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Wanted: Your Solutions to

Foreign Service Challenges



Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the

AFSA State VP. Contact:

| (202) 647-8160

As some of you may

remember from the “Strong

Diplomacy” campaign during

the AFSA Governing Board

election, my most recent

assignment was as an asses-

sor (for both generalists and

specialists) with the Board of


I was so impressed by the

caliber of the people join-

ing the Service that I began

to feel a sense of personal

responsibility to leave them

with the best Foreign Service

possible—one they would be

proud to call home not just

for the next 10 or so years,

but for an entire career filled

with personally and profes-

sionally rewarding experi-


As AFSA State vice

president, I have the oppor-

tunity to delve into the full

range of issues affecting our

membership, including allow-

ances and benefits, work-life

balance, legal rights, career

development and assign-

ments, and more.

Although I’ve been on

the job for only a few weeks,

I’ve already learned that,

in many instances, it is our

members in the field who

bring new developments

to our attention and let us

know how department poli-

cies are affecting them. This

feedback is critical to our

ability to raise issues with

management and to try to

work out the kinks in a way

that protects our members’


What’s really exciting,

though, is when members

write to us with actual pro-

posed solutions to specific

challenges. We’re eager

to hear what you have to

say and how you think the

department might best miti-

gate a problem. Chances are,

if you’re dealing with a dif-

ficult situation, so are some

of your colleagues elsewhere

in the world.

I’m also interested in

hearing what topics you’d

like to read about in more

depth in future issues of this

column. This column is an

opportunity for me to go into

detail about non-time-sensi-

tive issues of interest to our

members, and I’d like to tailor

its content to be as relevant

and useful as possible.

AFSA often describes

itself as “the voice of the

Foreign Service,” but we can’t

speak for our members if

they don’t let us know what’s

on their minds. I look forward

to hearing from you at




Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the

AFSA FCS VP. Contact:

| (202) 482-9088

Our agency is once again on

the chopping block; this time,

its very survival is at stake.

Back in March, the Repub-

lican House and Senate lead-

ership struck a deal, as part

of the 2016 budget resolution,

to cut $5.5 billion dollars from

the federal budget over 10

years. All taxpayers should

applaud this valiant effort to

get federal spending under


But lost in the zeal to

balance the budget was a

proposal, under the head-

ing “Eliminating Corporate

Welfare,” to zero out the

trade promotion activities

of the International Trade

Administration—including the

Commercial Service—thereby

saving roughly $400 million

per year.

It can be argued that

more work needs to be done

to quantify the Commercial

Service’s contribution to the

U.S. economy, but that is poor

reason to throw the baby out

with the bathwater.

The Commercial Service

and its parent agencies,

Global Markets and the Inter-

national Trade Administration,

contribute significantly to U.S.

exports, which hit a record

high for the fifth straight year

last year, reaching $2.34

trillion and supporting 11.7

million American jobs.

Those exports are key

sources of income to more

than 300,000 U.S. compa-

nies, 98 percent of which

are small or medium-sized


With nearly 95 percent of

the world’s consumers living

outside the United States

and only a small, but growing,

fraction of U.S. companies

involved in exporting, now is

not the time to cut back.

That is why talk of elimi-

nating trade promotion and

the Commercial Service is so

frustrating. We’ve only now—

with our third straight new

FCS officer class in June—set

out to restore hiring to levels

before 2007, when our officer

corps dropped to an historic

low of 228.

If rumors of a government-

wide shutdown or elimination

of trade promotion and the

Commercial Service are true,

we might as well go back to

the days of merchant ships

sailing on dark, uncharted

seas as is so aptly depicted

on the emblem of the U.S.

Department of Commerce.

Extinguish the lighthouse

beacon our overseas offices

and officers represent?

Rough seas and rocky shores



Zeroing Out U.S.

Trade Promotion

The Commercial Service and its parent

agencies contribute significantly to U.S.


We’re eager to hear what you have to say

and how you think the department might

best mitigate a problem.