The Foreign Service Journal - July/August 2014 - page 61

AFSA Files MSI Implementation Dispute
AFSA was disappointed to
learn in May that the State
Department had decided
not to confer the monetary
portion of Meritorious Service
Increases on the 554 col-
leagues who were recom-
mended by last summer’s
selection boards.
We urged the depart-
ment’s senior leadership to
honor our colleagues’ per-
formance with a monetary
component in accordance
with the negotiated proce-
dural precepts. Since the
department has opted not
to do so, AFSA has filed an
implementation dispute on
behalf of the MSI recipients
and the Service.
For the last 34 years—
since the Foreign Service Act
of 1980—peer-constituted
selection boards have rec-
ognized outstanding perfor-
mance and potential with
recommendations for promo-
tions and MSI conferrals.
Over time this practice,
including a monetary com-
ponent, has become one of
the terms and conditions
of employment negotiated
between State and AFSA in
the form of the promotion
procedural precepts.
The State Department and
AFSA have agreed to recog-
nize colleagues who were rec-
ommended by the selection
board for promotion, but for
whom there were no available
promotion opportunities, with
an MSI instead.
At the time of the 2013
sequester, AFSA agreed
to department-proposed
language in the promotion
procedural precepts requiring
the department to pay the
MSIs “if authorized.”AFSA
understands that phrase to
denote relevant provisions
of law or any budgetary
requirement imposed by the
Office of Management and
Budget/Office of Personnel
Management; the department
State and AFSA had
agreed to the procedural
precepts following the Feb. 27,
2013, OMB guidance that lim-
ited monetary awards across
the federal government.
In November 2013, OMB/
OPM issued new guidance
that authorized the depart-
ment to fund last summer’s
MSIs, in addition to other
The department acknowl-
edges that it has this author-
ity, but has chosen not to
apply it. State is the only
foreign affairs agency that has
not yet paid out its MSIs from
The Foreign Service
personnel system is up-or-
out, with competitive promo-
tions recommended by peer
boards. The MSIs are part
and parcel of this personnel
system, and play a key role
in those specialties in which
promotion opportunities
and career advancement are
already limited.
The majority of last sum-
mer’s MSI recipients are spe-
cialists, with the largest group
being Diplomatic Security
agents, followed by Informa-
tion Resource Management
The impact of an MSI,
whether it is a financial step
increase or cash payment,
reaches beyond one’s active-
duty career into retirement
and the calculation of pension
While AFSA’s preference
is to work together with
management to address the
challenges facing the Service,
at times it must respectfully
disagree and dissent. This is
one of those times. AFSA has
filed an implementation dis-
pute on behalf of these 554
members, the merits of which
will ultimately be decided by
the Foreign Service Grievance
Board, if not resolved at the
agency level.
Meanwhile, AFSA will
continue to work with the
department in other areas
to make it a better, safer and
more rewarding place to serve
for all employees.
Please email AFSA@state.
gov with any questions or
—Matthew Asada,
AFSAWelcomes TSA
Pre-Check Expansion
AFSA welcomes the State Department’s recent announce-
ment about the expansion of Transportation Security
Administration Pre-Check to employees with Top Secret
clearances. Within three days of implementation, more than
3,800 department personnel had opted into the program.
For the past several years, AFSA has advocated for mea-
sures to make travel—domestic and overseas—easier for its
the other foreign affairs agencies to expand employee par-
ticipation in trusted traveler programs, such as the Customs
and Border Protection’s “Global Entry” program.
On Global Entry, we are advocating for what is known
in industry speak as “risk-based screening,” which would
enable automatic enrollment for those employees with
security clearances, and have written to the CBP to that
effect (see
At the same time, we are seeking a revision to General
Services Administration guidance on employee reimburse-
ment for CBP Global Entry fees (see
We have approached Department of State management
on both of these items (see
). For
more on AFSA’s travel facilitation efforts, please see the
March State VP column.
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