of the International Cooperation Officer GS-15 affect not only the country and its neighbors but also many other leading nations of the world.

In many instances the country may be in constant danger of direct aggression or subversion from countries which are not sympathetic to the aims and objectives of the free world.

Because of the country's world status there is considerable widespread public, and Congressional, and official interest in the economic assistance program. Consequently, the International Cooperation Officer GS-15 must be especially sensitive to public reaction to the program; he is frequently called upon to prepare justifications, analyses, or reports on the program because of the unusual and widespread interest.

3. Internal Political Situation of the Country

Generally speaking at this level the internal political situation of the country and the problems arising from it are similar to those described at the GS-14 level, and, in themselves, are not sufficient to warrant classification to GS-15.

Typical Qualifications
  • At least a Master’s degree in International Development, Finance, Strategy, Business Management, Economics, or related disciplines;
  • Minimum seven (7) years of highly relevant professional experiences in partnerships management or resource mobilization internationally and in Africa;
  • Professional ability to build partnerships related to resource mobilization and co-financing to facilitate investment in sectors such as infrastructure in Africa;
  • Knowledge of operational policies, procedures and practices of major bilateral and multilateral development finance institutions and private sector financial institutions;
  • Track record in negotiating partnerships arrangements of complex nature with potential partner institutions and convening high-level roundtables and workshops;
  • Strong and proven ability to build and lead strategic initiatives and business development opportunities;
  • Innovative ability to identify and forge creative partnerships given the dynamic nature of Bank’s operations;
  • Strong and proven ability to communicate with senior management and functional teams of partner organizations;
  • Excellent writing and verbal communications skills in English and/or French with a working knowledge of the other;
  • Competence in the use of Bank standard software (World, Excel, PowerPoint and SAP). 
Sources of Additional Information


Individuals with a great deal of professional work experience, as well as exotic, hard-to-find international skills, are well advised to contact international executive search firms. Also known as headhunters, these firms tend to specialize in particular occupational areas. They work for employers who hire and/or retain them to find employees to fill particular positions. Many of the job openings available through executive search firms are never advertised in print or electronic media. The most comprehensive directories of such firms are published annually by Kennedy Communications:

Directory of Executive Search Firms
Kennedy’s International Directory of Executive Recruiters

Since most of these firms regularly collect résumés for their databases, you should contact several of these firms by sending a résumé and letter indicating your international interests, skills, and experience.

Several executive search firms also maintain websites. Other websites are designed for recruiting executive-level talent, especially individuals expecting to earn in excess of $100,000 a year. With offices or affiliates worldwide, many of these firms function as international recruiters, headhunters, and professional staffing firms. The two large international executive recruiters, with dozens of offices worldwide and with annual revenues of over $500 million each, are Korn/Ferry International ( and Heidrick & Struggles (

See also:


Information on obtaining International Cooperation Specialists positions with the Federal Government is available from the Office of Personnel Management through USAJOBS, the Federal Government's official employment information system. This resource for locating and applying for job opportunities can be accessed through the Internet at or through an interactive voice response telephone system at (703) 724–1850 or  (703) 724–1850  or TDD (978) 461–8404 and   (978) 461–8404. These numbers are not toll free, and charges may result. For advice on how to find and apply for Federal jobs, download the Insider's Guide to the Federal Hiring Process” online here.


  • Office of Personnel Management, Position Classification Standards.

Download Today!

Do Your Homework

The competition is fierce when it comes to finding a government job today, but the best informed job seekers are sure to come out on top. Insider's Guide to the Federal Hiring Process, shows you step-by-step what you need to do in order to be considered for government employment.


We are here to help you and answer your questions.