t seems 2014 was a very good year.
Commerce Assistant Secretary and
Commercial Service Director General Arun Kumar took up his
new position in March. Commerce Under Secretary for Inter-
national Trade Stefan Selig began three short months later. The
Commercial Service’s leadership dance card was filled up—for the
time being—three months after that with the arrival in Washing-
ton of FSO Mike Lally, as executive deputy assistant secretary for
Europe, the Middle East and Africa. This is a key position “won”
by AFSA during consolidation.
In 2014, AFSA representative Barbara Farrar became Com-
mercial Service assignments officer; and Bill Kutson, well-known
in the building and Washington for his team-building and orga-
nization reengineering prowess, took over for Barbara as AFSA
representative. Capping the year was the Nov. 18 Senate confir-
mation of career Commercial Service FSO Craig Allen to be U.S.
ambassador to Brunei—something AFSA can take great pride in
having helped to make happen.
International Trade Administration consolidation continued
apace in 2014. AFSA has worked with the Commerce Department’s
Office of Inspector General
on its final report, due in early 2015.
A key topic will be the private sector’s view of the reorganization.
Regionalization, on the other hand, continued to evolve, as
evidenced by the move of Europe’s “Super Senior Commercial
Officer” from Rome to Brussels. AFSA is closely monitoring this
situation to ensure AFSA and career officer “equities” (assignment
and promotion opportunities) are protected.
The new money that AFSA fought hard to help get for the
Commercial Service has resulted in multiple new office openings,
increased promotions (20 percent more), increased hiring (24 new
officers and more on the way), more training and more of every-
thing needed to promote exports.
We also successfully negotiated changes to the Foreign Com-
mercial Service’s language training and assignment policies. Prin-
ciples that helped guide our thinking were consistency, transpar-
ency and compassion. Four years of AFSA advocacy culminated
in 2014 with the announcement of a new, revised when-actually-
employed (WAE) program—called the Reemployed Annuitant
program here at Commerce.
As for 2015, three “asks” or challenges come immediately to
mind: a CS contract lodging program along the lines of the State
Department’s agreements with Oakwood and other extended stay
hotels here in Washington; a “deep dive,” which we have already
begun, with ITA Deputy Under Secretary Ken Hyatt and others
regarding the less-than-stellar results of the government-wide
Employee Viewpoint Survey; and the March 23-24 SelectUSA In-
vestment Summit. This is the second such meeting and a good
opportunity to reassess CS progress in promoting inward invest-
ment—a key goal of the new, consolidated ITA.
his will be my last annual report
as FAS Vice President before my
assignment overseas this summer, so I would like to take this op-
portunity to highlight the importance of the work AFSA does in
support of the Foreign Service in the Foreign Agricultural Service.
AFSA was particularly successful in 2014, working with Con-
gress and the administration to clear up the backlog in approval of
promotions for the Senior Foreign Service and commissioning for
more junior officers, as well as long-delayed confirmation of career
ambassadors, including our own Allan Mustard. AFSA was also
successful in ensuring continued payment of the two-thirds over-
seas comparability pay (OCP) we have received in recent years and
kept up the push for eventual implementation of full OCP.
More directly related to FAS, the AFSA advocacy staff helped us
convince Congress to almost double the representation and recep-
tion allowance available for FAS in the Omnibus Appropriations
Bill. The longstanding cap on that allowance hindered the ability
of FAS officers to effectively represent U.S. agriculture overseas.
Within FAS, we continued to push for promotions of more ju-
nior officers to replace the large number of retiring officers. Dur-
ing the two-year period of FY2014 and FY2015, a third of our se-
nior officers at the FO-1 and SFS level have either already retired
or will be retiring. The failure to promote enough officers to fill the
gaps is creating serious problems in staffing senior overseas posi-
tions; more than 30 percent of our overseas positions are currently
filled by officers working in stretch assignments.
Management’s decision to fill some of these gaps with Civil Ser-
vice employees on temporary assignment makes the development
of the next generation of Foreign Service officers even more dif-
ficult, and has negative implications for our ability to effectively
represent U.S. agriculture overseas in the long term.
The work of our Foreign Service officers both at home and
overseas is more important than ever. The United States had a
huge crop this last year and is relying on our efforts to export it.