Prosperity, Security and Global Power Competition

AFSA On the Hill


As I have shared in my column over the past year and a half, the role of the Foreign Service in keeping Americans and U.S. businesses prosperous has been the messaging theme we have used on Capitol Hill to promote bipartisan support for a forward-deployed Foreign Service overseas. The economic diplomacy works theme was also featured in the January/February 2019 edition of The Foreign Service Journal.

AFSA’s initiative spurred the introduction of bills focused on strengthening economic diplomacy, such as the Championing American Business Through Diplomacy Act of 2019, and resulted in strong appropriations report language encouraging the State Department to consider moving mid-level Foreign Service officer positions to overseas posts.

As you may recall, many posts were asked to space (give up) economic officer positions in support of the surge into Iraq and Afghanistan, and these positions were never restored to their losing posts.

From Fiscal Year 2018 to FY2019, AFSA’s efforts helped yield an $84 million increase in the appropriation covering the cost of moving FSOs to posts overseas. We expect to see that appropriation increase again in FY2020.

With full financial support and clear intent from Congress in FY2019 and likely again in FY2020, AFSA is determined to work with the State Department to finally get these positions back in the field.

AFSA’s initiative spurred the introduction of bills focused on strengthening economic diplomacy.

As AFSA solidifies the gains it has made on the economic diplomacy works initiative during the continuing FY2020 funding debates this fall, we are turning our focus to the complementary theme of Foreign Service contributions to national security. Diplomacy is our first line of defense, reducing the need for expensive military intervention.

The national security theme has the potential to develop the same success on Capitol Hill that AFSA found with the economic diplomacy works initiative. It bridges interest across several congressional committees with jurisdiction (Homeland Security, Armed Services, Foreign Affairs/ Relations); and it has the ability to appeal to every district or state in the country on a bipartisan basis.

All U.S. foreign affairs agencies can point to a direct impact on different facets of national security. For example, the Foreign Agricultural Service can point to its role in keeping South and Central American cattle herds—critical both to the U.S. food supply and the financial security of several American states—pest-free.

As the Senate stated in its FY2020 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations report: “The United States is not the world’s policeman, but we are the glue that holds the world together.”

The need for U.S. global leadership is the unifying, broad idea behind AFSA’s economic and national security themes. Congress has made clear it is motivated to prescribe and fund methods to face competition to U.S. global leadership.

AFSA sought to help Congress answer its resonating question: How will the United States compete in this era of great power competition? AFSA answered: by deploying the Foreign Service around the world where it can do the best work for the American people—allowing American business to flourish and keeping Americans safe at home.

Together, Foreign Service contributions to American prosperity and national security under the umbrella of maintaining U.S. global leadership provide the bipartisan solution the Hill craves in a time of global power struggle.

Kim Greenplate is Director of Congressional Advocacy at the American Foreign Service Association.