Page 45 - FSJ_May12

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MA Y 2 0 1 2 / F OR E I GN S E R V I C E J OU R N A L
45
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ries whenever possible and find ways to
speak to your communities.”
He highlighted the importance that
former Secretary of Defense Robert
Gates and current Defense Secretary Leon
Panetta have placed on diplomacy and
development initiatives, noting that
diplomatic readiness needs to be recog-
nized as part of our national security strat-
egy. “We need to build a better appre-
ciation of the work done by the Foreign
Service and the fact that we have a mul-
tifaceted security strategy.”
Johnson asked the congressman
about the possibility of linking diplomacy
and defense in an overall national secu-
rity budget, and what effect that could
have on funding for foreign affairs
agencies.
AlthoughRep. VanHollen recognized
the difficulty of competing one-on-one
with the defense budget, he pointed out
that competing with budgets for educa-
tion or infrastructure would also be dif-
ficult: “That’s not an easy place to be
either, just in terms of the political dynam-
ics of the budget.”
Although there are a number of dif-
ferent scenarios that could play out as
Congress works on the budget for 2013,
he is hopeful that a balanced, responsible
budget can be agreed on. The alternative
could prove to be “amess that would have
very bad results for federal agencies and
their ability to do important work for the
country.”
L
ast spring, when running as a candidate for one of the four
retiree representative positions on the 2011–2013 AFSA
Governing Board, I never imagined I wouldwind upwrit-
ing this column as your retiree vice president. “Expect the unex-
pected” applies to retirees as well as active-duty employees.
Fortunately for me and for AFSA, Bob Houdek, the outgoing
retiree VP, remains amember of the board, so we will continue
to benefit from his experience and sound advice.
Bob’s final column, “AnAdieu,WithReflections” (
AFSANews
,
January), and “Laws CanChange; SoCanYour Benefits” (
AFSA
News,
April 2009) byhis predecessor, Bill Farrand, are sober reflec-
tionsonstorieswe seewith increasing frequency in local andnation-
al media. Members of Congress and state legislatures are trying
touse the salaries, pensions andbenefitsof public servants toresolve
budgetary shortfalls. Facts about hard work, sacrifice and com-
mitment to public service just seem to get in the way of a snap-
py sound bite.
Is there an immediate threat to Foreign Service retiree pen-
sions? No. Could there be a threat to current and future retire-
ment benefits? Anything is possible as Congress and the admin-
istration struggle with the federal budget and competing visions
of the role and size of government.
To defend our hard-won benefits, AFSA is working hardwith
friends of the Foreign Service on the Hill. But members of
Congress respond best to their con-
stituents, especiallywhen the constituents
arewell-informed andpresent compelling
arguments that can stand against other, equally compelling inter-
ests. Retiree members, reaching out in person by phone, letter
or e-mail, put a human face — and a human cost — on what
busy members of Congress and their staff may sometimes per-
ceive as an abstract policy chip to be negotiated away in the
process of trying to move legislation.
Many of our retireeswrite articles andbooks, deliver talks and
offer radio and television commentary. This, too, puts a human
face on the ForeignService andhelps to raise our profile. On this
front, I am happy to report that State management, responding
to AFSA, has clarified its policy on pre-publication clearance of
manuscripts by retirees: clearance is recommended but not
required, unless the author believes that something in the man-
uscript may still be classified.
AFSA is committed tomaintaining anddeepening services to
retiree members. The hiring of a second staff member was
approved to respond to requests for assistance from retirees and
tomonitor congressional actions affectingcurrent and future retired
Foreign Service members.
I look forward to working with the professional staff to serve
AFSA’s members.
V.P. VOICE:
VP RETIREES
BY MARY ELLEN GILROY
Serving AFSA’s Current and Future Retirees
Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA RETIREE VP.
Van Hollen • Continued from page 39
(Left) Rep. Van Hollen takes a question from the audience during his visit to AFSA. (Right) Rep. Van
Hollen engages with attendees following the discussion.