PUBLISHED BY THE AMERICAN FOREIGN SERVICE ASSOCIATION JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2024 WELCOMING THE CENTENNIAL YEAR
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2024 5 January-February 2024 Volume 101, No. 1 Focus on Centennial Year Kickoff 18 AFSA’s First Hundred Years Entering its second century, the professional association and bargaining agent for the U.S. Foreign Service is stronger than ever. By Harry W. Kopp 29 Lest We Forget: The Importance of Leadership in a Time of Adversity The Foreign Service has been through a challenging period, and it may not be the last. By P. Michael McKinley 32 From the FSJ Archive The Journal on 100 Years of AFSA Feature 34 The High School Foreign Service Association: Engaging Aspiring Diplomats This organization for international affairs is giving the U.S. Foreign Service a fresh, new boost among young people. By Ivan Pankov
6 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL 87 Reflections The Opening of U.S. Embassy Nuku`alofa By Tom Armbruster 90 Local Lens Hanoi, Vietnam By Trevor Hublin On the Cover—Illustration by Caryn Suko Smith, Driven By Design. Elements from iStockphoto.com/gradts/bagotaj. Marketplace 81 Real Estate 85 Classifieds 86 Index to Advertisers 7 President’s Views 2024: Celebration, Reflection— and Looking Forward By Tom Yazdgerdi 9 Letter from the Editor Kicking Off the Centennial By Shawn Dorman 16 Speaking Out State’s Pledge to Stop Promoting Bullies By Zia Ahmed Perspectives Departments 10 Letters 12 Talking Points 74 In Memory 78 Books AFSA NEWS THE OFFICIAL RECORD OF THE AMERICAN FOREIGN SERVICE ASSOCIATION 39 C elebrating the Foreign Service and AFSA Centennial 40 State VP Voice—New Year’s Resolutions in Leadership and Labor Management 41 USAID VP Voice—What’s in Store for ’24 42 FAS VP Voice—It’s Not All Unicorns and Rainbows? 43 FCS VP Voice—No Wind in Our Sails 43 AFSA Congratulates JSTP Graduates 44 Retiree VP Voice—Retiree Resolutions 44 Webinar—The View from Washington 45 AFSA Good Works—Scholarship Program 46 AFSA Honors 2023 Sinclaire Language Award Recipients 46 AFSA Governing Board Meeting, November 15, 2023 47 AFSA Tax Guide—2023 Federal and State Tax Provisions for the Foreign Service 58 A FSA Tax Guide—2023 State Tax Provisions 68 AFSA Tax Guide—2023 State Pension and Annuity Tax 47
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2024 7 2024: Celebration, Reflection— and Looking Forward BY TOM YAZDGERDI Tom Yazdgerdi is the president of the American Foreign Service Association. PRESIDENT’S VIEWS It is not every year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of both the modern Foreign Service and the creation of AFSA as a professional association. There is much to celebrate. With the passage of the Rogers Act of 1924, the basic foundations of a diplomatic career were laid, many of which still exist to this day. This includes the establishment of a highly competitive entry process, promotion by merit, provision of benefits and allowances, and a rudimentary retirement system. Thus began the building of an organization with an esprit de corps that has marked U.S. Foreign Service members as a distinct cadre within the federal government. It is a proud legacy, but there is also much to reflect and build on. In the wake of the Rogers Act, the Foreign Service was almost entirely male and white. The lone Black diplomat on staff, Clifton R. Wharton, was nearly denied entry and was made to suffer innumerable inequities from the beginning of his career in 1925. As for women, it would take decades before they could serve as equal members of the Foreign Service. AFSA has planned a number of events throughout 2024 to remember and reflect on our profession. We have assembled an honorary centennial committee, whose members include former U.S. presidents and Secretaries of State—a truly impressive group. Their participation speaks volumes about the esteem in which they hold the Service. Looking to the future, we will use this milestone in our history to press for greater recognition of what we do and for changes to ensure the health of the U.S. Foreign Service for future generations of Americans. First, I believe we can use this opportunity to help change the narrative about what the Foreign Service is all about and how vital it is to the well-being of our country. Yes, we have largely gotten away from the stereotype, if it ever really existed, of an effete service living the high life abroad. But there still isn’t real public appreciation of the call to duty and the sacrifice that our profession entails. With its deployments, merit promotion, up-or-out system, and rank-in-person, the U.S. Foreign Service is more akin to the military than it is to other agencies of the government. We can also help get the word out by expanding support for the Hometown Diplomats program and the Pearson Fellowships on Capitol Hill, for creating more assignments to state and local administrations, and for promoting greater outreach to the media, the Congress, and the public. We have