Page 60 - Foreign Service Journal - October, 2012b

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60
OCTOBER 2012
|
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
AFSA NEWS FAS VP VOICE | BY DAVID MERGEN
AFSA NEWS
Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA FAS VP.
One of the major challenges
the Foreign Agricultural
Service faces is the growing
stafng gap of Foreign Ser-
vice ofcers at the mid-level
(FS-1, FS-2 and FS-3). Thirty
percent of our overseas posi-
tions are flled with ofcers in
upward stretches, with most
of these positions at the
mid-level.
This is only going to get
worse due to the impending
mandatory retirement of
up to a fourth of the Foreign
Service under the “up-or-out”
rules. According to a recent
report issued by the Govern-
ment Accountability Ofce,
the State Department is fac-
ing a similar problem: 28 per-
cent of its overseas positions
are either unflled or flled by
FSOs at a lower grade.
Unlike the State Depart-
The Mid-Level Stafng Gap
ment, where the gap is
largely due to the recent
surge in hiring (and prior cut-
backs), the problem at FAS is
mainly caused by insufcient
promotions in recent years.
The number of FS-1 ofcers
has dropped by 25 percent
in the last six years, while the
workload has grown.
A lot of experience is
walking out the door and the
ofcers who remain are fac-
ing serious morale problems,
because they are asked to do
more with fewer opportuni-
ties for advancement.
The GAO and the depart-
ment recognize the stafng
gap is a serious issue that
needs to be resolved, but it
is not clear that U.S. Depart-
ment of Agriculture manage-
ment is ready to take on the
problem. The focus at the
USDA has been on cutting
costs. They are assigning
lower-grade FSOs to higher-
grade positions even as
they reduce the number of
higher-grade ofcers. While
this policy has had a major
impact on FS job satisfaction,
the actual budget savings
have been minimal.
The severity of the prob-
lem is further exacerbated
by the fact that our overseas
positions already tend to be
at a lower grade than those
of our counterparts in Com-
merce and State.
Our constituents in the
agricultural community view
the Foreign Service and our
overseas ofces as the most
important part of the FAS. If
U.S. agriculture were growing
less dependent on exports,
we could easily scale back
our overseas presence. But
that is not the case: U.S.
exports are increasing in
importance, with one in three
U.S. farm acres now planted
for export, and 31 percent
of U.S. gross farm income
coming directly from exports.
The success of the Foreign
Agricultural Service over-
seas creates jobs and builds
rural communities across
America.
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A lot of experience is walking out the door
and the ofcers who remain are facing
serious morale problems.
FSOs Helping Bosnian Street Dogs Survive
A model no-kill dog shelter
set up in Bosnia’s Brcko Dis-
trict, which has been under
direct U.S. supervision since
shortly after the end of the
1995 war that tore Yugoslavia
apart, was recently forced to
close, jeopardizing the lives
of 99 former street dogs.
The presence on the
ground of an American
supervisor had provided
some measure of protection
for the canines. But with U.S.
supervision now ended, the
dogs that lived in the shelter
were slated to be killed.
To get them to safety,
dog lovers, including former
FSOs who served in Bosnia,
mounted Operation Rescue
Them. A new, no-kill shelter
site has been located and
leased. More than 40 dogs
have been moved, thanks to
the eforts of a local nongov-
ernmental organization, The
Society for the Protection
and Wellbeing of Animals
(known as Arka), based in
Novi Sad, Serbia, and man-
aged by Branka and Pavel
Pasko, a Yugoslav couple.
Help is urgently needed
to ensure that the remaining
dogs are moved to safety
and that the new shelter can
continue to operate. Dona-
tions can be made through
the Animal Welfare Institute
at www.awionline.org.
Please select donation
amount, designate one time
or recurring and note in the
special instructions sec-
tion that the donation is for
Arka–Bosnian dogs
. You
may also send your check to
AWI, 900 Pennsylvania Ave.
SE, Washington, DC, 20003,
attention Susan Millward.
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