The Foreign Service Journal - June 2014 - page 7

JUNE 2014
FSA celebrates our annual
award winners on June 18, in
the State Department’s ornate
Benjamin Franklin Room. I
hope you will come. For those who can-
not attend, the September
Foreign Service
will provide full coverage.
As usual there will be two broad catego-
ries recognized, outstanding performance
and constructive dissent. I am always on
the look-out for good Foreign Service sto-
ries, and this year’s nominations yielded a
bumper crop, so I decided to tell a couple
of them in this column.
Office management specialists are
often unsung heroes of the Foreign Ser-
vice. They support others in the mission, so
that their outstanding work underlies the
achievements of others and often gets sub-
sumed. AFSA is proud to offer the annual
award for OMS achievement to Carol
Backman of the Management Section in
Embassy Ankara.
Reading her nomination, one thing
jumps out—computer innovation. This
year Mission Turkey handled nearly 100
applications for new positions, many of
which involved Syrian transition issues,
tours of differing durations, new locations
in country and a variety of sponsoring
federal agencies. The embassy
needed a tracking device for
the approval and assignment
Ms. Backman developed a
SharePoint site, and worked
with the alphabet soup of agen-
cies to ensure everyone used
it. Then she cut the Gordian
Knot of the contact manage-
ment database. I have been at many posts
where the need for a missionwide contact
database was frequently invoked, but no
one had the time or expertise to take own-
ership of it. In Ankara, Ms. Backman did,
and it is now being relied on for July Fourth
invitations and other events.
We had other strong OMS nominations.
Carol Johnson in Embassy Accra exempli-
fies the senior OMS in the front office who
projects the professionalism and com-
petence that sets the tone for the entire
embassy. In Embassy Baghdad, Mariam
Abdulle helpedmanage the termination of
the police training programwith great sen-
sitivity and skill, enhanced by her knowl-
edge of Arabic and understanding of the
local culture. Her nomination highlights
why AFSA advocates expanding language
and areas studies training to include OMSs
and other specialists.
There are many ways of recogniz-
ing outstanding performance, but the
only celebration of dissent in the federal
government is the AFSA awards. This year
the Christian Herter Award for dissent by
a member of the Senior Foreign Service
goes to USAID’s Ambassador Jonathan
Addleton. As senior civilian representa-
tive in Kandahar, he argued for a “bolder,
nimbler” approach to public
diplomacy in a dissent cable in
February 2013. Here is his case.
Following the terror attack
onMalala of Swat, the young girl
who championed female educa-
tion in Pakistan, Addleton wrote
an editorial drawing parallels
between her andMalala of Maiwand, a
young Afghan heroine killed in battle in
the 19th century. In fact, Malala of Swat’s
parents had named her after Malala of
Maiwand, hoping she would be equally
brave. Addleton believed the link to the
famous figure would inspire courage and
advance the cause of female education.
Addleton’s op-ed was “spiked” in
Washington, ostensibly out of concern that
it could strengthen conspiracy theorists
claiming that the U.S. government was
behind the attack onMalala of Swat.
After Secretary Kerry addressed a
town hall with Embassy Kabul via video,
encouraging the audience to speak can-
didly and promote outreach, Addleton
sent in his dissent message. Reflecting on
the story of the twoMalalas, he criticized
our risk-averse public diplomacy policy:
“A control-oriented approach not only
makes it difficult to respond quickly when
outreach opportunities arise; it also breeds
a tendency for officers to avoid any media
Addleton followed up the dissent cable
with advocacy inWashington that, in con-
cert with ongoing AFSA efforts and with
support from the Public Affairs Bureau,
will result in new regulations liberalizing
publication clearances inmany cases.
He continues to believe in outreach and
joined dozens of trips “outside the wire”
throughout southern Afghanistan.
Be well, stay safe and keep in touch,
Robert J. Silverman is the president of the American Foreign Service Association.
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