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he purpose of this column is
to encourage you to seriously
consider running for elec-
tion to the 2013-2015 AFSA
Governing Board, either as president or
a constituency vice president. Tese are
all full-time jobs that carry signifcant
responsibilities and opportunities for
measurable accomplishment on behalf of
the Foreign Service and its members, and
for strengthening our professional asso-
ciation and union. If you care about the
Foreign Service and want a voice in its
future, it is time to engage—and the AFSA
Governing Board provides an excellent
Te Department of State and the
U.S. Agency for International Develop-
ment, premier foreign afairs agencies 50
years ago, no longer appear to be at the
center of foreign and development policy
formulation. Teir roles are increasingly
eclipsed in policy implementation, as
well. Despite recent growth, the Foreign
Service constitutes a shrinking pro-
portion of the foreign afairs agencies,
particularly of their leadership.
AFSA’s voice is needed to identify and
advocate for the cultural and organiza-
tional changes that will make the Foreign
Service and American diplomacy strong
er, shifting from reactive to innovative,
from resisting change to embracing
and shaping it, and from
ignoring the need for new
approaches to professional
education and training to
seeking them out and valuing them.
Te AFSA president deals directly
with senior ofcials across all member
agencies; navigates formal and informal
relationships across the foreign afairs
community; briefs members of Congress
and top stafers, and testifes before
congressional committees; gives on-the-
record interviews and provides back-
ground briefngs to major media; and
seeks opportunities for public speaking.
It’s a high-visibility position that calls for
strong written and oral communication
skills, as well as political and diplomatic
savvy to manage the issues that come
before a diverse, 27-member board.
Te AFSA president works in close
partnership with the executive direc-
tor and more than 30 professional staf
to oversee an annual operating budget
in excess of $4 million, a scholarship
trust fund of $5 million, and vigorous
and expanding advocacy, membership
recruitment, publications and profes-
sional events programs. AFSA is midway
through what is likely to be a decade-long
transformation process to strengthen
capacity by modernizing and profes-
sionalizing operations to better serve our
members and the Foreign Service.
In the Foreign Service Acts of 1946
and 1980, Congress specifed that a
“career Foreign Service characterized
by excellence and professionalism is
essential and in the national interest.” It
also stipulated that it must be “preserved,
strengthened and improved to carry out
its mission efectively in response to the
complex challenges of modern diplo-
macy and international relations.” If
you believe that these exhortations were
prescient and are even truer today, then
seek the presidency of AFSA or another
position on its Governing Board.
If you want to give back to a career
that has enriched you immeasurably,
AFSA ofers that opportunity. If you want
a stronger professional Foreign Service,
better equipped for the challenges of
contemporary diplomacy, better profes-
sionally educated and trained, better led
and managed, and better resourced by
Congress, then service on the Governing
Board gives you an opportunity to advo-
cate for these goals.
Like many of you, for most of my
career I never thought much about the
role or responsibilities of the AFSA Gov-
erning Board, much less about running
for ofce. Now that I am completing my
second term as AFSA’s president, I have
found these four years highly satisfying
and rewarding, both personally and
Now, more than ever, AFSA needs to
speak with a clear, strong voice. We need
the best of the Foreign Service to step for-
ward to lead and govern our association
and union, and to fortify our advocacy
with management, our political leaders
in the executive and legislative branches,
and with the American public.
Please visit fo
information about how to run for AFSA
ofce. You are also welcome to contact
me at
AFSA Needs Strong Leaders
Susan R. Johnson is the president of the American Foreign Service Association.