The Dissent Channel

Recognizing that our members are thoughtful professionals who may find themselves in honest disagreement with a policy matter or may want to share an alternative point of view, AFSA encourages Foreign Service employees to utilize the Dissent Channel in expressing constructive dissent. As defined under 2 FAM 072, the Dissent Channel “is a serious policy channel reserved only for consideration of responsible dissenting and alternative views on substantive foreign policy issues that cannot be communicated in a full and timely manner through regular operating channels and procedures.” It may not be used for conveying disagreement with non-policy matters such as personnel issues. The Dissent Channel is available to all regular or re-employed annuitant employees of the Department of State and USAID. Contractors of these agencies are not entitled to use the Dissent Channel. 

The Secretary's Policy Planning Staff (S/P) is responsible for management of the Dissent Channel. Upon receiving an incoming Dissent Channel message, S/P is tasked with distributing copies to the Secretary, the Deputy Secretary, the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, the Executive Secretary, and the Chair of the Secretary's Open Forum. If the author of the message is employed by an agency other than State (e.g., USAID), S/P will also distribute a copy of the message to the head of that agency. The S/P Director may also distribute the Dissent Channel message to other senior officials in the Department. The S/P Director is responsible for acknowledging receipt of a Dissent Channel message within two working days, and for providing a substantive reply normally within 30-60 working days. 

The FAM clearly mandates that those utilizing the Dissent Channel will not be subjected to reprisal, discipline action or unauthorized disclosure of its use. Any statement in an employee’s evaluation that alludes to or directly references use of the Dissent Channel is strictly prohibited. Anyone engaging in retaliation or divulging the source or content of dissent channel correspondence will be subject to discipline action. 

For more information about the Dissent Channel, please review 2 FAM 070.

In 2011, USAID announced the creation of its own dissent-type channel, called the “Direct Channel,” modeled after the State Department’s Dissent Channel. While the Dissent Channel is and always has been available to U.S. direct-hire USAID employees, the agency's employees now have the ability address their concerns directly to the Administrator. Unlike State’s Dissent Channel, which is open only to U.S. direct hires, the Direct Channel is open to all USAID employees, including Foreign Service nationals, third-country nationals and personal services contractors.