Page 51 - Foreign Service Journal - December 2012

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Loose Change
Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA FCS VP.
I write this column at an
uncertain moment in time—
one week before the elec-
tion, and with the proposed
reorganization of FCS still
hanging over us. And no
doubt, even with the election
decided as you read this,
most of the major issues are
still before us.
This is one more reminder
that part of the new normal
is living with uncertainty. If
anyone should do well in an
age of uncertainty, it should
be Foreign Service members.
After all, we live a lifetime
of constant change. But
even for us, this has been a
challenging year. We have
wrestled with a proposed
reorganization, dealt with
repositioning, introduced and
moved regionalization along,
begun the transition to a
new deputy under secretary,
and dealt with all the usual
uncertainties of new leader-
ship, new posts and constant
I am reminded of the
Serenity Prayer: “God, grant
me the serenity to accept the
things I cannot change,
the courage to change the
things I can, and the wisdom
to know the diference.”
It is the last part that
is the hardest. One of the
refrains those of us in Wash-
ington hear is that the world
has changed and we have
not. It is simply not true. We
have regionalized the feld;
we have changed our ser-
vices, our systems and Web
sites; regularly reviewed our
strategy and strategic state-
ment; and, reorganized the
International Trade Adminis-
tration more than once (who
remembers TD and IEP?).
Hopefully, the careful
approach of analyzing what
our clients want and where
we add value—championed
by change-experienced
leaders like Ken Hyatt—will
have prevailed by the time
you read this allowing us to
concentrate on looking at the
really efective and exciting
things we could be doing. We
could develop an efective
way to allow people from the
three ITA units to rotate or
switch jobs. We could priori-
tize the work of the agency
and shift resources to trade
promotion, where it should
be. This would allow people
who want to work in the feld
to do so. We could develop
innovative cross teams and
spend our time working on
common metrics so that we
could pull our oars together,
but allow for diferent contri-
butions and open sharing of
successes. Or we could move
a bunch of organizational
boxes around.
With the fscal pressures
still out there, regardless of
who has won the election, we
are headed for more change
in government. FCS may well
deal with much bigger ques-
tions for our future: Is there
a trade agency? Should we
return to State?
As we wrap up this year
and head into the new one,
let us be thankful that under
Chuck and Tom’s able leader-
ship we have implemented
many new programs and,
especially with Chuck’s
foresight, assigned a team
of leaders that can continue
and grow the organization
under these programs as well
as under the new challenges
I thank all of you in the
feld for dealing with these
uncertainties while still doing
a brilliant job of serving the
client and getting the job
Dissent: Making a Diference
I still remember the moment
I decided to dissent. I'd just
come back to my desk from
the American Citizens Ser-
vices window after confs-
cating someone's passport
based on a possible name
hit—maybe the third time in
two weeks I'd done that to a
traveling American. See-
ing I was upset, the consul
general walked over, and I
told her bluntly, "This isn't
right; I'm thinking of writing
a dissent cable." I didn't want
to sit by while our policy put
people in danger; I wanted to
at least be able to say that I'd
tried to fx things.
One lesson I learned from
the experience was that peo-
ple are eager to help improve
a fawed system once you
clearly identify the problem
and show you've given it due
consideration. My front ofce
and consul general treated
the cable as something nec-
essary and important—worth
my time and theirs. The end
product was the result of a
lot of research and talking
things through and making
sure that my position was
frmly grounded in fact. I'm
still grateful to them.
I honestly didn't know
what to expect by way of
Department response, so I
was surprised by the detailed
attention Washington gave
the issue. They obviously
couldn't change the law,
but they ofered to change
the way clearances were
handled, giving traveling
Americans priority. After the
award was announced, ACS
ofcers from other posts
wrote to me saying the policy
had bothered them, too, and
thanking me for raising it.
Those emails were gratifying
and humbling all at once.
Winning the dissent award
hasn't impacted my career
positively or negatively in
the least, which is exactly
as it should be. I'm proud to
work for an organization that
honors constructive dissent
and directs us to look for
ways to make things better
for the people around us and
those who come after us. It's
something I see happening in
the State Department every