Page 46 - Foreign Service Journal - March 2013

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46
MARCH 2013
|
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
2012 AFSA ANNUAL REPORT
AFSA NEWS
State Department: AYear of Public Victories
Another busy year began
with the annual battle in
Congress over budget and
salary issues (including Over-
seas Comparability Pay) and
ended with a report on the
Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi
which resulted in the tragic
loss of four colleagues and
friends. AFSA weighed in
on changes in stafng of
posts in Iraq, Afghanistan
and Pakistan; training and
benefts ofered to those
serving in those posts; and
the extended departure of
family members from some
other posts in the region.
Personnel Issues
We consulted on the imple-
mentation of new limited
non-career appointment
programs in the bureaus
of Diplomatic Security and
Consular Afairs, and a new
program creating limited
short-term overseas devel-
opmental opportunities for
Civil Service employees.
And we urged a review of
Foreign Service recruitment
practices, re-evaluation of
Career Development Plans
and monitored the redistribu-
tion of positions reserved for
entry-level Foreign Service
members.
Throughout the year, we
defended the Service against
attacks on our individual
rights to privacy, such as the
Stop Trading on Congres-
BY STATE VP DANI EL HI RSCH
sional Knowledge Act, as well
as repeated attacks on our
salaries and benefts. We also
investigated State’s compli-
ance with the Uniformed
Services Employment and
Reemployment Rights Act,
which protects the rights
of employees who serve on
military reserve duty, and
collaborated in the ongoing
development of an alter-
native dispute resolution
program.
For years, State used
a few limited non-career
appointments to fll very-
short-term needs. Such
programs expanded in 2011
and, even more dramatically,
last year. As U.S. troops left
Iraq, State informed us of a
plan to hire LNA personnel
security specialists with skills
diferent from those of other
DS employees. Soon after,
State proposed to hire LNA
visa adjudicators for Brazil,
Russia, India and China, since
flling these jobs with career
candidates was impractical.
We discussed a range of
questions: the role of these
employees at posts; the
impact on training entry-
level ofcers and the hiring
of Eligible Family Members;
whether AFSA would repre-
sent them; and the mechan-
ics of ending their appoint-
ments. We helped develop
standard criteria for LNA
hiring, evaluation, retention
and termination, including an
“LNA handbook” and a modi-
fed Employee Evaluation
Report form, and ensured
AFSA participation in their
entry-on-duty training.
Thanks to our advocacy, EFM
hiring will not be reduced
and LNAs will not compete
with entry-level ofcers for
developmental positions. In
addition, no LNA program will
bypass the exam as an entry
method into the Foreign
Service, and all LNAs will be
represented by AFSA.
High-Stress Posts
Assignments to high-stress
and unaccompanied posts
carry many risks, many
of which can be mitigated
by better training. Extend-
ing training to Eligible
Family Members can also
help address the psycho-
logical stresses on both the
employee and the loved ones
left behind. Discussions with
the Foreign Service Institute,
the Ofce of Medical Ser-
vices and the Family Liaison
Ofce infuenced a number of
improvements in this regard.
As the military moved
out of Iraq, we discussed
with MED and others the
steps that would be taken
to protect the health and
safety of FS members,
including expansion of a
Psychiatric Social Worker
staf (another LNA category).
On an individual level, we
have assisted several AFSA
members who have returned
from high-stress posts with
Post-Traumatic Stress Dis-
order or other stress-related
problems.
FS Pets
In April, United Airlines
adopted a worldwide pet-
shipping policy, ending the
shipment of pets as accom-
panied baggage and requir-
ing that they be shipped as
cargo. This led to a drastic
increase in both price and
inconvenience to FS mem-
bers. United waived the pol-
icy for the military. Through
AFSA’s eforts, more than
3,000 frst-person e-mails
were sent to United. Concur-
rently, we worked with State
to catalyze Foreign Afairs
Manual changes countering
United’s near monopoly on
certain routes.
The result: a waiver simi-
lar to what was ofered to the
military was instated for the
Foreign Service. The waiver
itself is far from perfect,
however, and its implemen-
tation by United’s staf has
been uneven. More broadly,
AFSA has been working with
State to develop emergency
evacuation standard operat-
ing procedures for pets.
QDDR
As part of the Quadrennial