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Page Background

Only two years ago, the

Foreign Agricultural Service

switched from a Foreign Ser-

vice recruitment system that

relied completely on internal

hires to one that recruited

officers from both inside and

outside the federal govern-

ment.

A refreshing group of tal-

ented outside hires has since

been added to an equally

bright cadre from inside FAS.

The first wave of Foreign Ser-

vice officers recruited through

the new system has received

basic economic and agricul-

ture training and will start to

arrive at overseas posts this

year.

New Opportunities

The revamped officer-

intake system offers several

opportunities for FAS, the

largest being an occasion

to reinvigorate the focus on

professionalism among FAS

FSOs. Instilling a sense of pro-

Reinvigorating the FAS Esprit de Corps

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

|

OCTOBER 2015

51

fessional pride must be one

of our top priorities in training

our future leaders to meet

internal challenges and the

increasingly competitive inter-

national trading environment

faced by our constituents.

In the past, new FAS

employees had to work for a

minimum of 18 months before

they could even apply to be

FSOs; many spent years as

civil servants prior to joining

the Foreign Service. Conse-

quently, our small, but distinct

FSO community shared a

strong cultural connection

to FAS, but lacked esprit de

corps and a common dedica-

tion to the broader Foreign

Service and its commitment

to professional development.

The new groups com-

ing into FAS provide us an

opportunity to develop a fresh

approach to training that will

impart a strong sense of com-

munity and purpose. In many

ways, the acculturation that

occurs during State’s A-100

new officer training course

has been missing in the FAS

context, and it is encourag-

ing that a similar systemwas

instituted for new FAS FSO

classes starting in 2013-2014.

Professional Development

However, entry-level train-

ing is not enough. FAS needs

to augment this training with

a systematic drive toward

career-long professional

development.

The first objective needs

to be prioritization of continu-

ing education in commercial

diplomacy. Despite the broad

skillset required for success-

ful promotion of agricultural

trade, FAS has for too long

promoted officers on a too-

narrow range of skills.

The second objective must

be to ensure senior officers

are judged on how well they

foster the development of

successive generations of

leaders. All too often, new

FSOs are expected to “learn

on the job,”without senior-

level mentors to educate

and nurture them as future

leaders. Senior officers should

take an active part in better

defining what commercial

diplomacy means to FAS and

in training new leaders to

take this professional art to a

higher level.

The “Foreign Service” in

“Foreign Agricultural Service”

will thrive and best serve our

constituents only if we estab-

lish a system that continually

and intentionally creates and

promotes exceptional lead-

ers. Institutionally, we need

to rededicate ourselves to a

consistently higher level of

professional development to

ensure that our future ranks

are able to meet the chal-

lenges ahead.

n

FAS VP VOICE

| BY MARK PETRY

AFSA NEWS

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

Contact:

mark.petry@fas.usda.gov

or (202) 720-2502

AFSAGoverning

Board Decisions

August 5, 2015

July Governing Board Minutes

: On a consent motion from

FAS Vice President Mark Petry, the board approved the July

1 Governing Board minutes. The motion passed unani-

mously.

Election Committee Applicants:

On a consent motion

from AFSA Treasurer Charles Ford, the board approved the

appointment of FSO Christopher Green to serve on the

AFSA Committee on Elections for the period August 2015–

August 2016. The motion passed unanimously.

Nominations to the Foreign Service Labor Relations

Board, the Foreign Service Grievance Board and the For-

eign Service Impasse Disputes Panel

: On a motion from

State Representative Nini Hawthorne, the Governing Board

agreed to adopt a policy codifying the practice of soliciting

and approving nominations of qualified individuals to the

FSLRB, FSGB and the Disputes Panel. The measure passed

unanimously.

OPM Data Breach:

The new board continued discussion

and reviewed actions taken in response to the OPM cyber

breaches. Several board members voiced concern over the

incidents’ potential impacts on the financial security and

safety of Foreign Service members and their families. All

agreed to continue engaging OPM and Congress to ensure

FS interests are addressed

.

n