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s I complete my fourth and fnal
year as AFSA president, I have
been refecting on what we
have achieved together and on
the challenges and opportunities ahead.
I do so with a strong sense of the honor it
has been to lead AFSA and to represent
the Foreign Service. Service on the AFSA
Governing Board has been an evenmore
important responsibility than I had antici-
pated, but it has also been highly satisfying
and rewarding.
In carrying out my responsibilities, I
have been indebted to current and past
boardmembers, committee chairs and
members, and AFSA’s professional staf for
their cooperation and support. I also want
to thank the many members who have
been regular correspondents, providing
information, feedback and good sugges-
tions. Your wealth of professional expe-
rience and individual perspectives are
inspiring and have helped advance AFSA’s
fundamental mission: promoting a strong,
professional career Foreign Service and
thereby strengthening American diplo-
macy and our nation’s interests.
Te professional career Foreign Service
that I amproud to belong to will cel-
ebrate its 90th anniversary next year. Tat
milestone should inspire all of us to refect
upon the history and future of our institu-
tion, as well as the challenges
that all foreign afairs agencies
Looking through the prism
of my four years at AFSA’s helm,
I see more clearly than ever
that those challenges demand
a Foreign Service of the high-
est standards, one equipped to
advance American diplomacy and provide
the capacity that our Secretaries of State
and presidents need.
In that quest, we should always strive
tomeet the aspirations set forth in the
1980 Foreign Service Act. Tat landmark
legislation stipulates that “a career Foreign
Service, characterized by excellence
and professionalism, is essential to the
national interest” andmust be “preserved,
strengthened and improved to carry out
its mission efectively in response to the
complex challenges of modern diplomacy
and international relations.” It also calls for
a Senior Foreign Service “characterized by
strong policy formulation capabilities, out-
standing leadership qualities, and highly
developed functional, foreign language
and area expertise.”
Toward that end, we need to nurture
a culture of excellence and esprit de
corps based on shared values and self-
confdence, which are the attributes of a
premier diplomatic service.
Inmy previous columns, I have tried to
consistently highlight the issues that shape
the Foreign Service and the Department of
State, U.S. Agency for International Devel-
opment, the Foreign Commercial Service
and Foreign Agricultural Service, and the
International Broadcasting Bureau—and
are therefore central to AFSA’s agenda.
I have also called on AFSA to
use its voice to identify and
advocate for the cultural and
organizational changes that will
strengthen the Foreign Service
and American diplomacy.
We must shift frombeing
reactive to innovative, from resisting
change to embracing and shaping it,
and from ignoring the need for new
approaches to professional education and
training to seeking themout and valuing
Finally, rather than pretending that they
don’t exist, we must address institutional
weaknesses and defciencies with resolve
and confdence. Te Quadrennial Diplo-
macy and Development process must
focus on increasing Foreign Service profes-
sionalism andmaking the Department
of State the primary vehicle of American
diplomacy. AFSAmust be involved in the
QDDR process to bring about reform and
restructuring grounded in our experience.
With those goals inmind, the cur-
rent AFSA Governing Board identifed
four strategic issues in a January letter to
Secretary of State John Kerry which are
worth recapping here: security/diplomacy
and efective risk management and the
imperative for continued engagement
in the feld; strengthening professional
education and training in the practice of
diplomacy; tangible recognition and fair
compensation for the Foreign Service; and
institutional reform and restructuring to
ensure that the Foreign Service and State
are institutions consistently capable of
complex diplomacy.
I leave the ofce of AFSA president with
confdence that the incoming board will
build on and carry forward what has been
achieved. I urge AFSAmembers, wherever
they may be, to come together in support
of a strong and revitalized United States
Foreign Service.
Passing the Baton
Susan R. Johnson is the president of the American Foreign Service Association.