The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2021

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2021 55 AFSA NEWS Advocacy in a New Administration With a new administration taking office this month, AFSA’s advocacy will focus on three broad areas to advance our mission of enhancing the effectiveness of the Foreign Service: The health of the For- eign Service as an institution; morale and retention in the Foreign Service as a career; and Foreign Service parity with the military and other government employees. This focus will help AFSA protect the professional interests of our members, ensure the maintenance of high professional standards for both career diplomats and political appointees, and encourage understand- ing of the critical role of the Foreign Service in promoting America’s national security and economic prosperity. Here are some of AFSA’s key policy priorities head- ing into the 117th Congress. Several are perennial issues for the Foreign Service, and others are specific to changes that have taken place in just the past few years. Health of the Foreign Service as an institution. • Reinstate Senior Foreign Service officers to positions historically held by them. • Restore positions in the Foreign Service, both over- seas and domestically. • Promote diversity, inclusion and equality in the Foreign Service. • Seize opportunities presented with the introduc- tion of a modernized Foreign Service Act. Morale and retention in the Foreign Service as a career. • Ensure proper implemen- tation of paid parental leave for the Foreign Service. • Extend paid leave for medical and caregiving pur- poses to federal government employees. (Note: Currently, the only federal policy that ensures access to time off to care for others is the Family Medical Leave Act, which guarantees eligible workers access to unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks in a 12-month period. Paid parental leave for federal employees was passed in 2020 but does not include any medical or caregiving leave.) • Offer paid gap time for those in the Foreign Service to pursue education or other relevant professional experi- ence. • Maintain the Annuity Exception for the Foreign Service. Foreign Service parity with the military and other gov- ernment employees. • Extend benefits offered by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to the For- eign Service. • Allow in-state tuition rates to be given both in the state of residence and in the state of domicile to members of the Foreign Service and their dependents. • Reinstate the tax deduc- tions for moving expenses eliminated in 2017. • Implement the third tranche of overseas compa- rability pay funding for the Foreign Service. Perhaps the biggest opportunity for AFSA to influ- ence the future of the Foreign Service in the next Congress will come from attempts to modernize the Foreign Ser- vice Act of 1980. This potential reopening of the law would call for an offensive push of our policy priorities above, as well as defending against ideas that are not in the best interest of our members. It would also bring the Foreign Service and U.S. diplomats to the forefront of the conversation in our main authorizing committees of jurisdiction—the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee. AFSA has many new members of Congress to educate. We must explain what diplomats do and why it matters so the new wave of lawmakers will support our policy priorities, just as our longtime legislative champi- ons have done. Given such thin partisan margins in both the House and the Senate in the next Congress, AFSA expects there will need to be compromise between the political parties to pass any largescale legisla- tion, including a 21st-century Foreign Service Act. n AFSA has many new members of Congress to educate. AFSA ON THE HILL | BY KIM GREENPLATE THE FUTURE OF THE FORE I GN SERV I CE AFSA was pleased to host a conversation on Nov. 19 with the co-authors of a new report—A U.S. Dip- lomatic Service for the 21st Century—from Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. AFSA President Eric Rubin facilitated the discus- sion with Nicholas Burns, Marcie Ries and Marc Grossman, all retired ambassadors. More than 475 people attended the virtual event held on the Zoom platform. See p. 19 for excerpts of this discussion, and you can find the entire discussion linked on AFSA’s YouTube page. n NEWS BRIEF