The AFSA Union at 50

Letter from the Editor


Happy New Year, and happy 50th anniversary to the AFSA union!

What has it meant for the American Foreign Service Association to be the exclusive representative for the Foreign Service, and what does it mean for the future of diplomacy? Find out in this edition.

AFSA President Eric Rubin begins our coverage with a look at how AFSA secured unionization, highlighting the Jan. 26, 1973, letter from the Secretary of State confirming the new status for AFSA as the exclusive bargaining agent for the Foreign Service of the State Department.

There at the creation, Ambassador Tom Boyatt tells the compelling story of the entry- and mid-level diplomats who led the way, in “When Lightning Struck Twice: How AFSA’s ‘Young Turks’ Launched the Union.”

AFSA Retiree Vice President and former AFSA President John Naland then tells us why it matters that AFSA became a union. Highlighting the unique nature of a union that is also a professional association, he explains how AFSA is able to defend the interests of individual members while also looking out for the good of the Foreign Service as an institution and a profession.

USAID Vice President Jason Singer brings us a clear-eyed look at USAID’s need for a union and describes the crisis-level challenges to the survival of its Foreign Service. While “workforce planning” may not be a glamorous topic, Singer explains how “decades of hiring workarounds and the agency’s patchwork, fragmented, and seemingly ad hoc approach to strategic workforce planning have diluted USAID’s career employee workforce.” To rebuild, he points to opportunities available today.

In a collection of FSJ Archive excerpts, we trace the path to unionization over 50 years.

In the Speaking Out, “Schedule F: Let’s Deprofessionalize Government and Make America Irrelevant Again,” Ambassador Dennis Jett puts a fine point on the potential resurrection (and destructive power) of “Schedule F,” a Trump-era executive order (rescinded by President Biden) that would strip federal employees involved in policy work of career protections and due process.

In the Feature, Ambassador Ken Quinn, horrified by the combat-style attack on the 2022 Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois, remembers his harrowing experience in Cambodia 25 years ago, in “When Terror Strikes Home: Covering Our Children While Protecting All Americans.”

Retired FSO Vincent Chiarello shares his Reflections on “Holding History in the Vatican’s Secret Archives.” And in the Local Lens, former FSO Michael Longhauser takes us to the Holy Fire ceremony in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre held the day before Orthodox Easter every year for more than a millennium.

This month’s weighty AFSA News includes the ever-popular and useful annual tax guide as well as the call for nominations for the 2023-2025 AFSA Governing Board.

That’s right, AFSA is entering election season. Rules for running for office and a set of proposed bylaw amendments are spelled out in AFSA News. I hope every Foreign Service reader will take this opportunity to consider what you can do for your union. Maybe it’s time to run for an AFSA officer position. Nominations, including self-nominations, are due by Feb. 15.

The next AFSA Governing Board will usher in the second century of the U.S. Foreign Service, and AFSA, in 2024. Whether or not you run for office, please remember to participate in the election by voting in the AFSA election when that time comes.

As always, we want to hear from you. Please send letters and article submissions to

Shawn Dorman is the editor of The Foreign Service Journal.


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