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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

|

DECEMBER 2014

47

AFSA NEWS

AFSA ON THE HILL

AFSAAdvocacy for Ambassadorial

Nominees Builds Relationships on the Hill

As the “Voice of the Foreign

Service,”AFSA addresses

issues of importance to our

members working around the

world. These advocacy e’orts

include such issues as over-

seas comparability pay, safety

and security, U.S. state taxes

and pet travel policies.

AFSA’s sta’ and elected

leadership work diligently

to clearly communicate our

positions on Capitol Hill and

with local ožcials, as well as

with theWhite House and

the leadership of the foreign

a’airs agencies.

As diverse as the issues

are, so are the ways we seek

to resolve them—through

meetings and negotiations,

by partnering with other

organizations to amplify our

message, through calls to

action where we ask members

to express their concern on

particular issues, or through

bringing public attention to a

problem.We use the approach

that will produce the best pos-

sible outcome for the Foreign

Service.

Earlier this year, one issue

on our list of concerns cap-

tured media and public atten-

tion: the backlog of career

ambassadorial nominees

awaiting confirmation in the

United States Senate.

As AFSA regularly tracks

the nominations and confir-

mations for these positions,

we noticed the ballooning

number of unfilled ambassa-

dorial-level positions.We also

heard from our members,

both nominees themselves

and those serving at mis-

sions around the world, about

the impact and scope of the

problem.

AFSA took this opportunity

to remind senators and their

sta’ of the importance of the

work done by ambassadors—

as leaders of embassy sta’, as

representatives of the Ameri-

can people and as diplomats.

We felt strongly that we

could not allow the impor-

tance of these positions to be

called into question, which

was the e’ect of delaying

confirmations. A chief of

mission is the highest ranking

executive at post and one of

the most senior positions to

which members aspire.

Over the last several

months, we’ve had numerous

meetings with U.S. Senators

and their sta’s, during which

we’ve made the following

points:

• Though our members

work diligently in the absence

of a confirmed ambassador,

the strain is great.We’ve

heard frommany of you about

the stress and disruption this

has caused.

•While waiting for the

new chief of mission, many

initiatives—and the ožcers

working on them—find them-

selves in a holding pattern,

which, over time, may have a

negative impact on embassy

morale.

• Our members know bet-

ter than anyone the impor-

tance of building relationships

with host-country counter-

parts and conversely, the

damage done by the message

sent by vacant chief-of-mis-

sion positions.

As foreign a’airs experts,

our members know how

important it is for the U.S. to

have its full complement of

diplomats when addressing

the major issues in a crisis,

ironing out details of a trade

agreement or building an

alliance to contend with a

common enemy. They spend

much time trying to explain

to host country interlocu-

tors why they don’t have an

ambassador but can’t over-

come the skepticism.

• Our members also

watch as other countries with

ambassadors get the access

they may not be able to get;

and as other countries’ busi-

nesses and investors go on

the o’ensive. (China, Russia,

Brazil build key business rela-

tionships in growing econo-

mies in Africa, while we stand

on the sidelines.)

• Failing to act on these

nominations suggests that

our country’s leadership does

not value the contributions of

those at the top ranks of the

Foreign Service or the impor-

tance of diplomacy.

In our meetings on the Hill

we have also made clear that

this cannot become “the new

normal” for confirmations,

and that these positions—and

the career nominees chosen

to fill them—cannot be used

as political pawns.

We do believe, however,

that because of the strong

support the Foreign Service

has enjoyed from both sides

of the aisle, the situation will

be resolved.

AFSA has used the oppor-

tunity presented by this public

discussion to build important

relationships on Capitol Hill,

as well as with new partners in

the business community and

the military.

These relationships will

have a long-term, positive

impact for our members as

we move forward on this and

many other key issues by

building AFSA brand aware-

ness and enhancing the

understanding of the crucial

work done by the women and

men of the Foreign Service.

Advocacy is cumulative

and holistic. Communication

and advocacy work hand-in-

glove to represent the inter-

ests of our members. Should

you have any suggestions

or questions, or if you are

interested in knowing more

about or taking action on this

or other topics impacting

members of the Foreign Ser-

vice and their families, please

contact us at

advocacy@afsa

.

org.

n

—Javier Cuebas,

Director of Advocacy

Kristen Fernekes,

Director of Communications