AFSA Annual Report 2013
State Vice President’s Report: Matthew Asada
In July I transitioned from AFSA State Representative to full-time AFSA
State Vice President. In November the Governing Board approved its
2013-2015 Strategic Plan, focusing on Foreign Service benefits and qual-
ity of work/life, career and professional development, and security. The
plan strengthens internal governance and enhances AFSA’s image and
outreach as AFSA marks its 40th anniversary as a public sector union
and 90th anniversary as a professional association. We have already
begun improving member communications and engagement. At HST
we installed a new electronic bulletin board and completely overhauled
our existing analog ones. We reviewed the distribution of our recently
revamped flagship publication,
The Foreign Service Journal
, to ensure
that it is reaching our Civil Service and political-appointee partners. We are increasing our
targeted communications to AFSA members to let them know about policies that may be of
particular interest. These efforts complement our in-person presentations and engagement.
The past year was marked by the aftereffects of the September 2012 attack on the U.S.
Special Mission Compound in Benghazi and the October 2013 U.S. government shutdown. In
2013 the House of Representatives passed a State Authorization bill, and the Senate continues
to work on a companion Embassy Security bill. Negotiation, advocacy and outreach high-
lights of the year are listed below.
I enjoy hearing from individual members and encourage you to drop me a line (AsadaM@
state.gov) or drop by the office (HST 1251) with your ideas, comments and suggestions.
Benghazi reminded us of the dangers of overseas service and the need to better manage risk
and reward. In May Vice President Joe Biden attended AFSA’s annual plaque ceremony
at the State Department to honor our fallen colleagues. In July AFSA was asked to testify
on Benghazi before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs (the hearing was postponed
indefinitely). During the year, AFSA lawyers accompanied several Foreign Service members
to Capitol Hill for interviews about the Benghazi attack before the House and Senate oversight
committees. The department eventually fulfilled an AFSA request for information and made
available its complete Benghazi Accountability Review Board report.
In September we began preparing for the worst—government shutdown. Fiscal Year 2013
funding had already been limited in accordance with the 2011 Budget Control Act. In 2013
the State Department was just able to hire to attrition levels coming off a decade of growth.
The failure of Congress to pass a budget led to emergency furloughs across the federal
government. The Foreign Service was able to continue operations using residual balances in
fee-funded and multiyear accounts avoiding an exempted versus non-exempted division of
employees. AFSA rallied in Triangle Park under the slogan “Don't Shut Down Diplomacy”
and joined other federal unions in actions on the Hill. During the shutdown, we kept our
members informed and secured a five-day pre-notification commitment from the department
before any emergency furloughs, which we were able to avoid altogether.
Language Incentive Pay
AFSA negotiated a new employee incentive that encourages language learning at post to com-
pensate for the proposed changes to the language incentive pay program. While the overall
number and specific languages eligible for incentive pay are non-negotiable as management
rights, AFSA was able to obtain enhanced grandfathering provisions that would extend eligi-
bility to any employee who had arrived at post prior to November 2014.
Public Speaking and Writing
The State Department has proposed significant changes to regulations governing employees’
private communications (3 FAM 4170). AFSA continues to negotiate these guidelines with
the department to accommodate the rise of social media and protect the employee’s ability to
publish in a private capacity within a defined period of review.
Assignment Restrictions and Preclusions
AFSA continues to hear employee concerns about the State Department’s assignment restric-
tions and preclusions program. We are working with management to improve communica-
tion, education and oversight of this program and to introduce an employee appeals mecha-
nism thus addressing employee concerns about alleged disparate impact.
Meritorious Service Increases
We channeled the collective voice of 554 colleagues who received Meritorious Service
Increases this year without the traditional cash component. We advocated for the step
increases and the reinstatement of discretionary monetary awards for fiscal year 2014 in line
with new guidance from the Office of Personnel Management.
Senate Confirmation of Tenure and Promotion
Unfortunately, the Senate failed to confirm the tenure and promotion of 1,300 Foreign
Service colleagues before the end of the calendar year. We continue to engage the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee to address concerns regarding the robustness of the depart-
ment’s vetting process.
AFSA: Negotiating, Advocating and Engaging on Behalf of the Foreign Service