Priority Issues

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. AFSA's advocacy efforts 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.

Below you will find AFSA's immediate public policy priorities in service of that goal. We will continue adding to this list.

Overarching Policy Goal

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.


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.

  • Overseas Comparability Pay: Today’s most prevalent pay fairness issue is an imbalance with regard to Overseas Comparability Pay (i.e., locality pay at the Washington, D.C., rate). The Foreign Service is the only federal government entity that is globally deployed with an enduring physical presence in almost every country in the world. Yet, when our members deploy abroad to embassies alongside their military and intelligence community colleagues, the only member of that trio to take an 8-percent cut in basic pay is the one from the Foreign Service. In 2008, Congress granted the Department of State temporary authority to pay full OCP to Foreign Service members posted overseas, which the department planned to do in three phases. To date, two tranches have been granted. Correcting this unfair pay structure by restoring the third tranche and adopting language that permanently authorizes full OCP has been and continues to be one of AFSA’s highest legislative priorities.

Priorities for the AFSA DEIA Committee (2021-2022)

More Transparent and Streamlined Assignments System: Respondents to the 2020 AFSA Bias Survey and the 2021 AFSA Retention Survey both point to the bidding and assignments process as prone to bias and one of leading reasons why Foreign Service members would seriously consider leaving the Department. AFSA recommends:

  • Increased use of a centralized, algorithmic preference matching system, potentially modeled on iMatch;
  • Standardization of all aspects of the assignments process, from interview questions to position descriptions;
  • Increase data transparency fulfilling all NDAA FY 22 reporting requirements annually and make progress towards creating an independent assignment restrictions appeals process.

A Less-Biased EER and promotion process: EERs and the pace of promotions/promotion process reliably appear as top three drivers of discontent in the Foreign Service.

  • The AFSA Bias Survey, conducted in the summer of 2020, asked respondents to list what advocacy elements AFSA should promote. The largest group recommended gender-neutral, name-free EERs. AFSA should support the use of name-free, gender-neutral EERs if the results of the remaining years of the Meritorious Service Increase (MSI) pilot program point to clear benefits of such a step.

More Paid Internships: AFSA welcomes the Department’s April 2022 announcement to fund 200 paid internships in 2022 and 1200 in 2023 for both domestic and overseas interns. We look forward to its full implementation.

Leadership Accountability through 360s: AFSA recommends the use of a new 360 proposal, primarily for professional development of Foreign Service leaders, with a specific focus on DEIA leadership skills. Twice a year in October and March, ePerformance or the non-State agency equivalent would ensure that the following question is posed to employees in each supervisory chain: Please provide both a qualitative and quantitative assessment on your supervisor’s leadership: “The employee has modeled all the behaviors described in the Department’s leadership and management principles as defined in 3 FAM 1214”? Yes or No? If No, in your interactions and experiences with the employee, what leadership and management principles do you see needs additional development?