Annual Report 2013 | American Foreign Service Association
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AFSA Annual Report 2013

4

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

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.

GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

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.

NEGOTIATIONS

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.

ADVOCACY

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.

Third Parties

AFSA: Negotiating, Advocating and Engaging on Behalf of the Foreign Service