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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

|

MAY 2016

7

riting a year ago in the May 2015 edition of the FSJ , Director General Arnold Chacón described a vast an

d

complicated foreign affairs landscape filled

with a proliferation of actors and unprec-

edented threats—in short, a landscape that

will require an American Foreign Service

performing at the very top of its game.

“More than ever, we need the very best

people: the ones who see past the horizon,

who are curious, innovative, tenacious;

who show initiative, judgment, resilience,

adaptability and perseverance. We have

always had those employees, but it’s more

important than ever to attract and prepare

a workforce for the future, bearing inmind

that such attributes are often best learned

and honed through real life experience,” he

and co-author Alex Karagiannis wrote in

one of the most-read

FSJ

articles of 2015.

I could not agree more, both with the

DG’s assessment of the challenging envi-

ronment and with the imperative that we

continue to attract the best and brightest. I

also agree that, for the most part, we learn

best through real life experience.

Last month

, I shared concerns about

the potential impact of the increase in

demand for consular adjudicators on

the career path for new Foreign Service

officers. We must never take for granted

the fact that each

year more than

17,000 Americans

compete for one

of the fewer than

400 entry-level FSO

positions available.

We must continue to attract and retain

America’s best and brightest—andmost

committed—to carry out our vital and

increasingly challenging mission.

AFSA has since weighed in withman-

agement in two letters. The first embraces

the use of the limited non-career appoint-

ment (LNA) provisions of the Foreign

Service Act as the best way to ensure State

provides high-quality visa services while

avoiding disruption of the career paths for

new Foreign Service officers.

As the Bureau of Human Resources

refines and improves the Consular Fellows

program, more LNA consular adjudicators

will come on board, alleviating the entry-

level staffing gaps. For those struggling

with the impact of these gaps, hang in

there—relief is coming.

The second letter aligns AFSA firmly

behind the Director General’s goal of

ensuring that at least one of the first two

tours for new FSOs be in cone.

AFSA believes that a strong Foreign

Service in the 21st century requires a per-

sonnel system that continually produces

a deep bench of experienced, seasoned

leaders. We build that deep bench when

officers gain on-the-job training, starting

early in their careers—hence our strong

support for “one tour in cone.”

Over the coming months, supported

by the new Professional Policy Issues

directorate at AFSA, I will be holding a

series of structured conversations to get a

better understanding of howmembers are

experiencing the Foreign Service.

Given concern fromnumerous quarters

that it may be members in the mid-ranks

whose commitment and engagement are

most imperiled, we intend to begin the

effort by engaging with that cadre.

These conversations will help fulfill my

campaign promise to actively engage a

broad range of members, not just wait to

hear from you when you have a problem.

And turning to our seniors, this edi-

tion of the

FSJ

is devoted to life after the

Foreign Service. One of the realities of

our competitive, up-or-out Service is that

some—maybe many—members reach

time-in-service limits before they are fully

ready to leave the Foreign Service.

I want to urge those facing these

realities, which can feel harsh, to stay

connected with AFSA after you leave

active duty. Yes, AFSA can help you with

networking and retiree benefits, and, yes, I

hope you will participate in AFSA’s amped-

up outreach efforts.

But most of all I want to encourage you

to think of AFSA as your home base after

your service, as the way you stay con-

nected to the Foreign Service community.

If you lose touch, we’ll miss you.

So for the sake of our community, your

community, please stay involved and

don’t be strangers.

n

PRESIDENT’S VIEWS

Ambassador Barbara Stephenson is the president of the American Foreign Service Association.

Structuring the Conversation

BY BARBARA STEPHENSON

W

These conversations will help fulfill

my campaign promise to actively engage

a broad range of members.