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ment in the Middle East, but reaching
out to its members. As a political offi-
cer in Tunis,
Douglas A. Silliman
ceived the Harriman Award in 1988 for
“extraordinary initiative and achieve-
ment in reporting and analyzing his-
toric changes in Tunisia’s internal
political scene.”
His citation continued: “He demon-
strated intellectual courage in insisting
on contacts with the largely under-
ground Islamic fundamentalist groups.”
Though the Harris Award for con-
structive dissent by Foreign Service
specialists is a relatively new program,
it is already making a real difference.
Andre de Nesnera
, a 32-year Voice of
America correspondent, bureau chief
and news director, received the award
in 2002 for his efforts to defend VOA’s
charter and preserve the integrity of its
news broadcasts.
As his award citation explains, VOA
correspondents work under a congres-
sional charter that requires them to be
“accurate, objective and comprehen-
sive” in their news reporting. Even so,
the Department of State and Interna-
tional Broadcasting Bureau exerted in-
tense pressure on VOA not to broad-
cast a report that used excerpts from a
post-9/11 interview with Taliban leader
Mullah Mohammed Omar.
Despite the pressure, de Nesnera
authorized the release of the segment,
which accurately quoted Omar as say-
ing Osama bin Laden would not be
surrendered, and the Taliban was
preparing for war.
Dissent: A Job Requirement
As these examples show, dissent is
not a luxury — it is a necessity of our
job. Our work requirements statement
should include the phrase, “bring at-
tention to problems, contradictions
and unproductive policies.” What kind
of Foreign Service do we have if em-
ployees say nothing when they see
something that wastes money, endan-
gers health and safety, or damages the
nation’s foreign relations?
Dissent should be put alongside our
Service’s core values of duty, honor and
country. The question for each of us
should be, “Why am I not expressing
my disagreement?”— not, “Will I hurt
my career if I dissent?”
Taking a contrary position can be
uncomfortable in an organization that
values consensus and collegiality. It
can damage friendships and even di-
vide family members. Dissent can
force us to confront facts we would
prefer to ignore.
So why dissent? Because we have
goals beyond advancing our careers.
We have a conscience, and care about
our country’s fortunes and about the
fate of our Service. We have a duty to
point out misguided policies —be they
in Iraq or elsewhere — and to provide
a constructive solution.
We are also the people on the
ground with the training, knowledge,
judgment and experience to advise the
president and the Secretary of State.
We owe it to our country to use what
we know and to give our honest views,
even when they may differ with cur-
rent orthodoxy. For if not us, who?
When AFSA issues the call for
nominations for the 2013 dissent
awards this fall, please consider nomi-
nating a deserving colleague—or even
yourself — for one of these unique
awards. You will do us all a great serv-
ice by honoring the best among us.
Dissent is not a luxury —
it is a necessity of our job.
J U LY - A U G U S T 2 0 1 2 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L
The Nomination Process
Anyone may propose a superior, peer or subordinate — or themselves — for an
AFSA dissent award, so long as the nomination (700 words or fewer) includes all of the
following elements:
• The name of the award for which the person is being nominated, along with the
nominee’s name, grade, agency and position.
• The nominator’s name, grade, agency and position, along with a description of his
or her association with the nominee.
• A justification for nomination that describes the actions and qualities that qualify the
nominee for the award. This should cite specific examples demonstrating that he or
she has “exhibited extraordinary accomplishment involving initiative, integrity, intellec-
tual courage and constructive dissent.”
Additional Guidelines
• Only career or career-conditional members of the foreign affairs agencies (e.g.,
State, USAID, FCS, FAS or IBB) are eligible for a constructive dissent award.
• An individual may be nominated more than once in different years for the same
award, provided that he/she has never won that award.
• The time period during which the actions attributed to the nominee took place does
not have to be within the most recent calendar year. However, they should have oc-
curred not more than four years before the time of the nomination.
• While messages sent via the State Department Dissent Channel and USAID’s Direct
Channel may be cited as the basis of a dissent award, it is still necessary to submit a
nomination directly to AFSA for consideration.
For more detailed information on AFSA’s Constructive Dissent Award Program, in-
cluding criteria and procedures for nominating recipients and lists of past winners, visit, or
contact Perri Green, AFSA’s coordi-
nator for awards and outreach, at or
(202) 338-4045, ext. 521.