BY ERIC RUBIN
This is not an easy time to be a member of the U.S. Foreign Service. Nor an easy time to be involved in efforts to advance our country’s interests and the primary objectives of our profession: ensuring America’s security and prosperity and promoting peaceful resolution of disputes and the negotiated settlement of conflicts.
Our new governing board at AFSA is determined to support our members in the face of what is probably the most significant set of challenges our Service and our institution have ever faced.
Let me start out with an appeal to all Foreign Service members: Please stay. A significant percentage of our Service is eligible for immediate retirement. Others may be debating whether they are able to stay under current circumstances. My earnest request is that you stay if you can. The Foreign Service needs you. Your country needs you.
Just as the United States needs experienced professional air traffic controllers, food inspectors, forest rangers and FBI agents, it needs experienced career diplomats. That means us. America’s role in the world remains pivotal. Without U.S. leadership, almost everything will be worse. I believe that, sincerely. I hope you do as well.
We serve under difficult circumstances and take our families to tough places. At times we risk our lives. What do we ask in return? We ask to be treated with respect and to be recognized and valued for our dedication to our country and for the sacrifices that we and our family members have made.
Unfortunately, some of our colleagues have not experienced that respect in recent months. The clear politicization of the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, as documented by the State Department Inspector General, is one glaring example. To date, there have been no consequences for those responsible.
The lack of senior Foreign Service jobs is not just an issue for the Foreign Service; it is an issue for American diplomacy. We currently have no active-duty Foreign Service officers serving in any assistant secretary of State positions. This is an unprecedented situation with no equivalent since the Second World War.
And the number of career officers serving as ambassador is at one of the lowest points since records have been kept. This is not just about jobs for our colleagues. It is about ensuring that our country has experienced career professionals serving in critical positions around the world.
A word about AFSA. We have nearly 100 years of experience representing the Foreign Service, and we do so with passion and commitment. But we can only do this with your help. We welcome and we need ideas and contributions from our members. Please share your suggestions and thoughts with us on our social media pages and, if you wish, through direct email communication to our board members. All of us can be reached via the links on the AFSA website.
While we certainly recognize the seriousness of current challenges, we are pressing ahead with efforts to get more positions established—or reestablished— overseas; to ensure adequate funding for our agencies and operations; and to support recruitment of a diverse, representative workforce. Let’s all keep working together to advance these objectives.
A special request to our colleagues from the other foreign affairs agencies: please keep in touch with AFSA, and share your suggestions and input.
I look forward to hearing from you and working with you, and I thank you for your commitment and dedication to serving our country and the ideals that it represents. Tough times require even stronger commitment and engagement. At this very difficult time, let’s demonstrate who we are and what we can do. That is the meaning of the oath to the Constitution that we all have taken.