Annual Report 2016 | American Foreign Service Association
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Steve Morrison

The year began and ended with a frank discussion

about the need to hire replacement officers if we are

to avoid “back-sliding“ or a return to a time when the

Commercial Service had too few officers covering too

many parts of the globe. The point was made through-

out the year by AFSA that we are an “up-or-out” system

that needs replacement officers just to stay even. In

between, we had a healthy discussion with Manage-

ment regarding priorities and why so much power,

influence, and resources continue to flow to Washing-

ton/headquarters when we are primarily a field, cli-

ent-facing organization. In an interesting development,

the 2017-2018 Commercial Service Strategic Plan was

finalized on November 10, immediately after the election

and roughly two months before the incoming Trump


2016 saw some other key developments. Promotions

increased year-over year – for the third straight year.

MSIs and performance awards stayed roughly the

same. Management, meanwhile, succeeded in bring-

ing on board only one-half dozen new commercial of-

ficers, roughly half the size of the prior two classes.

That has us up to a rough steady-state complement of

255 officers. This is down somewhat from our high-wa-

ter mark of 265 officers from only two years ago but

still very good given historical standards (as low at

195 in 2008) and given the many challenges facing the

country and newly-remonikered Commercial Service.

Headquarters travel and spending generated a lot of

debate, questions and comments from the field, and

puzzled looks. The fact that the Commercial Service –

through appropriated funds and user fees – effectively

pays roughly three-quarters of these expenses gener-

ated considerable discussion. Finally, the fact that the

cost to remain physically in the Herbert Hoover building

was going up faster than any other cost category –

faster than security or ICASS – was a source of concern

and one that will have to be watched closely if we are

going to make it through tough, turbulent budget days


The end of the year saw the Director General formal-

ly hand in his resignation for January 20 at noon, but

not before cataloging the many accomplishments of

the Obama Administration trade team. That followed

an important win in its own right as AFSA and FCS

Management signed an MOU to settle an Implementa-

tion Dispute filed by AFSA. The disagreement was over

Management’s unilateral decision to suspend officer

participation in FSI’s pre-retirement training courses.

As an indication of the popularity of these courses, 15

percent of commercial officers participated in one form

of pre-retirement training or another in FY 2016. With

the signing of this agreement and restoration of officer

long-term language training back in September, we are

back to where we started the year facing a difficult

year ahead.