2009 AFSA Elections: End Words and Such

Five days after the AFSA election results were supposed to be sent out, and three days after it actually went out on AFSNet, all I could find from the Team AFSA website is this short message that needs either grave editing or translation …

AFSA Voters

Great results. a great finish for TEAM AFSA 2009 and a long and worthwhile journey!

As of late, yesterday evening the results are in, and will be officially declared as of this Monday. While the election committee still has a few issues to resolve, the basic fact is clear- the 2009 AFSA election is over.

It’s important to note that while many bask in the glory of the results, one candidate who fancies himeself student of Churchill, let’s allow the days and weeks to play out out before declaring victory.

A Diplopundit reader suggested that Churchill was a reference to Daniel Hirsch who won the State VP seat. Meanwhile, a check on the CLEAN Slate website has this message from David Firestein and his slate-mates.

Dear Fellow AFSA Members,

After one of the most intensely contested elections in modern AFSA history, the 2009 election is over and we have a split decision:

CLEAN Slate has won the active-duty vote and Team AFSA has won the retiree vote.

When the 2009-2011 AFSA Governing Board convenes its two-year term on July 15, nine members of CLEAN Slate and ten members of Team AFSA will join six independents (all of whom were endorsed by CLEAN Slate) to set about the business of strengthening the United States Foreign Service and defending the professional interests of AFSA’s 14,000 members.

The eighteen members of CLEAN Slate congratulate all those who will take office next month and wish them only the best in the important work ahead. Those of us who were not elected stand ready to pitch in whenever needed.

Just 23% of AFSA members voted in this election (46% of retirees and well under 20% of active-duty personnel cast ballots) — a turnout that, while certainly not what we would have hoped, nonetheless is the highest AFSA has seen since 2001. CLEAN Slate thanks all of those who voted for helping to shape the future of AFSA and the Foreign Service, and we encourage all those who did not vote in this election to get involved in 2011 — and, as importantly, to engage with AFSA in the interim. Your voice is important and we want it to be heard.

The campaign is now over. Starting today, we work together, in common cause, to address the challenges confronting our Foreign Service.

The work ahead will not be easy, but we have every confidence that the experienced, capable, diverse and “bipartisan” team you have chosen to assume AFSA’s reins on July 15 will work tirelessly for all of us and deliver the results AFSA’s members deserve and pay for.

To all of those who supported CLEAN Slate in this election — active-duty colleagues from State, USAID, FCS, FAS and IBB and retirees — we say: THANK YOU! We are deeply grateful for, and humbled by, the trust you placed in us.

To those who supported our opponents, we say: the members of CLEAN Slate who have been elected to the next Board will represent you, too, and we will strive to earn your support and your confidence.

Again, thank you to all those who answered the call to run, congratulations to the candidates who won, and best of luck to the members-elect of the 2009-2011 Governing Board!

Sincerely,

CLEAN Slate 2009

David Firestein
Louise Crane
Nancy Brannaman
Daniel Hirsch (State Vice President-elect)
Ambassador Shirley Barnes
Rebecca Balogh (FCS Representative-elect)
Carleton Bulkin (State Representative-elect)
Jorge Delfin (State Representative-elect)
Les Hickman (State Representative-elect)
Michalene Kaczmarek
Joyce Namde (State Representative-elect)
Julie Stewart (State Representative-elect)
Mike Unglesbee (State Representative-elect)
Sharon White (State Representative-elect)
David T. Jones
Bill Savich
Sonja Sweek
Pete Wood


NDS
has some post-mortem on the AFSA elections, read the comments section, too. I’ve written previously that the AFSA election engagement needs a makeover. I’ve now come to think that the AFSA election guidelines also need some work. I think it would also be useful to the membership if minutes of the AFSA meetings are posted online so that their deliberations are transparent. The truth of the mater is people won’t care until they realize what are at stake. But people won’t realize what are the stakes if everything is done behind closed doors.

Do stay around and watch and don’t be shy about sending the new Governing Board your thoughts …. especially if you are in the active-service. I’ll be watching ….

Advertisements

H.R. 2410: Towards a Modern and Expeditionary Foreign Service

TITLE III– Subtitle A of H.R. 2410 calls for modernizing the Department of State. Section 301 specifically provides for “a more modern and expeditionary Foreign Service.” I don’t know why “a more modern” language is used here. One is either modern or not. What does “more modern” actually means, I can’t say but see below. Full text of the bill is here.


SEC. 301. TOWARDS A MORE MODERN AND EXPEDITIONARY FOREIGN SERVICE.

