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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

|

JULY-AUGUST 2016

7

elcome to the July-August

edition of the

FSJ

, devoted

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 toward

that goal by creating the Professional Policy Issues directorate, headed by fo

rmer

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 other

things, lateral entry into the Foreign Service.

AFSA quickly

marshaled argu-

ments against

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

skilledmid-career professionals.

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. By

fully 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

and BBG).

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.

n

PRESIDENT’S VIEWS

Ambassador Barbara Stephenson is the president of the American Foreign Service Association.

Strengthening the Foreign Service

BY BARBARA STEPHENSON

W

AFSAmust carve out resources to ensure that

we play a forward-looking, strategic role as the

authoritative voice of the Foreign Service.