Page 7 - Foreign Service Journal - September 2013

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y frst weeks at AFSA, and
I am still learning the new
computer system! My
sincere apologies to any
of you who wrote to me and did not
receive a response.
At frst no messages from
addresses were arriving in my inbox.
Tey were all caught by AFSA’s spam
flter. While appreciating a moment of
clarity—AFSA is not the government—I
asked our IT person to loosen the set-
tings. Since then, I am enjoying many
messages from the feld, so keep them
Turning to a more serious issue,
I would like to discuss our relation-
ships with Civil Service colleagues. Te
metaphor that works for me is a family
with two siblings. Tey grow up together,
understand each other’s diferences, and
share in common much more than what
distinguishes one from the other.
Still, occasional instances of rivalry
over position are to be expected and, in
fact, lead both institutions to work harder
and achieve more. Tat is how I see the
Foreign Service–Civil Service
dynamic in each of the foreign
afairs agencies.
I mention this because
an April
Washington Post
opinion piece, “Presidents
Are Breaking the U.S. Foreign
co-authored by
former AFSA President Susan
Johnson with Ambassadors
Tomas Pickering and Ron Neumann,
raised concerns about trends in senior
political appointments at the State
Department. Te op-ed also touched on
a separate concern with the growth of
Civil Service appointments, seen as com-
ing at the expense of the Foreign Service.
Te debate on these issues contin-
ues, as seen in an article in this month’s
: “Te Case for a Professional
Foreign Service” (p. 56). Susan and her
co-authors have performed a useful ser-
vice by raising core concerns, and I thank
them for being outspoken on these and
other issues.
During the AFSA election campaign I
received a lot of informal feedback about
the op-ed, and I discussed it further with
Foreign and Civil Service colleagues
after the election. After refecting on
those conversations, here are my general
Te Foreign Service should welcome
all talented individuals who wish to
become involved in U.S. foreign policy,
whether Civil Service, Foreign Service or
political appointees.
We must also closely moni-
tor the intake and assignment
systems to ensure they always
followmeritocratic principles.
As long as job qualifcations
and diversity of representation
are the standards, the Foreign
Service will continue to fourish.
Of course, we can’t be complacent or
naive. Te constantly growing infu-
ence of money in our political system
increases the pressure to expand patron-
age at all levels, regardless of the admin-
istration. On this and many other issues,
we can count the career Civil Service as
among our best allies.
AFSA plays a useful role when we
lobby publicly and privately against the
expansion of patronage, and we will
continue to do so. But AFSA’s mission is
much broader than this defensive role.
We must also focus inward, and improve
the career development path and our
midcareer education to ensure that the
Foreign Service continues to attract and
develop the nation’s top talent.
Te next Quadrennial Diplomacy
and Development Review, which is just
starting, will be a vehicle for AFSA to
work closely with management at State
and USAID to achieve these goals. I hope
many of you in Washington and overseas
will volunteer to join upcoming AFSA
working groups that will be producing
papers on various subjects for the next
By the way, our Civil Service col-
leagues will also have a lot to contribute
to this review. Siblings should stick
Be well, stay safe and keep in touch.
Our Civil Service Colleagues
Robert J. Silverman is the president of the American Foreign Service Association.