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64

DECEMBER 2016

|

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

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

FAS VP VOICE

| BY MARK PETRY

AFSA NEWS

The 2016 promotion season

came and went without any

positive movement toward

resolving the Foreign Agri-

cultural Service’s demo-

graphic crisis.

The number of FAS

officers in the FO-1 and FO-2

classes is approximately 30

percent below the optimal

levels, a concern which

was not addressed in the

last promotion season. We

can expect the number of

FO-1s and FO-2s to decrease

further throughout the year

in keeping with the aver-

age attrition rates for those

classes.

On the bright side, thanks

to recruitment efforts, we

now have the right number

of officers at the entry level

(FO-3 and 4). So, how can we

fill in the middle? I suggest

that the answer is a combi-

Crash Course on Promotions

nation of promotions and

the limited use of civil ser-

vants in Agricultural Trade

Office positions.

While the obvious answer

for the Foreign Service

is to promote qualified

candidates to higher-level

positions, someone can’t be

promoted from FO-3 to FO-1

overnight. For me, the fun-

damental question is, “Can

FAS speed up the promotion

of officers without sacrificing

the quality of those pro-

moted?” I believe that the

answer is yes.

Although it would be a

huge challenge, this could

also be an opportunity for

FAS to implement standard-

ized and consistent training

in management, leadership

and other essential skills,

which has been lacking for

FAS FSOs.

Two areas, in particular,

need to be addressed to give

officers the consistent levels

of training and expectations

they need to do their jobs

well.

First, FAS needs to insti-

tute mandatory manage-

ment and leadership training

as the State Department

does for FSOs and FAS now

does for Civil Service man-

agers. Advanced programs

for mentoring and other

ways to directly impart expe-

rience to rising officers also

need strengthening.

Second, FSOs have called

for and deserve the oppor-

tunity to revise the perfor-

mance management aspects

of our contract to deliver

clearer expectations at all

levels. I strongly believe that

these changes can speed the

promotion of those already

working at the next level and

provide training and guid-

ance for others on how to

get to that next level faster

than they do under present

circumstances.

When judging experience

and readiness for promotion,

there needs to be more than

a simple “check-the-box”

exercise for officers. We

deserve more structure for

gaining practical and educa-

tional experiences needed to

show that we have the skills

to be promotable and to

understand what is expected

at the next level.

These changes should

simultaneously increase the

preparation of officers and

the speed of promotions,

leaving FAS better posi-

tioned to remedy our current

problems and meet those of

the future.

n

REMI NDER – 20 1 7 H I GH SCHOOL ESSAY CONTEST

The American Foreign Service Association’s National High School Essay Contest has begun!

The contest winner will receive $2,500, a trip toWashington, D.C. to meet the Secretary of State and full tuition for

a Semester at Sea educational voyage. The runner-up receives $1,250 and full tuition for the National Student Leader-

ship Conference’s International Diplomacy summer program.

AFSA welcomes the continuing support of our fantastic contest partners: The United States Institute of Peace,

Semester at Sea and the National Student Leadership Conference.

Eligibility for AFSA’s 2016 National High School Essay Contest is limited to high school students of U.S. citizenship,

in grades 9-12, whose parents are not members of the Foreign Service.

The deadline for entries is March 15, 2017. Full details of the contest, including this year’s essay topic, are available

from the AFSA website:

www.afsa.org/essay.

n

NEWS BRIEF