THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
s I write in early April, the AFSA
award nominations have come
in, and I am so pleased that we
have another record number
of nominations. I hope many of you will
attend the awards ceremony on June 9 at
the State Department to recognize our col-
leagues’ principled dissent and outstand-
I am in the last months of a two-year
tour as AFSA president, realizing that there
is muchmore work ahead to promote and
defend the Foreign Service, but pleased
that there are great candidates ready to
serve as AFSA president and carry on with
the fine teamhere at AFSA.
One strategic goal of this Governing
Board has been to strive to ensure that the
next generation of the Foreign Service is
afforded the same career opportunities
that we enjoyed. Those opportunities are
not assured. Here are two of the steps we
took toward that goal.
First, we established criteria with
the State Department for taking Foreign
Service positions out of the bidding pool
for a cycle and granting them as devel-
opmental assignments to Civil Service
employees. Based on past practice and our
reading of the rules, we asserted that the
department needed AFSA approval of such
actions. When the department denied this
assertion, we filed
a grievance citing
the case of the
ment initially put the London position in
the Overseas Development Program for
civil servants, a new program created by
the 2010 QDDR. When this AFSA Board
came in, the department wanted to double
the program from 20 to 40 Foreign Service
positions, but we pushed back out of
concern for the lack of adequate overseas
positions at the mid-levels of the Service.
Eventually we settled the grievance on
favorable terms—the London position was
returned to the Foreign Service bidding
pool for this cycle, and we are finalizing
procedures with the department for this
program going forward.
Given the current deficit of mid-level
overseas positions, we should reconsider
putting any positions into the program.
We want to support the careers of our Civil
Service colleagues, but we need to ensure
that there are a sufficient number of posi-
tions for the Foreign Service in the system
now and in the future.
Second, we pushed back against one
aspect of the increasing politicization of
the department’s senior positions. As Inoted in last month’s column, “How to Find the Next Bill Burns,” we need to ke
policy jobs in the career ranks as incuba-
tors for our future leaders.
One area where the Foreign Service is
being severely challenged is the increasing
transfer of the most important embas-
sies (in terms of U.S. policy) to political
appointees, who are usually not campaign
bundlers but rather National Security
A partial list of such posts (with exam-
ples of career FSOs who previously served
as ambassadors there and rose to the top
of the Service) would include: USNATO
(Toria Nuland, Nick Burns), Russia (Bill
Burns, TomPickering), Israel (Dan Kurtzer,
TomPickering), South Korea (Kathy Ste-
phens, Chris Hill), South Africa (Princeton
Lyman), Argentina (Tony Wayne) and
India (Nancy Powell, Frank Wisner).
This is a different problem than sending
bundlers to pleasant postings inWestern
Europe, and should be easier to reform.
How can we effectively advocate for
the nomination of career FSOs rather than
NSC staffers (in addition to appealing to
good stewardship of the career ranks)?
Many NSC policy experts possess knowl-
edge of the languages, cultures and institu-
tions, which are illustrative qualifications
for ambassadors noted in the Foreign
Service Act of 1980.AFSA’s Guidelines for Successful Performance of Chiefs of Mission pr
an answer. It fleshes out what the Foreign
Service Act means when it calls for all
nominees to possess “clearly demon-
strated competence.”The guidelines state
a nominee must have the “capacity to lead
the operations of a diplomatic mission
effectively.”This is an area where FSOs
are better qualified than NSC experts. The
latter often have little or no leadership
experience in overseas settings.
So, this AFSA Board has provided a
couple of new tools to our successors to
continue the ongoing advocacy work.
Be well, stay safe and keep in touch,
Robert J. Silverman is the president of the American Foreign Service Association.
Two Steps in Support of Career Development
BY ROBERT J . S I LVERMAN