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Thinking Outside the Box

As I have suggested in

several recent articles,

members of the Foreign

Agricultural Service will find

themselves in an extremely

difficult position for the next

five to 10 years, due to the

dramatic dearth of officers

in the FS-2 to Senior Foreign

Service classes. To put it in

baseball terms, we have no

one left on the bench and

everyone is in the field.

Conventional wisdom

suggests that creative

thinking can provide inven-

tive and intelligent ways to

resolve problems. I want to

use this column to further

the discussion about ways

to turn our challenges into


FAS AFSA members have

widely differing views on this

problem and the possible

solutions to it. Senior offi-

cers are under strain from

forced assignments and the

disregard FAS has shown for

requests for consideration

based on personal situa-

tions. (We should acknowl-

edge that it is a disservice

to our senior members

that retirement for many is

acrimonious, rather than a

celebration of a career of

exemplary service.)

At the same time, it is

understandable that mid-

level officers are eager to

move up quickly and stretch

into the many empty leader-

ship roles. Similarly, the

large classes of new FSOs

are reluctant to embrace

significant changes to the

system that mitigate current

problems but which they see

as a potential disservice to

their future.

There are substantial con-

cerns about short-termism,

but there is common agree-

ment on fundamental issues

such as strong support for

the new FSO hiring system

and opposition to permitting

mid-level FS entry or a “par-

allel Foreign Service” of civil

servants filling Agricultural

Trade Office positions.

There is no one, single

solution to the problems

FAS faces which is why an

“all of the above” approach

is necessary serve today’s

needs while creating effec-

tive future leaders.

First, FAS should adopt

several practices that are

common among other agen-

cies, namely State’s TIC/

TIS rules, giving credit for

long-term language training

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


or (202) 720-2502




and advocating the use of

limited career extensions to

permit retiring FSOs to com-

plete full tours and depart


Second, the Office of

Foreign Service Operations

must dramatically increase

the number of back-office

staff and experienced area

officers to permit a greater

level of oversight, direction

and mentoring to the next

generation of officers.

Lastly, we must focus

additional time and

resources on training for

emerging leaders and award

promotions without delay to

those operating at the next

level. Only by retaining the

best of our current staff and

rewarding our future leaders

will our common interests




This year the 10th annual Adair Memorial Lecture will be given by Ambassador (ret.) Rozanne L. ‘Roz’ Ridgway. The

Adair lecture traditionally marks the beginning of the academic year for the American University’s School of Inter- national Service.

A veteran diplomat who specialized in trans-Atlantic relations during the final decade of the Cold War, Amb.

Ridgway was the lead negotiator at all five of the Reagan-Gorbachev summits, bringing the first substantive reduc-

tion in nuclear weapons and signaling the beginning of the end of the Cold War.

She served as ambassador to Finland (1977-1980), as well as to East Germany (1983-1985). She also served as

assistant secretary of State for European and Canadian affairs (1986-1989) and as counselor of the department


The lecture series is the result of a partnership between AFSA and A.U.’s School of International Service in honor

of Caroline and Ambassador Charles Adair. Generously funded by the Adairs’ son, former AFSA President Marshall

Adair, through a perpetual gift to AFSA’s Fund for American Diplomacy, the lectures are designed to expose stu-

dents to individuals who have spent their careers practicing diplomacy—adding practical insights to the students’

theoretical studies.

The Adair lecture will take place on Wed., Aug. 31 at 3 p.m. at the Kaye Spiritual Life Center on the A.U. campus.

For additional information on attendance, please contact Communications and Outreach Specialist Allan Saunders