The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2023

50 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2023 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Communication: A Two-Way Street Named Action FCS VP VOICE | BY CHARLES RANADO AFSA NEWS Contact: Assuming the role of AFSA vice president for the Foreign Commercial Service on the heels of the pandemic, I’ve been able to observe per- sonnel “re-engaging” in the halls of the Department of Commerce after relying on the virtual world for the past two years. Like many in D.C., I have learned to value more than ever the chance to hold in-person meetings with colleagues. Seizing on this opportunity, I’m now priori- tizing the need for optimal communication with our internal and external stake- holders. During my first meetings with various members of our leadership team, I stressed the need for increased com- munication with the field, not only to present priorities but to obtain input that should be considered when drafting strategies and new policies. My efforts to establish regu- lar meetings with the deputy director general (DDG) and Global Talent Management (GTM) team have been recip- rocated. During his first meeting with the FCS Director General (DG), AFSA President Eric Rubin further reinforced the need for regular com- munication with the field to establish trusted and valued relationships with leadership. Yet communication is only as effective as the action that results. I was pleased when the DG conducted his first townhall meeting, and, like many of you, I was eager to hear from him and his team on their current activities and goals. This was a positive action by our DG/DDG, and, as they both encouraged, I would recommend you follow up with them to relay your ideas and concerns. In my first months as VP, I have worked regularly with management on numer- ous issues such as Senior Foreign Service (SFS) pay and awards, the timeliness of promotion announce- ments (delayed significantly in 2021), and the need for the 2022 bidding season to open on time (to avoid a 2021 repeat of delayed onward assignments), among other issues. This ongoing commu- nication has facilitated the approval of SFS pay/awards (albeit very late and some- thing we are already discuss- ing to avoid in the future), the alignment of promotion announcements with histori- cal timeframes (yet it seems late, as our period of review ended one month earlier this year), and the opening of bidding season on time (with a new iBid that we hope will be fixed). In all these cases, I am confident that consis- tent communication has led to positive actions. Working with AFSA’s Director of Advocacy Kim Greenplate, I have embraced the opportunity for congres- sional engagement to further advocate for a substantial budget increase to Global Markets (GM), beyond what our department has requested. Communicating our members’ significant accom- plishments—in commercial diplomacy, advocacy, trade promotion, SelectUSA, busi- ness counseling and match- making, commercial intel- ligence gathering, etc.—has been simple given the quality of your successes. Highlighting your substan- tial work globally in counter- ing malign actors has been a privilege, as this success is not widely known. Discussing the need to increase our GM budget beyond the current earmark is critical to support GM’s strategy to increase our worldwide footprint, both in terms of offices and staff, and to provide you with the additional resources needed to accomplish your mission. I know that there are many more conversations to be had and, most impor- tantly, actions that must be taken. Numerous concerns fielded by AFSA are related to GTM responses and the ability to execute common administrative actions in a timely, accurate manner. These are legacy issues that should not continue to be commonplace, and many fall outside AFSA’s direct bargaining ability. However, given the quantity of inquiries, I have continued to relay these con- cerns to our management team and to stress that such issues directly affect officers’ morale. AFSA strongly supports the need for our GTM team to finally acquire necessary technology to automate many of the functions that are currently conducted manually (yes, in 2022), thereby providing our GTM colleagues the appropriate time to focus and act on your inquiries and concerns. GTM needs modern technol- ogy to optimize their effi- ciency, and you deserve an optimal customer-oriented experience. I will continue to stress the need for open dialogue, but most importantly, for positive action resulting in the increased well-being of our Commercial Service team. While we may not always obtain the optimal result, establishing clear lines of communication can lead to action, and in the words of Winston Churchill, “I never worry about action, but only inaction.” n I will continue to stress the need for open dialogue, but most importantly, for positive action resulting in the increased well-being of our Commercial Service team.