Policy

The United States Foreign Service deploys worldwide to protect and serve America's people, interests and values. No other organization has the global footprint that the Foreign Service does. AFSA's efforts on the Hill are all aimed at supporting the people of the Foreign Service and ensuring that sufficient resources are devoted to its important work around the world. AFSA's policy priorities reflect the issues that our members have told us matter most.

Defense of the Foreign Service Act of 1980: The Foreign Service Act of 1980 is the legal foundation for the Foreign Service, and opens by declaring that “a career foreign service, characterized by excellence and professionalism, is essential in the national interest.” The main purpose of the act was to develop a Foreign Service structure that could “meet the challenges of the next century.”

AFSA speaks for the long-term health and vigor of the Foreign Service as an institution, certain in the conviction that a career Foreign Service, characterized by excellence and professionalism, is in America’s national interest. AFSA’s guiding policy objective is to defend the integrity of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 and to promote the executive branch’s adherence to it.

Sub-Objectives

Supporting Foreign Service Families: The Foreign Service Act of 1980 recognized the importance of minimizing the impact of the hardships, disruptions and other unusual conditions of service abroad on Foreign Service families by mandating greater employment possibilities while accompanying an employee overseas; increased opportunities for orientation and training; reimbursement for representation expenses overseas; retirement annuities and survivor benefits; and separate maintenance allowances when an employee serves alone overseas. AFSA seeks to promote and defend policies, programs and services that support family members in the Foreign Service whose contributions are vital to the work and success of the Foreign Service.

Overseas Security: In recognition of the growing threat to the personal safety and security of members of the Foreign Service, the Foreign Service Act of 1980 enacted danger pay for employees who serve abroad in conditions that “threaten physical harm or imminent danger to the health or well-being of the employee.” Further, Pub. L. 98–533, title III, § 304,Oct. 19, 1984, 98 Stat. 2711, stated that: “In recognition of the current epidemic of worldwide terrorist activity and the courage and sacrifice of employees of United States agencies overseas, civilian as well as military, it is the sense of Congress that the provisions of section 5928 of title 5, United States Code, relating to the payment of danger pay allowance, should be more extensively utilized at United States missions abroad.”

Roughly 35 years later, the underlying conditions that led to the provision of danger pay are more present than ever. However, protecting U.S. government personnel overseas goes beyond danger pay and includes resources and contracting flexibility for adequate security forces and physical building security.

Members of the Foreign Service take seriously their responsibility to represent our country and advance American interests around the globe, wherever it is needed—including in some very dangerous places. They accept the risks that come with this mission and believe in a continued strong American Foreign Service presence around the world. AFSA strives to ensure that all parties are working to mitigate danger where possible, while ensuring members of the Foreign Service have the resources and support required to carry out their duties in a safe and secure manner while serving abroad to further the foreign policy of the United States.

Fair Compensation and Benefits: The Foreign Service Act of 1980 included provisions to create greater compatibility in salary structures across the foreign affairs agencies and between the FS and Civil Service after a congressionally directed study found that the Foreign Service was significantly under-graded compared with the Civil Service. The act restructured the Foreign Service pay schedule and allowed the President to set links to the General Schedule of the Civil Service to correct for any inequities. AFSA aims to preserve a balanced and fair system of payment and benefits in line with the Foreign Service Act of 1980 in order to maintain and foster the highly committed and engaged workforce necessary for effectively advancing U.S. foreign policy.

Expecting a visit from a congressional or staff delegation at post?

All members of the Foreign Service can foster strong relations with the Hill when the opportunity presents itself. AFSA encourages all members of the Foreign Service to openly discuss your time in the Foreign Service when interacting with delegations to raise awareness on the Hill about the nature of your work and the sacrifices you and your families have made. Please send an email to AFSA’s policy department at policy@afsa.org if you are interested in a short briefing on the issues we are watching. We can even provide talking points to help get you started as you prepare for the visit!

AFSA reminds active-duty Foreign Service employees that it is illegal to lobby Congress using official time or government resources, including your .gov email account. If you write or call your congressional representative, do not use government time or resources (such as a government computer, letterhead, stationary, telephone). If you meet in person with a congressional representative, you must take annual leave or schedule the meeting on your lunch hour. In addition, make clear that you are writing or speaking in your individual capacity as a constituent and not as a representative of your agency. Please make sure to read up on the Hatch Act (rules governing political activity by federal employees) before acting, in addition to the regulations in the Anti-Lobbying Act. Please feel free to write to us at policy@afsa.org with any questions or comments. Thank you.