Page 39 - FSJ_May12

This is a SEO version of FSJ_May12. Click here to view full version

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »
MA Y 2 0 1 2 / F OR E I GN S E R V I C E J OU R N A L
American Foreign Service Association • May 2012
n March 8, Representative Chris
Van Hollen, D-Md., spoke to an
audience of more than 80 people
gathered at AFSA headquarters. He dis-
cussed the federal budget, Congress’s per-
ception of government employees and the
need for a robust international affairs bud-
get and a strong, well-trained, professional
Foreign Service.
As the child of an FSO, Rep. Van
Hollen’s advocacy on behalf of the
Foreign Service comes naturally. He was
born in Karachi and grew up in Turkey,
Sri Lanka (where his father, Christopher
Van Hollen, served as ambassador from
1972 to 1976) and India.
“Growing up in a Foreign Service fam-
ily was a great andwonderful and unique
experience,” he recalls.
An Easy Caricature
AFSAPresident Susan Johnsonopened
the conversation by asking Van Hollen
how Congress perceives government
employees and the Foreign Service.
“Federal employees as a group have
become the scapegoat for those who are
looking for solutions to our budget prob-
lem. The rhetoric, in my view, has got-
ten totally out of control,” he remarked.
Van Hollen cautioned against think-
ing of Congress as a monolith, however,
anddescribedhowhe andmany of his col-
leagues were working to change misper-
ceptions of the federal work force as a dys-
functional bureaucracy.
“That’s an easy caricature, and it’s dead
wrong. I think we all know that federal
employees, whether they’re in the Foreign
Service or working at the National
Institutes of Health, contribute in many
ways and extraordinaryways to our coun-
try,” he said.
The audience included active-duty and
retired Foreign Service officers, several of
whom were among Van Hollen’s con-
stituents. They raised concerns regarding
the attacks on federal employee benefits.
“We’ve always said that federal
employees arewilling todo their fair share,
to contribute to reducing the deficit, but
it has tobe part of a balancedpackage. We
need shared responsibility and shared sac-
rifice, and nobody should be singled out,”
the congressman said.
Van Hollen also noted his successful
opposition to attempts by somemembers
of Congress to increase contributions from
current federal employees’ paychecks to
pay for extensions of the payroll tax cut
and unemployment insurance benefits.
A National Security Budget?
Emphasizing the value of educating the
public about the role the Foreign Service
plays in promoting American interests
overseas and supporting national securi-
ty operations, Van Hollen encouraged
members of the audience to “tell your sto-
Continued on page 45
Representative Van Hollen: A Defender of the Foreign Service
Rep. Chris VanHollen, D-Md., explains the intricacies of the federal budget as AFSA President Susan Johnson
takes notes at the association’s headquarters on March 8.
AFSA Bylaws Changes
p. 42