The Foreign Service Journal - December 2017

12 DECEMBER 2017 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL we keep our promises and show our- selves to be trustworthy, our reputation and our power grow. Putting integrity first is the best way to put America first. On Nov. 29 the Coalition for Integrity extended its 2017 Integrity Award to Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), a most deserving recipient for many reasons. We have also launched a nonpartisan “integ- rity challenge” for candidates in the state of Virginia. We asked all candidates in Virginia’s 2017 elections to support basic principles regarding financial disclosure, restrictions on gifts and disclosure of campaign contributions. Beginning in 2018, we would like to see candidates in elections across the United States accept this challenge and discuss how they will ensure that they and their administrations will be trustworthy. U.S. diplomats, military and interna- tional professionals represent American interests and values with courage and integrity. I encourage readers still in government service to reflect on how they can do more to combat corruption and epitomize integrity as they carry out their duties. And I encourage those who have retired from government ser- vice to consider how you can continue to be a part of this fight, perhaps by working with organizations like ours. Alan Larson Ambassador, retired Washington, D.C. Threats to Retiree Re-employment I am writing about a subject I trust I am not the first to raise: protecting the future of re-employed annuitants (formerly known as WAE, When Actu- ally Employed, personnel) at the State Department. I know I am not alone among active AFSA retirees who have found working part-time on projects where personal interests and various offices’ percep- tions of our individual aptitudes overlap to be incredibly fulfilling work. The threat, as I understand it, can ultimately be laid at the feet of some of our senior Civil Service colleagues in management. When the White House asked them for a list of potential cuts to save money and eliminate bodies (for a document going to the Office of Management and Budget), they essen- tially threw us under the bus rather than taking an honest look at truly wasteful employment practices like contracting. Here are a few concrete reasons to keep this important program alive: • REA status is not an entitlement. The State Department carefully chooses who they want to re-employ under this status. • We are cheap. We work for an hourly wage in the mid-level federal range, nothing more—no benefits, no pension contributions, nothing. Our salaries are probably just a quarter of what the department would have to pay inexperienced contractors to replace us. • We are competent and tend to know the work we are used for inside and out. As a bonus, we bring a strong sense of a program or function’s history to our work. • REAs lead from below , a perspective not often associated with the depart- ment. Although re-employed annuitants tend to have had long Foreign Service careers, we are hired for our experience and perspective, not our former rank. Speaking personally, I was in the Senior Foreign Service for more than half of my career. People had to listen tome. Now I work as a GS-14 graybeard. I naturally put my ideas out there, often advising the front offices of the embassies where I fill in andmy current managers in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. If an approach I put forward is adopted, it’s because it makes sense, not because I am senior in a hierarchi- cal organization. If such an approach or idea evokes counter-arguments, laughter or derision, so be it. I love that “leading from below” angle. In addition to AFSA defending a sensible version of the REA/WAE status, I urge all readers who care to write to their members of Congress. Elimination of the status will almost certainly be part of the debate over the FY 2018 budget and continuing resolution(s). Be steadfast in these unsettled days. Peter Kovach FSO, retired Bethesda, Maryland Soft Power and the Lessons of History The recent PBS series on the Viet- nam War offers a cautionary tale for the Trump administration as it attempts to slash the budgets of the State Depart- ment and other soft-power programs. Unfortunately, the president has little interest in history. Many factors contributed to the Vietnam tragedy: failure to consider the advice of experienced foreign-area experts, hubris, over-reliance on military superiority in a world of asymmetri- cal warfare, domestic political fear of appearing “soft,” measurement of suc- cess by inappropriate metrics (e.g., “kill ratios”), denial of facts and lying to the public. Sound familiar? In his landmark book about the Vietnam War, The Best and the Brightest , David Halberstam noted that President John F. Kennedy and his closest advisers “made the most critical of decisions with virtually no input from anyone who had any expertise on the recent history of that part of the world, and it in no