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52

JUNE 2015

|

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

Congressional Advocacy

STATE VP VOICE

| BY MATTHEW ASADA

AFSA NEWS

Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA State VP.

Contact:

asadam@state.gov

| (202) 647-8160 | @matthewasada

As members of the executive

branch, we are sometimes

quick to criticize legislative

branch “interference” in the

president’s foreign policy

prerogative and all too often

forget Congress’ constitu-

tionally defined legislative

oversight and “advice and

consent” roles. This month,

I want to describe some of

AFSA’s congressional advo-

cacy on behalf of members of

the Foreign Service and their

families.

The People:

AFSA is for-

tunate to have a strong advo-

cacy department with two

full-time and two part-time

AFSA professional staff who

are focused on building rela-

tionships with federal, state

and city officials and outside

organizations. This Governing

Board has prioritized AFSA’s

expenditure of resources

to increase the number of

professional staff and provide

the advocacy tools necessary

to conduct successful mem-

ber advocacy campaigns.

AFSA also has an inde-

pendently financed political

action committee (PAC)

founded and chaired by

Ambassador (Ret.) Tom Boy-

att, which supports House

and Senate candidates in

national elections from both

sides of the aisle.

Last cycle, the PAC dis-

tributed $40,000 to Republi-

cans and Democrats running

for the House and Senate,

none of which came from

your union dues, all of which

was expressly donated.

However, most important

to any of our efforts, are

you—the AFSA members—

and your families. You are

residents, taxpayers and

voters in all 50 states and the

District of Columbia. As such,

you have influence on an

individual constituent level.

This may be in the form of

direct advocacy when back

on home leave or while taking

annual leave here in Wash-

ington. Or it could be simply

talking about what life is like

as a member of the Foreign

Service with a member of a

congressional or staff delega-

tion visiting your post.

Priorities:

Last fall the

AFSA Governing Board

approved a strategic plan

(see

www.bit.ly/1EJ9aWO

)

focused on improving ben-

efits and quality of work/

life, career and professional

development, and secu-

rity. We captured the key

congressional priorities in

a one-pager (see

www.bit.

ly/1KApRVa) for use at meet-

ings with congressional staff,

such as our 2014 and 2015

Advocacy Days.

Section 326:

New this

year was AFSA’s two-page

Section 326 report on the

“State of the Foreign Service Workforce” (see p. 60). For

the first time in 15 years, the

department transmitted to

the House and Senate AFSA’s

congressionally mandated

submission, which reflects

concerns raised by the

post-9/11 increase in the size

of the Foreign Service, the

elimination of the mid-level

deficits, and retention and

diversity issues.

Reauthorization:

AFSA

submitted a separate white

paper to our House and Sen-

ate authorizing committees

for consideration as they

draft a Department of State

authorization bill. It has been

more than a dozen years

since Congress passed, and

the president signed into law,

a State Department authori-

zation.

AFSA wanted to ensure

that our committees were

aware of key employee

priorities such as permanent

authorization of Overseas

Comparability Pay for the

entire Foreign Service (not

just the Senior Foreign

Service) and Foreign Service-

relevant provisions of the

Service Members’ Civil Relief

Act. As I write this, AFSA is

engaged in a daily exchange

with our authorizers as they

finalize text.

Appropriations:

For the

first time in several years,

AFSA also submitted writ-

ten testimony to the House

and Senate appropriations

committees, as part of the

department’s annual appro-

priations process, making the

case for Overseas Compa-

rability Pay, as well as for

the $99.1 million request for

the Foreign Affairs Security

Training Center in Ft. Pickett,

Virginia. AFSA has advocated

for the construction of this

hard-skills training facility

to ensure that our men and

women receive the train-

ing necessary to safely and

effectively engage overseas.

Confirmation:

This year

and last year, AFSA worked

closely with the Senate

Foreign Relations Committee

to ensure full Senate con-

firmation of Foreign Service

officers’ initial appointment

and tenure, and promotion of

members into and within the

Senior Foreign Service.

Fellows:

One of my favor-

ite assignments was as an

American Political Science

Association congressional

fellow on the Hill with then-

Representative, now-Senator

Gary Peters (D-Mich.). I

have drawn on those lessons

learned to help lead AFSA’s

congressional engagement

on your behalf, and I highly

recommend colleagues

consider an APSA or Pearson

congressional fellowship.

However, wherever you

are, AFSA looks forward to

mobilizing you and our more

than 16,000 members to

help make the case for main-

taining what Secretary John

Kerry has referred to as “the

world’s premier diplomatic

and development corps.”

n

Next month: Farewell as

State Vice President