Annual Report 2016 | American Foreign Service Association
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Ian Houston

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AFSA celebrated its 92nd anniversary this year, and

in that rich tapestry we find multiple examples of

how the organization has advanced the dual mission

of AFSA as a union and professional association for

the Foreign Service.

It is always a sincere privilege for me in my role as

executive director to have moments with individuals

who have been members of AFSA for over 50 years or

more. These conversations remind me that effective

leaders must see themselves as modest stewards, and

always be respectful of that which has preceded them.

Those tasked with helping lead organizations must also

view respecting the past as affording nourishment for a

healthy organizational future. If not, there is the genu-

ine risk of allowing tradition or the thinking of “we have

always done it that way” to dampen the spark of inno-

vation that leads to necessary organizational change.

Speaking from the perspective of years of experience

here at AFSA, I can report that your professional associ-

ation and union is confident at this moment in address-

ing difficult questions that have gone unaddressed or


One particularly proud AFSA moment this year was

that we paid off early an existing debt on a substantial

renovation of the AFSA headquarters building that was

completed 8 years ago.

Certainly very few organizations of our size and mission

can say that they fully own the asset of a building in

such a prime location in Washington, D.C. Moreover, this

building is the spiritual home of the Foreign Service

– owned by you as members. Additionally, AFSA again

achieved a clean financial audit for 2016. This is an im-

portant outside assurance to obtain, but we are contin-

ually looking to improve. For example, at the end of 2016

we laid the foundation to complete an expert outside

review of our scholarship fund in 2017. This review will

help ensure that we are employing best practices. AFSA

will make adjustments where appropriate in an effort

to foster quality oversight of this sizable fund.

One of AFSA’s most important resources and assets is

the professional staff that supports the elected AFSA

Governing Board in carrying out a vision on behalf of

the membership. From the outset of the elected board’s

term which began in 2015, AFSA President Ambassador

Barbara Stephenson, who chairs the board, and fellow

AFSA is financially sound with

a well-managed budget of


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AFSA also has a solid operating

investment reserve of