The Foreign Service Journal - July/August 2017
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s I prepared to write this, the final

column of my two-year term as

AFSA president, I reviewed all

19 columns published since I

took office in July 2015. By the time you

read this, the results of the elections for the 2017-2019 AFSA Governing Board a


officers will have been announced, and

we will know if I will be back in this space

writing President’s Views columns for the

next two years.

I told you at the outset of my tenure that

I would use this column as an accountabil-

ity tool to report openly and transparently

about AFSA’s goals and plans, all funded by

you, the more than 16,500 members who

voluntarily pay dues to run this organiza-

tion so we can serve as the Voice of the

Foreign Service, your voice.

I reported to you that the AFSA Gov-

erning Board would structure its work

around three pillars:


to tell the proud story of the

Foreign Service to the American people

so they understand what we do and why

it matters to them—and are then ready

to champion our vitally important work

to help make our country secure and

prosperous through sustaining America’s

global leadership role.



to gain a nuanced

understanding of

members’ aspira-

tions and concerns

as the basis for our

advocacy agenda

and to reinforce

among members a sophisticated under-

standing of the unique demands of our

service so that members are themselves

equipped to be effective advocates.

Workforce planning,

the creation of

staff capacity so that AFSA can fulfill its

role as the Voice of the Foreign Service

and generate informed arguments about

what choices contribute to the long-term

well-being of the Foreign Service as a

vital instrument of national security and


I am pleased to report that we have

made enormous progress in all three

areas, and I invite—indeed encour-

age—you to read

AFSA’s annual report

for further details about the work we have

undertaken on your behalf.

As we face a proposed 30 percent

cut to the foreign affairs budget, along

with a major reorganization, I am, while

profoundly unsettled about what all this

means for America’s global leadership,

equally grateful that we at AFSA had the

foresight to prepare and mount a credible

defense of the Foreign Service as both

indispensable to global leadership and

the most cost-effective tool in the national

security toolkit.

I ammore convinced than ever of

the vital role the Foreign Service plays in

sustaining America’s global leadership

role—a role supported by nine in 10 of our

fellow Americans. So are other leading

voices—fromour country’s most respected generals and admirals to business and religious leaders, as well as many members

of Congress fromboth sides of the aisle.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.),

chairman of the Senate Appropriations

Subcommittee on State, Foreign Opera-

tions and Related Programs, had this to say

about the proposed cuts to the budget for

State and USAID: “A 29 percent cut means

you really have to withdraw from the world

because your presence is compromised.

That may be the goal of this budget. It’s not

my goal. This guts soft power as we know


Make no mistake about it: what you do

matters. In addition to being effective and

informed advocates for the Foreign Ser-

vice, I want to ask you to double down on

doing your jobs. For the two-thirds of you

who are deployed abroad representing our

great nation at 270 American diplomatic

posts around the world, please keep our

flag flying proudly. Reinforce patterns of

cooperation. Encourage partners in your

host country to continue to look to the

American embassy for leadership and

problem solving.

Double down on your contact work.

Keep information channels flowing and

patterns of security cooperation robust.

Pay into the bilateral relationship, build-

ing up the metaphorical bank account

by reminding your host country what

they love about America, whether that’s

astronauts or jazz, and of the ties that bind

us, whether of shared sacrifice or kinship

or history.

And take care of each other.

Remember: America’s global leader-

ship role rests in large measure on your



Ambassador Barbara Stephenson is the president of the American Foreign Service Association.

Sustaining America’s Global Leadership