Annual Report 2014 | American Foreign Service Association
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5

F

or the past yearAFSAhas focused

on improving benefits and the

quality of work/life, career and pro-

fessional development, and security,

in accordance with our 2013-2015

Strategic Plan. To do this effectively

we have expanded communications

and outreach with membership and

forged new partnerships with out-

side organizations. As a union, we’ve

worked collaboratively with State

Department leadership to negotiate new personnel policies and

regulations. Where we have failed to reach agreement, we have

filed institutional disputes with agency management and the For-

eign Service Grievance Board to protect employees’ individual

and collective bargaining rights.

This year we appointed five new State Representatives to the

Governing Board to replace those retiring or returning overseas.

We had a fantastic response to our solicitation call, and I am

proud to serve as part of what is AFSA’s most diverse—whether

measured by ethnicity, gender, cone or specialty—State Repre-

sentative contingent ever. In 2015, we look forward to revitalizing

our AFSA post representative program, the eyes and ears of the

union overseas.

Benefits and Quality of Work/Life

This year’s membership survey confirmed that a permanent au-

thorization of full overseas comparability pay (OCP) continues

to be the number-one priority for our members. Members also

sought more workplace flexibility and better work-life balance.

We partnered with three employee organizations and affinity

groups—Balancing Act, GLIFAA and ExecutiveWomen@ State—

in an effort to improve parental leave and adoption options for

employees.

We joined with our two Civil Service union counterparts to

sign a memorandum of agreement with the State Department to

establish a one-year pilot leave-bank program. We proposed to

the department new regulations covering extended leave without

pay for department employees, enabling them to take multiple

years without pay for personal reasons or professional develop-

ment opportunities. Finally, we kicked off a discussion of after-

hours accessibility and the tyranny of 24/7 email (see

http://bit

.

ly/1ApeB9P) that we hope will produce guidelines for supervisors

and employees.

Sometimes our efforts focused on simply making it easier for

employees to travel to and from work, or to travel overseas. We

welcomed the department’s announcement of employee enroll-

ment in the Transportation Security Administration’s trusted

traveler program TSA PreCheck, and we are pursuing a similar

program for U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry

to facilitate customs processing on return to the United States.

AFSA also inaugurated the first Capital BikeShare station at

the National Foreign Affairs Training Center (still known as the

Foreign Service Institute, or FSI) and a new free employee shower

facility at SA-3 to make it easier to bike, run or walk to work. Fi-

nally, AFSA partnered with FSI and Arlington County to survey

FSI students, staff and faculty about their commutes, and we look

forward to working on the recommendations (new pedestrian and

bicycle entrance, free shower and locker facilities).

Career and Professional Development

Early in the year AFSA submitted seven Quadrennial Diplomacy

and Development Review thought papers to QDDR Special Repre-

sentative Tom Perriello for consideration as it developed the State

Department’s second QDDR. One paper looked at career paths

and professional development. For almost a decade the depart-

ment has had individual career development programs in place to

help guide an employee’s career; however, what has been missing

is a more detailed look at what such a career would look like given

recent hiring patterns.

AFSA encouraged the department to do a “career path analy-

sis” for all officers and specialists, across all cones and specialties,

which would include promotion projections, upward mobility and

the future of the skill code. We have had preliminary engagement

with members of several skill-code groups—office management

specialists, construction engineers, security technical specialists,

information resource officers—and look forward to continuing

this work.

According to this year’s membership survey, two-thirds of

AFSA’s active-duty State survey respondents agreed or strongly

agreed with the statement that the “pig in the python” problem

(the large numbers hired during Diplomacy 3.0 who are moving

through the system) would directly affect their careers. In a sepa-

rate question, two-thirds disagreed or strongly disagreed that the

department recognized the problem and had done the requisite

analysis and adjustment of positions to ensure satisfying careers

for all.

The department’s five-year workforce development plan, and

separate report to Congress, failed to fully address the pig-in-

the-python problem, the mid-level position deficits and the false

sense of security provided by what may not be “flat” attrition rates.

AFSA highlighted these issues, as well as concerns about changes

to the Foreign Service conversion program, in its first transmis-

sion to Congress on the department’s plan (in accordance with 22

U.S. Code § 4173 requiring incorporation of the exclusive repre-

sentative’s views on workforce development).

AFSA continued its efforts to support a diverse, innovative

and professional workforce. It advocated changes within the de-

partment on the oversight and reporting of diversity, including

more granularity of demographic data, and reforms to the assign-

ment restrictions and preclusion programs that particularly affect

Asian-Americans and other ethnic groups.

State Vice President’s Report:

Matthew Asada