(a) Targeted Expansion of Foreign Service- The Secretary of State shall expand the Foreign Service to–

(1) fill vacancies, particularly those vacancies overseas that are critical to key United States foreign policy and national security interests, and, in particular, to prevent crises before they emerge;

(2) increase the capacity of the Department of State to assign and deploy Foreign Service officers and other personnel to prevent, mitigate, and respond to international crises and instability in foreign countries that threaten key United States foreign policy and national security interests; and

(3) ensure that before being assigned to assignments requiring new or improved skills, members of the Foreign Service, other than foreign national employees and consular agents (as such terms are defined in section 103 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 (22 U.S.C. 3903)), as appropriate, receive language, security, area, and other training that is necessary to successfully execute their responsibilities and to enable such members to obtain advanced and other education that will increase the capacity of the Foreign Service to complete its mission.

(b) Authorized Increases-

(1) AT THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE- The Secretary of State is authorized to hire an additional 750 members of the Foreign Service (above attrition) in fiscal year 2010 over the number of such members employed as of September 30, 2009, and an additional 750 members of the Foreign Service (above attrition) in fiscal year 2011 over the number of such members employed as of September 30, 2010.

(2) AT USAID- The Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development is authorized to hire an additional 350 members of the Foreign Service (above attrition) in fiscal year 2010 over the number of such members employed as of September 30, 2009, and an additional 350 members of the Foreign Service (above attrition) in fiscal year 2011 over the number of such members employed as of September 30, 2010.

(3) RULE OF CONSTRUCTION- Nothing in this subsection shall be construed as limiting the authority of the Secretary of State or the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development to hire personnel.

(c) Expansion of Functions of the Foreign Service- Section 104 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 (22 U.S.C. 3904) is amended–

(1) by redesignating paragraphs (2) and (3) as paragraphs (3) and (4), respectively; and

(2) by inserting after paragraph (1) the following new paragraph:

‘(2) work actively to prevent, mitigate, and respond in a timely manner to international crises and instability in foreign countries that threaten the key United States foreign policy and national security interests;’.

(d) Worldwide Availability- Section 301(b) of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 (22 U.S.C. 3941(b)) is amended–

(1) by inserting ‘(1)’ before ‘The Secretary’; and

(2) by adding at the end the following new paragraph:

‘(2)(A) Except as provided in subparagraphs (B) and (C), at the time of entry into the Service, each member of the Service shall be available to be assigned worldwide.

‘(B) With respect to the medical eligibility of any applicant for appointment as a Foreign Service officer candidate, the Secretary of State shall determine such availability through appropriate medical examinations. If based on such examinations the Secretary determines that such applicant is ineligible to be assigned worldwide, the Secretary may waive the worldwide availability requirement under subparagraph (A) if the Secretary determines that such waiver is required to fulfill a compelling Service need. The Secretary shall establish an internal administrative review process for medical ineligibility determinations.

‘(C) The Secretary may also waive or reduce the worldwide availability requirement under subparagraph (A) if the Secretary determines, in the Secretary’s discretion, that such waiver or reduction is warranted.’.

(e) Recruiting Candidates Who Have Experience in Unstable Situations- Section 301 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 (22 U.S.C. 3941), as amended by section 212(c) of this Act, is further amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:

‘(f) Experience in Unstable Situations- The fact that an applicant for appointment as a Foreign Service officer candidate has the experience of working in situations where public order has been undermined by instability, or where there is no civil authority that can effectively provide public safety, may be considered an affirmative factor in making such appointments.’.

(f) Training- Section 708 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 (22 U.S.C. 4028) is amended by adding at the end the following new subsections:

‘(c) The Secretary of State shall ensure that members of the Service, other than foreign national employees and consular agents, as appropriate, receive training on methods for conflict mitigation and resolution and on the necessary skills to be able to function successfully where public order has been undermined by instability or where there is no civil authority that can effectively provide public safety.

‘(d) The Secretary of State shall ensure that members of the Service, other than foreign national employees and consular agents, as appropriate, have opportunities during their careers to obtain advanced education and training in academic and other relevant institutions in the United States and abroad to increase the capacity of the Service to fulfill its mission.’


* * *


First
, if this bill passes, I hope this would just be a down payment on that much-talked about Foreign Service bench strength. This authorizes the hiring of an additional 1500 FS employees above attrition for State and 700 new employees above attrition for USAID in the next two fiscal years. A 2007 report from the GAO says that from 2002 through 2004, the DRI (Diplomatic readiness Initiative) enabled State to hire more than 1,000 employees above attrition to respond to emerging crises and allow staff time for critical job training. However, that increase was absorbed by the demand for personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan; and thus, the desired crises and training reserve was not achieved.


The Embassy of the Future Commission called for more than 1,000 additional diplomats—a 9.3 percent increase; however, the
American Academy of Diplomacy documented the need for 2,848 additional State positions for core diplomatic functions and a training complement, as well as for 1,250 additional USAID positions by Fiscal Year 2014.

