The Foreign Service Journal - December 2013 - page 7

n my past three columns, I have
described AFSA’s relations with our
main partners: Civil Service colleagues,
Congress and State Department
management. This month I would like to
describe AFSA’s strategic plan, adopted by
the Governing Board in November.
This two-year plan focuses on five
areas: good internal governance, member
benefits, Foreign Service career develop-
ment, overseas security and Foreign Ser-
vice image promotion. Within these five
areas, we have prioritized 29 projects.
This is an ambitious agenda. But
with AFSA now grown to a record 16,200
members, and with 10 standing commit-
tees, a 29-member board and 34-member
professional staff, we believe it is time to
think big. Here are three of the projects
we are undertaking.
First, a working group of 10 retired
chiefs of mission, comprised of both
career diplomats and political appointees
from three administrations, is drafting a
set of “Guidelines for a Successful Chief
of Mission.” They are drawing on the
criteria for ambassadors contained in
the Foreign Service Act of 1980 and other
sources, as well as their personal experi-
In December the AFSA Govern-
ing Board and other groups
will review the Guidelines
document. After its adoption,
AFSA and these like-minded
organizations will hold a series
of media and congressional
events to present it. We believe
these guidelines will prove
to be a useful resource for
the executive and legislative
branches in the nomination and confir-
mation processes for chiefs of mission.
Second, to provide input for the 2014
Quadrennial Diplomacy and Develop-
ment Review, AFSA has formed six work-
ing groups, each composed of a mix of
active-duty and retired members, to look
at reforms in six discrete areas. We are
calling this our “Six Easy Pieces,” which
we will present to the leadership of the
State Department and U.S. Agency for
International Development, and to the
broader membership, in January.
One of these groups is looking at
security and at the task of striking the
right balance between risk mitigation and
engagement with local publics, which is
so vital to being able to carry out our work
overseas. Stay tuned for further informa-
tion on these groups.
Our third initiative involves the
yearlong celebration in 2014 of the 90th
anniversary of both the modern Foreign
Service and AFSA. We are planning many
great events to celebrate that milestone,
beginning with a kickoff cocktail recep-
tion in January. There will also be a May
22 gala dinner hosted by Secretary of State
John Kerry, a series of talks on the Middle
East and Europe, a policy conference in
October open to all AFSA members, book
launches, and much more.
There are many other
initiatives in AFSA’s two-year
strategic plan. We are working
to have Foreign Service travel-
ers included in the “Global
Entry” program at U.S. airports;
develop a leave bank along the
lines of the “credit union” model to help
manage our leave; and formulate after-
hours guidelines for employee Black-
Berry accessibility. And to model good
governance and institute a performance
management culture, AFSA’s elected
officers are leading by example, calling for
360-degree reviews of themselves by staff.
You’ll find the entire plan at
org; under the “About AFSA” tab, go to
“Governing Board” category.
And now, as promised, here are the
answers to last month’s Foreign Service
• George Kennan wrote the Long
Telegram, proposing the Containment
Doctrine that prevailed in the Cold War,
while serving as an editor of
The Foreign
Service Journal
• The ratio in today’s Foreign Service
between generalists and specialists is
roughly 60/40.
• The early American republic gave
chiefs of mission the title of minister
plenipotentiary rather than ambassador.
• The father of Senator Sheldon
Whitehouse, D-R.I., was AFSA President
Charles Whitehouse.
Congratulations to Craig Olson of
Arlington, Va., and Ethan Goldrich of
Embassy Minsk for answering all four
questions correctly. Your AFSA coffee
mugs are in the mail!
I wish you all a happy and healthy
holiday season. Be well, stay safe and
keep in touch.
New Ideas fromAFSA
Robert J. Silverman is the president of the American Foreign Service Association.
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