The Foreign Service Journal - October 2016
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s I write on Labor Day, the sum-

mer rotation cycle is behind

us and, in our household and

many of yours, a new school

year is beginning. This seems like a great

time to provide an update on the progress

we have made over recent months estab-

lishing and cementing a series of strategic

partnerships that form the foundation of

AFSA’s outreach efforts.

I know from conversations withmem-

bers that many of us dreamof earning the

national recognition and respect our col-

leagues in the military enjoy. That remains

a long-term goal for the Foreign Service,

but we must work toward that goal with

clear eyes.

Our numbers are small (just 16,500

active-duty FS, compared to well over a

million active-duty uniformedmilitary

and another half-million reserves) and our

financial resources are limited.

We generally spendmore than two-

thirds of our careers serving abroad, so ties

to our home states grow tenuous; and we

have nothing like the military’s network of

bases across the country to keep us con-


If we are going tomake serious progress

toward our goal of having the Foreign

Service widely recognized and respected,

we need friends

and partners with

deep roots in their

communities to

influence elected


We are developing

a comprehensive

50-state strategy to engage with the Ameri-

can public, especially those prepared to

vouch for the value of the Foreign Service,

in every state.

AFSA has been working quietly and

diligently over a number of months to

forge strategic partnerships, so we can

tap into nationwide networks to amplify

the story of the Foreign Service to an

ever-wider audience around the country.

For example, following successful joint

outreach with AFSA in 2015, Global Ties,

which hosts international visitors across

the country, has invitedme to join its

advisory board, connecting AFSA to its

globally engagedmembers and affiliates in

45 states.

The World Affairs Councils of America,

with local councils in 40 states, has given

AFSA a prime speaking slot at its annual

conference in November. And after a suc-

cessful pilot year, the U.S. Institute of Peace

signed on to partner with AFSA again on

our signature high school essay contest.

AFSA has also securedmuch-needed—

andmuch-appreciated—funding for addi-

tional outreach initiatives. During the last

three months, AFSA signed agreements

for funding in excess of $85,000 to sustain

outreach efforts.

Outreach is, of course, only one of

the three pillars in the AFSA Governing

Board’s work plan, alongside


sive workforce planning

to ensure you have

a healthy career path to develop into the

leaders of tomorrow and


to help

us gain a nuanced understanding of your

aspirations and concerns.

Work continues on all three pillars.

“Structured conversations” withmembers

resume this month as we begin hear-

ing fromUSAID and specialists at State,

informing AFSA’s advocacy work with

bothmanagement and Congress. We hear

you loud and clear, for example, on lateral

entry, and we will continue to oppose

efforts in Congress to parachute new

entrants into State’s already full mid-levels,

even as we work constructively to address

the staffing shortages at entry level.

In our mission to advocate for a strong

Foreign Service, we’ve formed a strategic

partnership with the Lyndon B. Johnson

School of Public Affairs at the University of

Texas at Austin to conduct a benchmarking

exercise comparing the U.S. Foreign

Service with eight of the largest, most influ-

ential diplomatic services in the world.

We aim to capture global best practices

on recruiting, early assignment patterns,

tour length and a number of other issues

for the purpose of making recommenda-

tions to ensure the U.S. Foreign Service is

equipped to lead America’s foreign policy

in the 21st century. Expect to hear more

over the course of the next fewmonths

as AFSA’s work with the LBJ School’s 14

graduate students and two respected inter-

national affairs scholars and practitioners



Ambassador Barbara Stephenson is the president of the American Foreign Service Association.

Forging Strategic Partnerships




We are developing a comprehensive 50-state

strategy to engage with the American public.