THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
elcome to the July-August
edition of the
to the important topic of
the Foreign Service career.
One of the achievements I ammost proud
of frommy first year as AFSA president is
creating capacity for AFSA to fulfill its role
as the principal advocate for the long-term
well-being of the Foreign Service.
As a union, AFSA advises and defends
members who run into trouble and
ensures systemwide fairness and due
process. As a member organization, AFSA
seeks to be responsive tomember con-
cerns, particularly widely shared concerns.
At the same time, as the professional
association for the U.S. Foreign Service,
AFSAmust carve out resources to ensure
that we play a forward-looking, strategic
role as the voice of the Foreign Service.
We have taken the first steps towardthat goal by creating the Professional Policy Issues directorate, headed by fo
FSOMaria Livingston. Even in its earli-
est stages, PPI has enabled AFSA to speak
authoritatively about the shape and struc-
ture of our workforce.
After a dry spell of 14 years since the last
State authorization bill was approved by
Congress, this year three versions moved
rapidly through the Senate and House
with troubling provisions for, among otherthings, lateral entry into the Foreign Service.
lateral entry. It is
not true, as the bills posit, that mid-career
professionals are somehow precluded from
joining the Foreign Service. AFSA’s infor-
mal survey of the incoming classes we host
here at headquarters tells us that upwards
of a third of new entrants are in fact highly
With 17,000 applicants each year for
roughly 370 (or fewer) new entry-level
officer (ELO) positions, the lateral-entry
provision is manifestly unnecessary to
attract top talent.
Further, lateral entry would, in fact,
cause harmby adding to already full mid-
ranks, exacerbating the current challenge:
filling the soaring number of entry-level
consular adjudicator positions. Hiring
numbers are limited by budget constraints,
and hiring unnecessary entrants at mid-
levels costs positions at entry-level, where
the need is great.
In a similar vein, AFSA is pleased to
have played a constructive role in advocat-
ing do-no-harm solutions to the shortage
of entry-level consular adjudicators. Byfully embracing the Consular Fellows Pro- gram (which provides consular adjudica-
tors on short-term appointments using the
limited non-career appointment authority
in the Foreign Service Act of 1980), we
hope to work with the Director General to
realize his goal of offering every entry-level
officer an in-cone assignment.
We see encouraging early signs that
this approach is bearing fruit. While
members of the 185th A-100 class
expressed concern that their career
development would be impeded by years
of delay—multiple consecutive consular
tours, regardless of cone—before their
first shot at in-cone service, members of
the 186th class were upbeat about A-100
briefings describing the DG’s goal of one
tour in cone for each ELO.Be sure to read Andy Kelly’s Speaking Out piece for more on early career trade-
offs—and join the discussion.
Finally, another note on joining the dis-
cussion: A big thank you tomembers who
acceptedmy invitation to participate in a
structured conversation about the Foreign
Service. After meeting with chiefs of mis-
sion inMarch, we met with three groups of
12 FS-1 State FSOs in April before moving
to FS-2s inMay, followed by FS-3s in June.
After the summer transfer season,
we will resume with sessions with State
specialists and then hear from other
constituencies (USAID, FCS, FAS, APHIS
The response to this inreach effort
has been overwhelmingly positive, and
the insights we gain are invaluable as we
shape positions informed by a nuanced
understanding of member views. The
sessions are also a real joy for me, a
chance to engage with the extraordinary
people who answered the call to serve.
Ambassador Barbara Stephenson is the president of the American Foreign Service Association.
Strengthening the Foreign Service
BY BARBARA STEPHENSON
AFSAmust carve out resources to ensure that
we play a forward-looking, strategic role as the
authoritative voice of the Foreign Service.