In a recent congressional hearing, Jack Lew pointed out that in FY 1990, USAID employed nearly 3,500 permanent direct hires administering $5 billion a year in assistance. As of FY 2008, USAID employed about 2,200 permanent direct hires administering $13.2 billion in assistance. Just one graphic example of doing more with less (one jaded employee said that if we continue doing more with less, there’ll come a time when we’ll be able to do everything perfectly with nothing).


Second
, this does not talk about “directed assignment” but it talks about filling critical vacancies and increasing “the capacity of the Department of State to assign and deploy Foreign Service officers and other personnel.” It also talks about worldwide availability as in “each member of the Service shall be available to be assigned worldwide.” Makes you wonder why this is in the bill unless this is a soft nudge to use the directed assignment authority. Worldwide availability has been in the books for a long time but – it has been exercised only to a limited degree. In 2007, the Government Accountability Office has recommended that the State Department use this authority: “State has not traditionally assigned its limited number of employees to particular posts based on risk and priorities; rather, it has generally assigned staff to posts for which they have expressed an interest. We recommended that State consider using its authority to direct staff to accept assignments, as necessary, to ensure that critical gaps are filled.”


Third
, it talks about Recruiting Candidates Who Have Experience in Unstable Situations saying that “experience of working in situations where public order has been undermined by instability, or where there is no civil authority that can effectively provide public safety, may be considered an affirmative factor in making such appointments.” Right now, veterans are the only group subject to a hiring preference, but only post-FSWE and after the oral exam. According to career.state.gov “Veterans who pass the Oral Assessment and qualify as preference eligibles are entitled to .175 for a 5 point preference or to .35 for a 10 point preference, based on a seven point scale. Specialist candidates, who are assessed on a 100 point scale, and who pass their oral assessment are entitled to an additional 5 to 10 points added to their competitive rating. Candidates must submit form DD-214 to document creditable military service.”


I don’t know what shape this “affirmative factor” would take on eventually. But two large groups of prospective applicants would probably fall under this category of “experience in unstable situations” – military personnel and 3161 employees.


Finally
, the last part of this section addresses training in the FS – in one part providing that FS personnel (except FSNs and consular agents) “receive training on methods for conflict mitigation and resolution and on the necessary skills to be able to function successfully where public order has been undermined by instability.” And the second part providing that the SoS, “ensure that members of the Service (except FSNs and consular agents), have opportunities during their careers to obtain advanced education and training in academic and other relevant institutions in the United States and abroad.”

Like I said in my previous post on that new cone – this does not talk about reforming the promotion process in the Foreign Service. And that will have an impact if this bill passes. Employees who feel that their careers may be negatively impacted by taking a year or two out for advanced schooling may think twice about pursuing advanced education and academic training.


It is a different story in the armed services, of course. Have you noticed how many of our military officers retire from the armed services with PhDs? It has been said that almost every
officer in the US military gains a graduate degree by the time they reach the rank of O-5, around 15-20 years of service. I don’t know if it is still true, but there was time when you can’t get promoted to a major without a master’s degree. In fact, General David Petraeus did receive his MPA in 1985 the year he made major. Two years later, he received his PhD in international relations from Princeton University and made LTC in 1991. His published works span from 1983-2008.

Military officers can pursue full-time studies toward a master’s or doctorate degree through programs paid for by the military. Many more officers pursue advanced education on their own time. The US Army for instance has the Advanced Degree Program and the Fully Funded Legal Education Program (FLEP) just to name two.


The military also spends a significant amount of time considering not only its future challenges 25-30 years from now, but also the education requirement of its future leaders:

This is the fundamental challenge the U.S. military will confront: providing the education so that future leaders can understand the political, strategic, historical, and cultural framework of a more complex world, as well as having a thorough grounding in the nature of war, past, present, and future. […] The complexity of the future suggests that the education of senior officers must not remain limited to staff and war colleges, but should extend to the world’s best graduate schools. Professional military education must impart the ability to think critically and creatively in both the conduct of military operations and acquisition and resource allocation. The services should draw from a breadth and depth of education in a range of relevant disciplines to include history, anthropology, economics, geopolitics, cultural studies, the ‘hard’ sciences, law, and strategic communications. Their best officers should attend such programs. Officers cannot master all these disciplines, but they can and must become familiar with their implications. In other words, the educational development of America’s future military leaders must not remain confined to the school house, but must involve self study and intellectual engagement by officers throughout their careers. Read more here.


As for State — I cannot immediately name a single program in the State Department except those advanced degrees pursued by Foreign Service officers in the war colleges and a few degrees on Social Work by employees in the Consular Bureau. Can you? How many diplomats do you know have taken sabbaticals to pursue advanced degrees in various institutions of higher learning after they’ve joined the Service? Ryan Crocker spent a year in Princeton pursuing course work in Near Eastern studies in 1984. But how many officers came in with a B.A and retired with a B.A.? In the military, it’s kind of hard to find a single general without an advanced degree under his/her belt (there probably isn’t even one).


