AFSA Annual Report 2013
As an executive director, I realize
that no organization is flawless,
and, yet, I recognize that in order
for an organization to progress
there must always be a thoughtful
desire to achieve that perfection.
When it comes to AFSA, that
desire burns bright. The board and
staff are dedicated, committed and
goal oriented. Consequently, our
organization achieved a great deal
in 2013, and I appreciate the opportunity to briefly report on
This past year, AFSA retained an outside management
firm to review our operational structure. This exercise was
extremely beneficial in that it allowed us to step back from
the daily grind and directly address fundamental issues and
potential impediments. The review endorsed the positive
direction we have been headed over the last several years
in managing transition and growth from one era to the
next. It also allowed us to identify ways to improve and set
strategic operational goals. We moved quickly, but deliber-
ately, in making adjustments in certain positions across the
organization to enhance management oversight, empower
supervisors, and deepen services to members. A modernized
management and staffing structure was necessary to meet
the needs of a growing staff, a more complex organization,
and advance a set of robust goals.
One significant change that occurred in 2013 was to enhance
and reorganize AFSA’s communications team. We built on
the strong existing group of staff by securing new profes-
sional talent. Additionally, by restructuring a management
system within this core communications group, we have
sparked creativity and innovation. The team is now part-
nering and collaborating with the advocacy team in ways
never before seen at AFSA. This has produced immediate
results—one example being a first of its kind reception on
Capitol Hill attended by members of Congress and key staff.
Further, the professional look and substance of external
material continued to improve. In fact, this annual report is
evidence of that improvement since AFSA has never before
had a report that flows in this way and is a stand-alone pub-
lication. We are increasingly becoming smarter and more
strategic in how we dispense material to external audiences
and the overall membership. As this new structure continues
to mature, results and production will be apparent this year
and going forward.
Another key area to report on relates to AFSA’s financial
posture and the overall stewardship of member resources.
We continue to receive the highest possible commenda-
tion: a clean (unmodified) opinion from an outside auditing
firm—this was achieved again in 2013. In other words, this
firm found no deficiencies in AFSA’s financial operations.
This reflects the fact that AFSA has steadily upgraded its
financial management and related governance procedures.
This process will continue this year. Our financial situation
in many respects has not been stronger. We have built a
healthy investment reserve over time, bolstered our scholar-
ship endowment, increased revenue and viewed expenses as
investments. Another significant financial asset is the AFSA
headquarters building, which we completely renovated a few
years back. The building’s value is significant. It is unusual
for an organization of our size to own prime property in
Washington, D.C. We continued to upgrade the building
in 2013 through investments in technical capabilities which
enhance AFSA’s professionalism.
As strong as that financial picture is, AFSA’s ultimate
mission is to serve the needs and advance the goals of our
membership. This leads me to one of this organization’s
strongest assets—the professional staff. The assembled pro-
fessional staff—whether it be advocacy, labor management,
The Foreign Service Journal
Executive Director’s Report: Ian M. Houston
publications, member services, or retiree counseling—are
experienced, knowledgeable and service-oriented.
I hope this annual report will allow you an engaging
window into our operations and relevant accomplishments.
The central message from me is that AFSA as an organiza-
tion continued to improve in 2013. Our desire to do so will
AFSA headquarters building at 2101 E Street NW, Washington, D.C.