THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
7riting a year ago in the May 2015 edition of the FSJ , Director General Arnold Chacón described a vast an
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
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
compete for one
of the fewer than
400 entry-level FSO
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
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.
Ambassador Barbara Stephenson is the president of the American Foreign Service Association.
Structuring the Conversation
BY BARBARA STEPHENSONW
These conversations will help fulfill
my campaign promise to actively engage
a broad range of members.