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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

|

JUNE 2015

61

AFSA NEWS

ment, currently with the Foreign Service Grievance Board,

regarding the department’s refusal to award all of the merito-

rious service increases recommended by the 2013 and 2014

Selection Boards. AFSA’s recent member survey indicated

strong support for the continued role of peer-constituted

selection boards in the recommendations for meritorious

service increases.

Assignments Process Reform:

The current open assignment

process was established 40 years ago in response to a direc-

tive issued by the Secretary of State calling for a more open,

centrally directed assignment process. Today, the strains of a

larger workforce are showing, and it’s time to revisit that call

assisted by improved technology and a better understanding

of game and matching theory.

Last year’s AFSA survey confirmed that assignment system

reform was the membership’s highest career and professional

development priority. AFSA has accordingly proposed that in

2016 the department take a serious look at the assignments

process to see how the system can be made more efficient,

transparent and user-friendly. Such a review will require

additional resources—people and money—to consider key

workforce development issues, such as the current assignment

policy’s impact on the workforce’s language proficiency.

In the past, Congress has criticized the department’s man-

agement of employees’ language abilities, paying particular

attention to the percentage of language-designated positions

encumbered by qualified language speakers

(GAO-09-955)

. In

2013, AFSA and the department also agreed to changes to the

Language Incentive Pay program as called for in the depart-

ment’s 2011 Strategic Language plan.While the plan also rightly

cites the lack of a properly sized training float as one explana-

tion for the language deficit, another explanation can be found

in the selection process for language-designated positions.

Retention:

AFSA is concerned by the recent increase in non-

retirement voluntary separations (see November 2014 AFSA News). The department often cites two numbers support-

ing its “all is well” claim: overall low, flat attrition rates and

a record number of applicants to the Foreign Service. AFSA

believes that more rigorous data analysis of those leaving

the Foreign Service, in addition to instituting a standardized

in-person exit interview of all outgoing employees, will help

inform our collective efforts to retain our best and bright-

est. Similarly, looking more closely at those individuals who

are not applying for the Foreign Service, but should be, can

improve our efforts to recruit the best and brightest. In last

year’s survey, 40 percent of respondents indicated that they

were considering leaving due to professional concerns.

Diversity:

AFSA continued its efforts to support a diverse,

innovative and professional workforce (see September 2014 AFSA News). It advocated for changes within the depart-

ment on the oversight and reporting of diversity, suggesting

changes to the MD-715 report and the Diversity and Inclu-

sion Strategic Plan. It also proposed reforms to the assign-

ment restrictions and preclusions programs that appear to

disparately impact Asian-Americans and other ethnicities

(see November 2014 FSJ Issue Brief

). Specifically, AFSA has

proposed an appeals mechanism for employees informed that

they are prohibited from working in or on a country, improved

reporting and oversight of how this tool is used, and improved

communications with affected employees.

n

AFSACongratulates

Graduates of Retiree

Job Search Program

On March 27,

AFSA hosted

the graduation

reception for the

most recent Job

Search Program

class at the

Foreign Service

Institute.

AFSA was

pleased to

honor the 45

Foreign Service

employees who

were retiring

from diplomatic

service, and looks forward to welcoming them as retiree

members of the association and continuing to work on

their behalf to protect their Foreign Service legacy and

help them navigate their retirement.

n

—Matthew Sumrak, Retiree Counselor

and Legislative Assistant

AFSA Scholarship Director Lori Dec speaks

with JSP graduates.

AFSA/ÁSGEIRSIGFÚSSON