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The Foreign Commercial Service

promotes, on average, roughly 15 percent

of its officer corps each year.

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

|

JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2016

63

Back by Popular Demand: Promotions and Flow-Through

I am often asked “What’s

happening with promotions?”

or “Why aren’t there more

promotions at the X, Y or Z

level?” It’s true we’ve made

progress lately at the FS-1

level and above, but what

does the future hold for those

on the cusp of being (or striv-

ing to be) promoted to these

levels?

Let’s look at the numbers.

The Foreign Commercial

Service promotes, on aver-

age, roughly 15 percent of

its officer corps each year.

Promotion numbers vary

depending on: (a) the num-

ber of officers eligible and

recommended for promotion,

(b) the number of officers

already at any given pay level

and (c) the amount of time

officers have (Time-in-Class)

while waiting to be promoted

or retire.

One not-so-obvious factor

is the budget. Management

will tell you money doesn’t

matter, but this defies logic.

What sense would it make to

continue to promote heavily

if one knew that the organiza-

tion had to downsize?

Conversely, what if the

nation, Congress or White

House woke up one day and

suddenly decided to double

the size of the Commercial

Service—as has been sug-

gested? It simply wouldn’t

make sense to hire only

FS-4s and not continuously

promote leaders to help lead

such a workforce.

Now consider the fact

that, thanks in part to AFSA,

FCS has recently been on the

receiving end of two large

operating budget increases:

$15 million in fiscal year 2013

and $16 million in fiscal year

2014. Although it took a while

(two years, in fact), manage-

ment has begun to trans-

late that good fortune into

promotions (e.g., a sixfold

increase into and beyond

the FS-1 level and a 30-per-

cent increase in promotions

overall).

If that is not enough to

give you comfort, note that—

based strictly on officer age—

retirements are expected to

double in the 2018–2020

timeframe, compared to the

preceding three years, thus

creating more promotion

opportunities.

In this context, we must

keep in mind two things.

First, there is a need to

“smooth out” the promotion

process so there is room to

advance those who’ve done

an amazing job but who only

recently became eligible for

promotion. No bulges or dry

spells, in other words; and

people get promoted when

they “earn” it.

Second, we need to

ensure against undue politi-

cal influence that manifests

in management dipping way

down the promotion list to

advance a favorite or some-

one who has impressed only

one or two individuals ahead

of others at grade who are

higher-ranked.

Granted, newly eligible

officers can “reside” at their

pay level for a number of

years. Try telling that, how-

ever, to the officer who just

blew the doors off the win

record for her or his office

and hosted a record number

of successful trade missions

the year before, or to the per-

son who is transferring out

of some highly promotable

assignment to something

that is more work-life or fam-

ily friendly for the next three

to four years.

Thankfully, I can report

that the Office of Foreign Ser-

vice Human Capital and man-

agement have so far handled

the situation carefully.

Please know that AFSA

has your back, is closely

monitoring this issue for

any development that could

result in problems down the

line, and has and will con-

tinue to work for increased

and equitable promotions at

all levels always.

n

Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA FCS VP.

Contact:

steve.morrison@trade.gov

or (202) 482-9088

FCS VP VOICE

| BY STEVE MORRISON

AFSA NEWS

ANNUAL H I GH SCHOOL ESSAY CONTEST NOW ACCEPT I NG ENTR I ES

The American Foreign Service Association’s 2016 National High School Essay Contest is now accepting entries.

All students who are U.S. citizens and whose parents are

not

in the Foreign Service are eligible to participate if

they are in grades nine through 12. The winner will receive $2,500, a trip to Washington, D.C., to meet the Secretary of

State and tour the U.S. Institute of Peace, and a full-tuition scholarship for a Semester at Sea voyage. The runner-up

will win a full scholarship to participate in the International Diplomacy program of the National Student Leadership

Conference.

The deadline for entry is 11:59 p.m. EST on March 15. Details and essay topic can be found at www.afsa.org/ essaycontest. n

NEWS BRIEF