Table of Contents Table of Contents
Previous Page  64 / 104 Next Page
Basic version Information
Show Menu
Previous Page 64 / 104 Next Page
Page Background

64

JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2016

|

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

My initial columns discussed

both the retail and wholesale

dimensions of my respon-

sibilities, namely, assisting

individuals facing the com-

plexities of the retirement

system and defending our

statutory retirement benefits

in an economy fraught with

fiscal problems.

I call the third and final

dimension “existential.” I

chose this dramatic word

purposefully. I believe that the

very existence of an indepen-

dent Foreign Service based

on the merit principles of the

Foreign Service Act of 1980 is

threatened by current trends

in the management of the

State Department and the

Foreign Service.

The threats to the For-

eign Service as an institu-

tion and to the quality of

American diplomacy have

been thoroughly discussed

in the American Academy of

Diplomacy’s report “American

Diplomacy at Risk,” published

in April 2015 after two years

of research and analysis

(available at www.academy ofdipomacy.org).

Saving the Foreign Service

RETIREE VP VOICE

| BY TOM BOYATT AFSA NEWS

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

Contact:

boyatt@afsa.org

| (202) 338-4045

Politicization of the policy

and appointments processes,

multiplication of the Secre-

tary’s special representatives

(there are more than 60 at

last count), efforts to homog-

enize the Foreign Service and

Civil Service, and the depart-

ment’s apparent goal of nulli-

fication of the Foreign Service

Act (or “breaking down the

legal barriers between the

Foreign Service and Civil

Service,” in the department’s

phraseology) are all ongoing

challenges.

To understand how far

the process of marginaliz-

ing the Foreign Service has

progressed, you need only

contrast the situation in the

mid-1970s leading up to the

drafting and passage of the

Foreign Service Act of 1980

with today.

Then, only one of the

regional assistant secretar-

ies was a political appointee

and all deputies were career

officers. Ninety-nine percent

of the officer-level positions

in the regional bureaus were

FSOs, as were more than

50 percent of the functional

bureau positions. There were

perhaps two special represen-

tatives or ambassadors-at-

large.

Today, political appointees

at the assistant-secretary

level and above outnumber

career officers, and political

deputy assistant secretar-

ies approach 30 percent.

Meanwhile, the Civil Service

occupies 40 percent of the

officer-level positions in the

regional bureaus and more

than 80 percent in the func-

tional bureaus. The Foreign

Service cannot survive these

trends indefinitely.

The AAD made some 23

recommendations for reform

in its report, and these are

being discussed with the

department. AFSA, of course,

is in constant discussion,

consultation and negotiation

with management on a variety

of matters that impinge on the

future of the Foreign Service.

Our Governing Board is

committed to “a stronger For-

eign Service.”We are commit-

ted to building such a Service

through comprehensive

workforce planning based on

transparent data and signifi-

cant input from the people of

the Foreign Service through

AFSA as we engage manage-

ment on these vital issues.

Recently, there have been

some positive “straws in the

wind.”The department was

misusing the Schedule B hir-

ing authorities delegated by

the Office of Management and

Budget to employ those with

political and personal connec-

tions rather than experts. The

AAD report made this practice

public, and the previous AFSA

Governing Board and ours

took strong positions in the

matter. The department is

moving to rectify the situation.

In a similar vein, the

department has suspended

its program to convert mid-

level Civil Service personnel

to Foreign Service officers at a

time when the “pig” in the pro-

motion “python” is composed

of currently serving mid-level

Foreign Service officers.

The challenges facing the

Foreign Service have accu-

mulated over time, and it will

take time and determination

to resolve them. The threats

to the Foreign Service and

the Foreign Service Act are

now recognized and have

been brought into the public

domain. The rest is up to us—

all of us working together.

n

LAST CHANCE TO NOMI NATE SOMEONE FOR

A S I NCLA I RE LANGUAGE AWARD

Attention all language training supervisors, instructors and post language officers!

The American Foreign Service Association is still accepting nominations for the 2015 Matilda W. Sinclaire Lan-

guage Awards. These awards recognize foreign affairs agency personnel who have distinguished themselves in the

study of Category III or IV languages and their associated cultures. The deadline to nominate students for outstand-

ing study in 2015 is Jan. 15.

Visit

www.afsa.org/guidelines-sinclaire-award

or contact Foreign Service Profession Awards Coordinator Perri

Green at

green@afsa.org

for more information.

n

NEWS BRIEF