The Foreign Service Journal, March 2021

80 MARCH 2021 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL AFSA NEWS AFSA on Dissent The shocking January 6 insurrection at the Capitol has raised profound ques- tions about how we—the Foreign Service and AFSA— should wield our influence as citizens in a democracy and about our responsibilities as professional public servants. In the aftermath, two Dis- sent Channel messages with numerous signatures object- ing to the State Department and Secretary of State’s response to the insurrection were leaked to the media and published in full. This happened even before the messages were submitted through the Dissent Channel. Support for dissent is part of AFSA’s DNA, begin- ning with the 1968 creation of the AFSA Rivkin Award for Dissent—even before the establishment of the official Dissent Channel in 1971, in the midst of the Vietnam War. In the ensuing years, the Dissent Channel was opened to all Foreign Service agency members, and AFSA estab- lished three more awards to recognize constructive dissent by specialists and generalists at every level. “I believe that going for- ward, we should understand that to protect the Dissent Channel and for it to have its intended impact, we should use it wisely,” says AFSA President Eric Rubin. “The Dissent Channel is intended for policy dissents only, and as a general rule should be classified and kept to inter- nal channels only.” There are numerous other ways to raise the profile of an issue, for example, publish- ing a “Speaking Out” column in The Foreign Service Journal (if the substance of the dissent is unclassified), sending letters to senior leaders with collected signa- tures, raising issues to AFSA for transmission to leader- ship, requesting meetings with senior officials or asking for a town hall (again, if the issue pertains to unclassified material). If there is suspected malfeasance, Foreign Service members can contact the Office of the Inspector Gen- eral or, if there are seriously deficient personnel prac- tices, the Director General. In cases of illegal activity, members can decide to become whistleblowers and are protected by federal law. Amb. Rubin recently hosted a Dissent Chan- nel Zoom session for new Foreign Service entrants in which he used his experi- ence to explain the uses and abuses of the Dissent Chan- nel. AFSA also recently held a seminar on whistleblowing. AFSA intends to keep offering these two pro- grams, which we will open to all members, because we believe strongly that con- structive internal dissent and whistleblowing help public servants fulfill their oaths to the Constitution. n