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O
n Friday, Nov. 4, members of the
AFSA Governing Board, along
with AFSA professional staff,
met with representatives of 11 foreign
affairs agency affinity groups. This first-
of-its-kind meeting was a result of the
Governing Board’s determination to in-
crease outreach to these groups and en-
gage their members on a more sus-
tained basis. AFSA hopes that regular
meetings will follow in the future.
The 11 groups represented at the
meeting were: Asian-Americans in For-
eign Affairs Agencies, the Hispanic Em-
ployees Council of ForeignAffairs Agen-
cies, Veterans at USAID, the Disability
Action Group, the Southeast Asian-
American Employees Association, the
Thursday Luncheon Group, USAID
Young Professionals, Executive Women
at State, USAID Blacks in Government,
the Carl T. Rowan chapter of Blacks in
Government andUSAID’sAmerican In-
dian andAlaska Natives group. Though
invited, the State andUSAID chapters of
Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs
Agencies and USAID’s Asian Pacific-
American Employees Committee were
unable to participate on that date.
AFSA President Susan R. Johnson
welcomed the attendees and expressed
her desire to make this a regular occur-
rence. The assembly then divided into
smaller discussion groups, each headed
by a member of the AFSA Governing
Board. The goal was to identify common
concerns among the groups and where
AFSA could add its voice and advocacy.
A number of common themes emer-
ged. Problems having to do with re-
cruitment, retention, career guidance
and mentorship, and reliable diversity
statistics were at the top of the list. The
need to find ways to strengthen the Of-
fice of Civil Rights and its counterpart
across the foreign affairs agencies was
also highlighted.
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F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 2
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V.P. VOICE:
USAID
BY FRANCISCO ZAMORA
Dissent: USAID’s
New Direct Channel
O
n Nov. 7, 2011, the U. S. Agency for International Development’s adminis-
trator announced the creation of our very own dissent-type channel, called
the “Direct Channel,”modeled after the State Department’s Dissent Chan-
nel. While the Dissent Channel is and always has been available to U.S. direct-hire
USAID employees, we now have the to ability address our concerns directly to our
administrator. And, unlike State’s Dissent Channel, which is open only to U.S. di-
rect hires, the Direct Channel is open to all
USAID employees, including Foreign Serv-
ice nationals, third-country nationals and
personal services contractors.
This event signals an increased willing-
ness and openness to hear opinions, input
and, I dare say, constructive criticism, from
USAID employees. The extent to which we
will benefit from this new development is
up to us. But first, let’s take a closer look at
what this channel is and what it is not.
As with the State Dissent Channel, use of
the USAIDDirect Channel is limited to dis-
sent of a substantive nature; it is to be used
as a last resort. It is an opportunity to comment on our development programs
and to have our comments taken seriously. The intent of the Direct Channel is to
promote uncensored, open, creative and alternative opinions; ideas that merit
high-level attention, but fail to reach our top leadership.
The newDirect Channel is not an avenue for discussing issues for which an al-
ternative mechanism already exists. Personal complaints (including promotions
or assignments), crime, unethical behavior, security or management issues can
and should be handled by the Office of the Inspector General, the Office of Secu-
rity, the General Counsel or the Office of Human Resources, as appropriate.
For those who are worried about being labeled malcontents or troublemakers,
it is also important to note that (in addition to being assured that all comments will
be held in the strictest of confidence) safeguards have been developed to prevent
any reprisals or retaliation against employees. All submissions will be handled di-
rectly by the deputy administrator’s office, where they are forwarded to the ad-
ministrator. In line with the State Department’s Dissent Channel regulations,
USAID supervisors are prohibited from mistreating or negatively evaluating an
employee for using the Direct Channel.
We at AFSA welcome this development. The Direct Channel will test whether
or not the administration is serious about engaging in a discussion of sensitive
policy issues with USAID employees.
I can think of several topics that need high-level attention, such as consolida-
tion of administrative services and the difficulties we face in implementing USAID
Forward Reforms. I am sure there is no end to the issues, suggestions and im-
provements USAID employees will raise using this process. I hope this quick sum-
mary has you thinking about the substantive items on your list.
For those who are
worried about being labeled
malcontents, it is important
to note that safeguards have
been developed to prevent
any reprisals or retaliation
against employees.
AFSA Meets with
Affinity Groups
BY ÁSGEIR SIGFÚSSON, MARKETING
AND OUTREACH MANAGER
Continued on page 57