The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2022

AFSA NEWS 54 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL AFSA Holds Global Town Halls During the month of Novem- ber, AFSA President Eric Rubin and AFSA constituent agency vice presidents held three virtual town halls for AFSA members across dif- ferent regions of the world. In each session, Ambas- sador Rubin provided an overview of the most pressing issues currently facing the Foreign Service workforce and how AFSA is supporting members on those issues. “There is a lot of expecta- tion for change and reform that we at AFSA are deter- mined to meet,” he said in opening remarks at the Nov. 5 town hall, “but we need partners in the administra- tion and in the leadership in our agencies. We’re not satis- fied with the way things are.” Almost all of the Foreign Service is vaccinated against COVID-19, Amb. Rubin said, except for those who applied for religious, health or disability exemptions. This is critical to ensuring that diplomacy and consular work continue at U.S. mis- sions. The Foreign Service must balance personnel safety with justifying to Con- gress and taxpayers the cost of sending FSOs overseas. Domestically, AFSA supports the most recent announcement from the Office of Personnel Man- agement deferring the full return to in-office work. Amb. Rubin pointed to a statement made in early November by Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Brian McKeon in which he said there’s no going back to the status quo ante. There will be more telework and more flex time, with the exception of classified work, which must be done on-site. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s suspension of dogs entering the U.S. from 113 countries considered high risk for dog rabies continues to pose challenges to the FS com- munity. Amb. Rubin wrote to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, and Deputy Secre- tary McKeon raised the issue with her, as well. Certain accommodations have already been made for the Foreign Service, includ- ing additional testing labora- tories and ports of entry, but AFSA continues to push for further improvements. (Shortly after the AFSA town hall series concluded, the CDC announced a change to its suspension policy. Effective Dec. 1, dogs vaccinated in the United States by a licensed veteri- narian may re-enter the U.S. from a high-risk country without a CDC dog import permit. See for more information.) Amb. Rubin expressed AFSA’s pleasure with the appointment of Ambassador Jonathan Moore and Ambas- sador Margaret Uyehara to lead the State Department’s response to the “anomalous health incidents,” also known as Havana syndrome. “Our leadership is over- due in responding to the very serious health incidents that have occurred and that impact our colleagues,” said Amb. Rubin. In comparison to the CIA, he noted, none of the Foreign Service agencies has adequately recognized and addressed the issue. AFSA recently signed a settlement agreement on a meritorious service increase case on behalf of 450 cur- rent and former employees, winning about $6 million in compensation for unpaid MSI increases. See page 49 to learn more. “This is an example of us going to bat for our mem- bers,” Amb. Rubin said. “We will fight when we think our agencies are making wrong decisions that deny people what they deserve and what they’re owed.” He went on to report that many Foreign Service mem- bers are again serving as directors and senior direc- tors at the National Security Council. While the Foreign Service has traditionally been represented on the council, their presence was reduced during the previous administration, and AFSA is pleased to see them back at the table. Diversity continues to be a priority for AFSA. Amb. Rubin acknowledged that he’s seen improvement in some areas since he joined the Foreign Service in 1985, but there is still significant progress to be made. “We’re working closely with Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley at State and with all of our agencies to come up with an aggressive, positive agenda starting with recruitment and hiring, going through key questions of evaluations, promotions, attrition and retention,” he said. “We’ve got to do better.” Finally, Amb. Rubin dis- cussed AFSA’s parity agenda for the Foreign Service and noted that the Foreign Service Families Act, which is strongly supported by the association, is moving for- ward in Congress. See page 53 to learn more about the recent successes of AFSA’s efforts on Capitol Hill. AFSA welcomes input on issues of concern to members at . n There is a lot of expectation for change and reform that we at AFSA are determined to meet, but we need partners in the administration and in the leadership in our agencies. —AFSA President Eric Rubin