If you drill beyond the surface, you may recognize this as true — whereas the pursuit of advanced education and continuous learning has been woven deeply into the fabric of military culture, the threads are not fully present in the State Department. That’s one change that needs to occur if the State Department expects to provide foreign policy and rigorous intellectual leadership into the next century. And if that happens, I’d be happy to call it “more modern.”


Related Item:

GAO-07-1154T: State Department: Staffing and Foreign Language Shortfalls Persist Despite Initiatives to Address Gaps

Related Posts:

H.R. 2410: Obama Administration Supports Bill But …

Thanks to DJ for alerting us on this June 10, 2009 statement released by OMB on the Obama Administration’s policy on H.R.2410. Reprinted in full below.


STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY

H.R. 2410 — Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011

(Rep. Berman, D-California)

The Administration supports House passage of H.R. 2410, as reported. However, the Administration would like to work with the Congress to address provisions that restrict the President’s flexibility to conduct foreign affairs or that raise managerial, budgetary, constitutional, or other concerns so that the legislation is aligned with the Administration’s foreign policy and management priorities. This Statement of Administration Policy does not address H.R. 1886, although the Administration understands that the Rule proposes to incorporate this bill into H.R. 2410.

The Administration strongly supports the bill’s inclusion of authorizations of appropriations at levels that will strengthen U.S. diplomatic capacity and will allow the United States to meet its financial obligations to the United Nations and other international organizations and to begin synchronizing payments to international organizations where the United States has been chronically late in paying its assessments.

The Administration also welcomes the inclusion of a number of authorities in the bill that support diplomatic operations. In particular, the Administration supports the inclusion of authorities that eliminate the cut in basic pay faced by entry- and mid-level Foreign Service officers who serve overseas, facilitate the reemployment of retirees to support certain critical mission needs, and provide additional flexibility to manage State Department and Broadcasting Board of Governors personnel. The Administration also welcomes the increased flexibility for the State Department to use registration fees collected under the Arms Export Control Act.

These many areas of agreement notwithstanding, the Administration has concerns about provisions in the bill that could constrain the ability of the President and the Secretary of State to conduct foreign affairs and manage the Department with the necessary degree of flexibility. The Administration looks forward to working with Congress to address these concerns.

* * *

See the original statement here. I remain curious on what this bill would look like after the Senate gets its hands on this, and after the conference committee gets a stab at it, and after compromises are hashed in/out … and what final bill version would be sent, if any to the WH.


Related Posts:

H.R. 2410: A New Multilateral Diplomacy Cone?

TITLE IV—Section 402 of H.R. 2410 also provides for the promotion of FS assignments to international organizations and what looks like the possible establishment of a 6th Foreign Service cone (in addition to Political, Economic, Consular, Management, and Public Diplomacy):


TITLE IV–INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
SEC. 402. PROMOTING ASSIGNMENTS TO INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS.

(b) Establishment of a Multilateral Diplomacy Cone in the Foreign Service-

(1) FINDINGS- Congress finds the following:

(A) The Department of State maintains a number of United States missions both within the United States and abroad that are dedicated to representing the United States to international organizations and multilateral institutions, including missions in New York, Brussels, Geneva, Rome, Montreal, Nairobi, Vienna, and Paris.

(B) In offices at the Harry S. Truman Building, the Department maintains a significant number of positions in bureaus that are either dedicated, or whose primary responsibility is, to represent the United States to such organizations and institutions or at multilateral negotiations.

(C) Given the large number of positions in the United States and abroad that are dedicated to multilateral diplomacy, the Department of State may be well served in developing persons with specialized skills necessary to become experts in this unique form of diplomacy.


(2) REPORT- Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report–

(A) evaluating whether a new cone should be established for the Foreign Service that concentrates on members of the Service who serve at international organizations and multilateral institutions or are primarily responsible for participation in broad-based multilateral negotiations of international instruments; and

(B) that provides alternative mechanisms for achieving the objective of developing a core group of United States diplomats and other Government employees who have expertise and broad experience in conducting multilateral diplomacy.

I have read the reported version of this bill more than once and except for one area when it talks about enabling “members to obtain advanced and other education that will increase the capacity of the Foreign Service to complete its mission” and under this section where it talks about assignments in international organizations; it does not talk about reforming the promotion process in the Foreign Service. And that will unavoidably undermine the good intent under these two sections. If employees feel that their careers will be negatively impacted by taking a year or two out for advanced schooling or assignments in multifunctional areas or multilateral organizations, there may not be many takers.

Click here to read the details.

Related Posts: