AFSA convened six working groups to discuss and draft thought papers and recommendations to submit at the outset of this second QDDR process. Our hope is that the QDDR office will use them as inputs to inform and shape the process as it moves forward, both at State and at USAID. The working groups each consisted of retired and active duty Foreign Service officers and specialists who spent considerable time, effort and commitment. The AFSA Governing Board has approved them not as prescriptive policy documents, but rather as ideas to consider during the process.
In addition to submitting these papers at the outset of the QDDR process, AFSA hopes to be involved throughout the process, which appears to be considerably more open and transparent than it was four years ago. The goal, we hope, will be to achieve a series of concrete, achievable improvements to our foreign policy apparatus.
The thought papers cover the following topics and include the following key institutional recommendations:
- Security: AFSA supports the Vital Presence Validation Process, and asks that AFSA be included in the process as an independent voice that represents the rank and file. Foreign Service employees assigned overseas should be empowered to take fully informed security decisions and be able to engage with their local counterparts.
- Technology: It is time to fundamentally rethink our platforms, people and focus on IT personnel as enablers and multipliers and not just as the “computer, pouch, or radio” people.
- Career Paths at State and USAID: Given the historic hiring surges (DRI and D3.0), the State Department needs to re-examine the career prospects, trajectories, and expectations for entry- and mid-level personnel who now constitute the majority of the Foreign Service. USAID’s Development Leadership Initiative (DLI) brought on approximately 800 new FSOs in an attempt to rectify the effects of the hiring freeze of the 1990s. Both continued attrition hiring and strong retention initiatives are needed.
- Public Diplomacy: Career PD officers should serve in DAS positions. The Under Secretary ideally should have extensive prior government experience in order to integrate public diplomacy across the various agencies. Ambassadors at posts, together with their PAOs and country teams, must be empowered to make PD-related decisions.
- Economic Prosperity and Development: Economic and development policy should be used to advance other foreign policy goals; economic policy must be an integral part of policy decision making in all bureaus; and organization of the “E” family should be further improved. State economic and USAID officers should have career tracks that allow them to progress to senior leadership positions in Washington and abroad.
- Special Envoys: AFSA believes the number of envoys should be pared down considerably. We offer four categories: those few who should remain; those who should be moved into the bureaus; those who already work within bureaus and should remain there; and those whose positions should be eliminated and their work folded back into the bureaus and missions abroad.
- Professional Education: The AFSA Committee on the Foreign Service Profession and Ethics (PEC) prepared a seventh QDDR thought paper focused on the profession and training of the Foreign Service. The Governing Board approved this document not as a prescriptive policy document, but rather as ideas to consider during the QDDR process.