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the Foreign Service journal
April 2013
nless you have served on the AFSA Governing Board,
you may not fully appreciate the extent to which
AFSA’s ofcers and professional staf members work
behind the scenes to advocate for the interests of the Foreign
Sometimes agency management ofcials propose major
changes to personnel policies to address a real or perceived
problem. When such a proposal would harm the long-term
health of the Foreign Service, AFSA steps in to advocate
against short-sighted measures.
For instance, it became clear by 2001 that the cumula-
tive efect of hiring below attrition during the mid-1990s was
massive mid-level stafng gaps. State management responded
by proposing to discontinue promotion boards for general-
ist FS-4s, instead automatically promoting them all after two
years in grade.
AFSA pointed out that there would inevitably be at least
some ofcers who had not demonstrated their readiness for
increased responsibilities, so promoting such individuals
would undermine the up-or-out system on which the Foreign
Service is based. State reconsidered and set the generalist FS-4
to FS-3 promotion rate that year at 90 percent instead of 100
Tat same year, after Secretary of State Colin Powell said
that all Foreign Service members should take leadership and
management training prior to promotion, State proposed
to AFSA that the promotion precepts be revised to allow a
relatively long phase-in of the new requirement. We opposed
the delay in implementation, noting the likelihood that the
employees who needed such training the most would put of
taking it unless motivated by a looming deadline. State agreed
to accelerate the phase-in.
In both these examples, please note that AFSA—although
a union—temporarily disadvantaged a few of its members in
order to advance the long-term interests of the profession.
Troughout AFSA’s existence as a union, its quiet, behind-
the-scenes advocacy has also been active on Capitol Hill.
Well-known examples include lobbying to narrow the overseas
pay gap and to increase funding for Foreign Service stafng
embassy security. Another, now almost forgotten, example is
AFSA: Advocate for the Foreign Service
By John K. Naland
Employees from the foreign afairs agencies joined AFSA in a “Rally to Serve America” in April 2011.