The iAFSA Coalition Statement
The iAFSA Coalition extends our sympathy and
condolences to the family of David E. Collins and members
of the community at Consulate Lagos and Embassy Abuja
who knew and worked with David.
The iAFSA Coalition joins all of our Foreign Service colleagues, and all Americans, in mourning the tragic death of FS member Anne Smedinghoff. There will be a memorial service for her at State this Thursday morning. She will be in our thoughts.
Representing the United States of America to the world is an honor and privilege. We believe that we have a responsibility to the current, the past, and the future generations of Foreign Service members to help shape the profession so that all members of the Foreign Service team will continue to provide the highest quality professional advice and recommendations to our leaders, be representative of the United States in appearance and demeanor, work safely outside the United States, receive quality professional training, expect fairness and equal treatment from the Department's Management, and be treated respectfully as retirees following honorable service.
We will rely on several principles as we strive to realize these goals. First, we believe the Foreign Service provides unique skills and experience that are vital to our national security, and that AFSA should use all of its assets to reinforce this value with Management and in the American public. Second, we will actively seek the Membership's views, using new media as well as old, as we do so. AFSA should be your home base. Third, we believe the most effective way of negotiating with Management is to search for common ground, and build relationships of mutual trust. The current AFSA Board, led by Susan Johnson, has done a strong job along these lines and we look forward to working with them in the transition.
We join in celebrating AAPI Heritage Month:
Role of the Foreign Service in our National Security The Foreign Service Act of 1980 provides for a corps of career foreign service professionals who inform and advise the country's political leadership on issues that affect the national security and international relations of the United States, and implement our foreign policy overseas. AFSA's preliminary research shows a precipitous decline in Foreign Service Members serving in Presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed positions in the Department from 67% in 1975 to 27% today; anecdotally we have all seen the growth in numbers of political appointees. We believe this trend is worrisome because it signifies the reduced importance of people with knowledge and experience of the foreign nations we are seeking to influence. This is not a parochial concern, but a matter affecting our national security. AFSA should commission a full study of the status of the Foreign Service Act's goals, and use that study as a basis for discussion with Management.
Safety and Security Implementation of the Benghazi Accountability Review Board recommendations will affect the conduct of diplomacy and our professional lives. Members of the iAFSA Coalition have considerable experience representing our country in conflict zones from Vietnam, Central America, Africa, the former Soviet Union, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. The Bureau of Diplomatic Security must have the resources and support to perform the ever widening tasks assigned to it. Safety and security are dynamic and to achieve both requires that we act as one team. Increasing the face-to-face representation of the Foreign Service at all levels of society is the most effective means for competing for the hearts and minds of foreigners, but it also increases personal risks. As your representative, AFSA must be part of the deliberative process developing the implementation of the recommendations in this area. We will use every tool we have to become involved as your advocates.
Diversity The Foreign Service represents the United States to the nations of the world. As diplomats we market American ideals, ideas, and policies. We promote American goods and services. To be credible, the Foreign Service must not only perform to the highest professional standards, but we must also reflect our varied population. The Foreign Service has made strides in diversifying its membership, but we still have much to do. We will collaborate closely with Management to ensure that the recruiting process produces a representative Foreign Service. Within AFSA itself, we will actively recruit more women and minorities for AFSA leadership positions, and for Board candidacies in the next election.
Equality, Fairness, Transparency, and Safeguards The iAFSA Coalition will make securing the final tranche of Overseas Comparability Pay one of its highest priorities. Safeguards need to be strengthened to ensure that Management treats each Foreign Service Member equally regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or gender identity, religious belief, sexual orientation, or disability, and all family members should be guaranteed privileges and immunities when posted overseas and have equal access to comprehensive health insurance. AFSA must monitor management processes (e.g., assignments, evaluations, and promotions) and analyze outcomes to be able to engage Management credibly and effectively on behalf of groups and individuals. We should also discuss with Management the need for greater transparency and fairness in review processes, with the assignment process an area of particular concern.
Investment in the Future The Foreign Service abroad is only as good as the quality of its training and support mechanisms. AFSA needs to stay closely engaged with Management on the quality and nature of the training that the National Foreign Affairs Training Center provides. Likewise, we should advocate for the Department to acquire the most up-to-date technology. This is vital not only to ensure productivity but also to attract and to retain quality Foreign Service members.
A Service Organization AFSA's staff and board are available to members when they need help, with Management, Congress, and with our daily professional lives. As members, we pay dues to AFSA to ensure that when we need help, the organization is there for us. Many of us have benefited from AFSA's programs over the years, including legal advice and college scholarships. The iAFSA Coalition aims to expand AFSA's service orientation and accessibility.
Support for Retirees Retired Foreign Service colleagues have some unique issues for AFSA to address with Management. The process of obtaining retiree DoS building badges could be improved. To ensure greater respect for those who served, AFSA should work with Management to broaden Foreign Service retiree access to State Department facilities. The creation of a "global" WAE system should correct the current bureau-segregated mechanism, with active AFSA involvement. We want to work with Management to ensure that the new WAE system is transparent. We believe Foreign Service retirees should have the same reemployment rights and privileges as our military retiree counterparts. We should work with the Department to jointly approach Congress recommending that Foreign Service retirees retain full, unreduced pension benefits while in service to the United States. And to meet our recruitment goals of a more diversified Foreign Service, AFSA can encourage the Department to find roles for retirees as potential Foreign Service recruiters.
We propose to form an AFSA Advisory Board composed of retirees appointed by the Board. The Advisory Board would among other duties participate in outreach events in the public, on the Hill and with active-duty Foreign Service members, in support of the Foreign Service.
For more information on the iAFSA Coalition team, and its goals, visit our Facebook page.