Page 47 - Foreign Service Journal - March 2013

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MARCH 2013
And Behind the Scenes Progress
Defense and Development
Review, State initiated a
program to provide overseas
opportunities for Civil Service
employees to develop knowl-
edge that would improve
their understanding of our
realities when they returned
to positions in Washington.
This high QDDR priority, still
in its pilot phase, has obvious
potential benefts for State’s
mission. AFSA negotiated
clear defnitions of purpose
and scope (limiting the
number of encumbered
positions to 20 at any time),
and a reciprocal element that
would enable Foreign Service
members to fll selected Civil
Service positions for state-
side assignments.
Following Rules
One of AFSA’s most impor-
tant functions is to ensure
that the department follows
its own rules with regard
to due process in disciplin-
ary and security clearance
cases. AFSA won a signifcant
victory for an FS author and
blogger whose work was dis-
tasteful to many, but who had
complied with regulations in
clearing his book and argued
that regulations on blogging
were unclear. The case led to
a comprehensive review of
relevant Foreign Afairs Man-
ual regulations, and provided
AFSA with the opportunity to
use the process to clarify the
rights of FS bloggers, writers
and users of social media.
This is an ongoing efort.
Less visibly, we weighed in
on the case of an FS member
accused of inappropriate
conduct under disputed cir-
cumstances while traveling.
The Department of Justice
had sought to extend U.S.
jurisdiction to this case by
improperly applying a law
that should apply only to
active-duty military person-
nel. Concerned about the
precedential implications
of expanding a military law
to Foreign Service civilians,
AFSA supported the eforts
of the private attorney
involved, and DOJ backed of.
The STOCK Act imposed a
requirement that personal
information be published
online, threatening both
the personal security of FS
employees and the national
security of the United States.
Working with the Senior
Executive Association and
other afected groups, we
have, thus far, achieved
delays in implementation
while these issues can be
In addition, members
brought to our attention a
number of forms and other
eforts to collect information,
which did not comply with
rules intended to protect
privacy and reduce the risk
of information breaches. We
were successful in getting a
number of improper forms
recalled, changed or more
properly issued, and worked
with the bureaus involved to
increase awareness of the
Taping Interviews
When a DS ofce in Wash-
ington sought to introduce
audio- and videotaping of
interviews during its investi-
gations, AFSA questioned the
initiative, and asked whether
interviews that occurred
overseas or contained clas-
sifed information would be
taped as well. We asked that
DS furnish employees with a
copy of the tape immediately
after the interview.
DS stated that, at present,
it did not plan to record inter-
views conducted overseas or
containing classifed infor-
mation. It agreed to initiate
the use of a standardized
form to obtain informed con-
sent before audio and video
recording of any interview
takes place, but stated that
the employee would not be
able to obtain a copy of the
recordings until the investi-
gation is completed, and the
entire report of investigation
is forwarded to the employee.
AFSA continues to have con-
cerns about this practice and
has updated its guidance to
employees under investiga-
tion to address it.
Security Clearances
On the security clearance
front, we engaged in con-
structive discussions which
appear to have infuenced a
number of promising trends.
Signifcantly, while we some-
times disagreed with DS over
other aspects of cases, in we
did not see any new suspen-
sion or revocation cases
initiated that did not have an
understandable nexus to the
government-wide standards.
In 2012, HR and DS
initiated a more regular and
fuller exchange of informa-
tion regarding the status of
individual cases, which we
hope will reduce processing
times. Our suggestions for
stronger quality control are
being considered, and we
are hopeful the department
will implement at least those
measures used by other
agencies with large security
clearance workloads.
AFSA attorneys advised
and represented employees
before the Benghazi Account-
ability Review Board. We are
monitoring implementation
of the board’s recommenda-