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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

|

SEPTEMBER 2017

67

FAS VP VOICE

| BY KIMBERLY SAWATZKI

AFSA NEWS

Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA FAS VP.

Contact:

kim.sawatzki@usda.gov

| (202) 720-3650

As a second-generation

FAS Foreign Service officer,

embassies and the Foreign

Agricultural Service have

been a major part of my

entire life. They are not just

places of employment, but

the foundation of who I am

today.

Since my earliest memo-

ries, they have instilled in

me a sense of purpose, duty,

joy and pride. My love and

loyalty to my country, the

Foreign Service and FAS’

mission have driven me

to serve as the AFSA Vice

President for FAS.

I want to work alongside

AFSA colleagues from all of

the foreign affairs agencies

to be the face of the Foreign

Service, demonstrate that

strong diplomacy is critical

for U.S. interests, publicize

Seeking Solutions and Sustainability

the great work we do to the

new administration and

the public, and protect our

retirement benefits that are

currently under threat.

I am excited for the

opportunity to advocate

on behalf of FAS Foreign

Service officers and build

a strong, sustainable and

compassionate Foreign

Service.

My “to-do list” includes

fixing the time-in-service

issue (22 years vs. 27 years)

that penalizes top perform-

ers; ensuring that there are

good job opportunities for

Washington-bound FSOs;

exploring issues such as

giving credit for long-term

training and limited career

extensions; improving

training opportunities;

engaging with manage-

ment to strengthen FAS; and

ensuring that we all work in a

diverse and inclusive work-

place.

Foreign Agricultural Ser-

vice officers are a creative,

passionate and dedicated

bunch, and I am confident

that we can come up with

innovative ways to solve the

challenges facing us, both

current and future.

One of the first challenges

I would like to address is the

current shortage of FO-1s

and FO-2s, which means

that we do not have enough

officers to fill our positions

overseas. Forced assign-

ments may help fill those

slots, but at what cost?

The practice of forced

assignments encourages

more retirements, thereby

exacerbating the problem,

and sends the message to

all FSOs that the agency

may “reward” your decades

of dedicated service with a

forced assignment. So how

do

we fill the positions?

As a start, I suggest that

FAS management pursue

a Re-Employed Annuitants

(REA or When Actually

Employed) program for

retirees to come back to

work temporarily to fill gaps,

including during transitions

so FSOs can take the home

leave and training they need

for onward assignments.

I am eager to talk with

FAS Foreign Service officers,

to hear your concerns and

suggested solutions. Send

your thoughts and ideas to

me at

kim.sawatzki@usda

.

gov.

n

groups in urging Congress

to moderate that package

of cuts.

Education:

As director of

State’s Office of Retirement,

I spent a lot of time helping

employees and retirees get

out of holes they had dug for

themselves due to their lack

of knowledge of the laws

and regulations govern-

ing retirement benefits. As

Retiree VP, I plan to expand

AFSA’s efforts to educate

members so they can avoid

such problems.

Member Services:

When

members do encounter

problems with retirement

benefits, I will work with

AFSA’s retiree counselor and

Labor Management Office

to assist them. To resolve

issues, I will meet with the

Office of Retirement and, if

needed, travel to Charles-

ton, South Carolina, to

meet with the Retirement

Accounts Division.

Outreach:

Retirees play

an important role in speak-

ing out in defense of the

career Foreign Service and

in supporting funding for

diplomacy and development.

Toward that end, I will work

with AFSA’s new retiree out-

reach coordinator to expand

advocacy efforts by retirees

with a goal of developing a

domestic constituency for

the Foreign Service.

Community:

As a mem-

ber of the Foreign Affairs

Retirees of Northern Vir-

ginia, I see the value of such

groups around the nation in

bringing together Foreign

Service veterans to continue

the camaraderie we felt

while on active duty. I will

encourage AFSA to assist

those groups in expanding

their membership.

If you need assistance or

have suggestions, you can

reach me at

naland@afsa

.

org. AFSA’s Retiree Counselor

Todd Thurwachter can be

reached at

thurwachter@afsa

.

org and (202) 944-5509.

n

Retiree VP Voice,

Continued from page 66