a great story to tell and a proud milestone as a backdrop, but we need the resources and reach to tell it. All of this means that we need an international affairs budget that recognizes and supports the unique nature of the Foreign Service. AFSA recently completed a cost-of-living survey that details how difficult it is for Foreign Service members to afford a Washington, D.C., assignment, especially for entry- and mid-level employees. Most of us spend two-thirds of our careers living and working at overseas posts, many of which are in difficult and dangerous places away from our families and friends. We have to uproot ourselves every two or three years and often have only one income, as spousal employment—while better now than in the past—is still a huge challenge. In short, we need greater resources to effectively do our jobs. None of this will be easy, especially in an election year. The call to reduce discretionary government spending will no doubt be an issue in the upcoming electoral debates. That is why it is critical for AFSA and others to make the case for appropriate funding for the Foreign Service. Despite the difficulties, I believe there is a bipartisan core of support in Congress if we make the strongest case possible. All the best in the new year, and please let us know what you think by emailing email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. n
8 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL www.sfiprogram.org SUSTAINABLE FORESTRY INITIATIVE SFI-01268 Certified Sourcing Editor in Chief, Director of Publications Shawn Dorman: email@example.com Senior Editor Susan Brady Maitra: firstname.lastname@example.org Managing Editor Kathryn Owens: email@example.com Associate Editor Donna Gorman: firstname.lastname@example.org Publications Coordinator Hannah Harari: email@example.com Business Development Manager— Advertising and Circulation Molly Long: firstname.lastname@example.org Art Director Caryn Suko Smith Editorial Board Vivian Walker, Chair Lynette Behnke, Gov. Bd. Liaison David Bargueño Hon. Robert M. Beecroft Gaïna Dávila Hon. Jennifer Z. Galt Steven Hendrix Harry Kopp Aileen Nandi Dan Spokojny Hon. 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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2024 9 Shawn Dorman is the editor of The Foreign Service Journal. LETTER FROM THE EDITOR Kicking Off the Centennial BY SHAWN DORMAN The U.S. Foreign Service and the American Foreign Service Association turn 100 this year. The Rogers Act, signed into law in May 1924, merged the U.S. diplomatic and consular services into one, establishing a career institution—the United States Foreign Service. Within a few months, the Consular Association became the American Foreign Service Association. AFSA has been serving the members of the FS community as a professional association ever since and has represented them as a union for more than 50 years. The Foreign Service Journal, which began as The American Consular Bulletin and has been in publication consistently from 1919 to today, will celebrate the centennial throughout the year, with a special 100th anniversary edition in May. AFSA President Tom Yazdgerdi kicks off our 2024 centennial coverage with “2024: Celebration, Reflection—and Looking Forward.” No one was better suited to write our lead Focus article, “AFSA’s First Hundred Years,” than former diplomat Harry Kopp. As author of The Voice of the Foreign Service: A History of the American Foreign Service Association (FSBooks, 2015), and the forthcoming centennial edition as well, he literally wrote the book. Next, in a tribute to AFSA leadership, Ambassador Mike McKinley reminds the FS community not to assume their institution is secure in “Lest We Forget: The Importance of Leadership in a Time of Adversity.” And in “The Journal on 100 Years of AFSA,” we highlight articles from the digital archive and point you to more of that history, all preserved online in searchable form. We also look to the next generation of Foreign Service leaders. The Feature, “Engaging Aspiring Diplomats,” introduces the fast-growing, nationwide student organization, the High School Foreign Service Association. Founder Ivan Pankov, a high school senior, tells its story. In the Speaking Out, FSO Zia Ahmed praises the pledge from the State Department to address and prevent workplace harassment and bullying. In Reflections, Ambassador Tom Armbruster tells us what it was like helping with “The Opening of U.S. Embassy Nuku`alofa” in the South Pacific. And the Local Lens by USAID FSO Trevor Hublin gives a unique view of Hanoi. Please join AFSA in celebrating the centennial year. Read more about anniversary plans in AFSA News and watch for messages about upcoming events. As always, we want to hear from you. Send letters, article pitches, and submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org. n
