Page 66 - Foreign Service Journal - September 2013

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66
SEPTEMBER 2013
|
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
FAS VP VOICE | BY DAVID MERGEN
AFSA NEWS
Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA FAS VP.
Contact:
david.mergen@fas.usda.gov
or (202) 720-3650
The start of my second
term coincides with major
changes in FAS. Our new
administrator, Phil Karsting,
has extensive experience
working on Capitol Hill and
in agriculture (going back
to his upbringing in rural
Nebraska) and has gotten
of to a good start. However,
there are some challenges
ahead—principally, restoring
employee confdence in the
senior leadership.
Despite some outstanding
individuals, collectively our
leadership was ranked 277th
A New Term and New Opportunities
As a long-time Commercial
Service o cer, I have served
in Mexico, Spain, France and
Senegal. Before going over-
seas, I ran the Commercial
Service’s Southern Califor-
nia U.S. Export Assistance
Center and most recently,
worked in the Baltimore
USEAC and at the National
Association of Manufactur-
ers.
In addition to helping
small and medium-sized
frms enter foreign markets,
I’ve passionately protected
U.S. overseas investments
and advocated on U.S. com-
panies’ behalf. Through our
Fighting the Good Fight
Gold Key Matching Service,
during Maryland Governor
Martin O’Malley’s 2011 trade
mission to India, I helped to
connect 17 U.S. companies
doing international business
with reliable partners there.
As far as issues go, the
International Trade Admin-
istration consolidation and
the efects that will have on
promotions, fow through and
the like, are paramount. The
shape this “once-every-30
years” reorganization takes
is critical to all of us, as it will
afect exports, exporters,
clients, o cers, careers and
the Commercial Service pro-
FCS VP VOICE | BY STEVE MORRISON
AFSA NEWS
Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA FCS VP.
Contact:
steve.morrison@trade.gov
or (202) 482-9088
foundly for years to come.
Also on the radar is AFSA’s
continuing focus on Overseas
Comparability Pay. In terms
of salary, OCP is designed to
place all federal employees
posted abroad on an equal
footing as those serving in
Washington, D.C. You have
my assurance that I will
continue to advocate for this
important “level-the-playing-
feld” initiative.
Finally, it should come as
no surprise that we live in
an era of sequestration. The
forced downward trajectory
of an agency’s overall budget
is now the law of the land.
By the time you read this,
round two of sequestration
may well be coursing its way
through. As your VP (and
previously as your Rep), I
have been working hard to
mitigate sequestration’s
worst efects. I will continue
to do everything I can to help
reverse this trend and advo-
cate for increased budgets
(including full funding of
National Export Initiative) for
the Commercial Service.
I hope you will join me in
this efort by writing to your
Congressperson early and
often.
n
out of 290 agencies in the
2012
Best Places to Work in
the Federal Government
.
Further down the road,
it looks likely that Congress
will create a new undersec-
retary for trade and foreign
agricultural afairs within the
U.S. Department of Agricul-
ture (assuming a Farm Bill is
approved this year). This will
likely involve some reorgani-
zation of trade activities at
the USDA, possibly result-
ing in a new FAS structure.
Should this happen, AFSA
will need to track and provide
input for it as it develops. 
With respect to specifc
goals for the next two years,
most important is the need
to develop greater transpar-
ency and predictability in the
promotion process in order
to enable clear career goals
for FAS FSOs. This means
revising and updating the
promotion precepts in the
AFSA contract and examining
the process for deciding how
many o cers we need to pro-
mote each year to maintain
a strong and vibrant Foreign
Service.
We need to resist the urge
to use the up-or-out person-
nel system as a way to cut
agency costs. The focus
should be on the original
intent in the Foreign Service
Act of 1980 that promotions
be managed in a manner to
ensure a “regular, predictable
fow of talent upward through
the ranks and into the Senior
Foreign Service.” Doing other-
wise is a disservice to both
the employees of FAS and
the agricultural sector we
represent overseas.
n