10 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL LETTERS Build a Leadership Culture Secretary Blinken’s Oct. 23 speech inaugurating the new Innovation building at the Foreign Service Institute was captivating, enthusiastic, and complete. The workforce should be inspired by the State Department’s commitment to a training float, expanded work to incorporate diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility into all we do, and renewed attention to locally employed (LE) staff. Now it falls to all of us to take that inspiration and redouble efforts to build a culture of leadership in the State Department. That is the only way the ideas laid out in the Secretary’s speech will be realized. We need to start asking tougher questions about the modernization effort, such as: How can such efforts succeed if they can be scrapped the moment a new high-ranking appointee walks in the door? We need to forge greater personal and professional ties with our greatest workforce asset, LE staff, and really listen to their concerns about workload, compensation, and recognition (beyond photo ops) of them as our institutional knowledge. We need to ask FSI’s high-ranking officers if FSI was their first bidding choice, and if not, why not. We need to create a culture where we expect some of the best officers to consider bidding on FSI jobs as an essential contribution to building the strength of our organization. We need to ask how employees will be guaranteed the learning/training time offered by the new “career-long training portal” if we do not have chiefs of mission or deputies who will respect the opportunities it offers. If post leaders say the workload does not allow for such training, we should ask what they are directing staff to do. Then we should analyze whether all that work is based on strategic thought or on the whims of those who have succeeded in an organization that has traditionally required only three weeks of leadership training. We should request meticulous transparency of the Secretary’s Policy Ideas Channel to see how ideas are submitted, considered, and implemented. The speech at FSI was amazing—we can bring those words to life with some hard-nosed, grassroots work. Let’s surprise the next crop of appointees and their staffers with a true culture of leadership. John Fer FSO Arlington, Virginia DETO Developments: A Glass Half Empty? Adam Pearlman’s letter, “The DETO Landscape: An Optimistic Caution,” in the October 2023 issue of The Foreign Service Journal attempts to warn of the threats to DETOs for Foreign Service spouses, but it is much more pessimistic than it is optimistic. With regard to Executive Order 14100, having participated in the White House’s Joining Forces interagency policy committee (IPC) meetings, I want to assure Mr. Pearlman and other FSJ readers that many agencies are actively participating and coordinating on DETO policy development and management; there is a sub-IPC specific to DETO with vocal State Department participants. While it’s true that E.O. 14100 refers only to military family members, the grim picture Mr. Pearlman paints does not reflect the breadth of these discussions or what anyone envisions for the DETO program. While I appreciate the issues Mr. Pearlman voices, I perceive his concern as arising from a general wariness of military spouses. I caution against Foreign Service families viewing military families with an “us vs. them” mentality. With involuntary transfers, overseas orders, an up-or-out system of promotion, and our relatively small percentage of the federal employee population, we are more alike than we are different. I appreciate the gains the Foreign Service community achieved in the FY22 and FY23 NDAAs, and that these wins were inclusive of all federal employees. However, there is a difference between military and Foreign Service spouses and other federal employees; other federal employees get to choose where they live and when/if they move. The READINESS Act, introduced in Congress this past November and of which I am a co-author, is an initiative which creates a retention path for federally employed military and Foreign Service spouses during permanent changes of station. (Thank you to AFSA for the endorsement.) In writing this legislation, our small group of federally employed military spouses (some of whom are Foreign Service officers) and a former federally employed military spouse aimed to be as inclusive as possible, but we have been pragmatic in our approach. Despite plenty of consternation surrounding remote work, military families have bipartisan support in Congress, which we are leveraging in pushing for the READINESS Act’s passage. As we aim to be inclusive of the Foreign Service community’s needs, I hope
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2024 11 Share your thoughts about this month’s issue. Submit letters to the editor: email@example.com you all will reciprocate. We are stronger together, and a win for one can represent a win for the other. Emmalee Gruesen Charlottesville, Virginia Remembering Jim Dobbins I read with surprise and sadness the Appreciation and obituary of Ambassador Jim Dobbins in the November 2023 Foreign Service Journal. I remember Jim Dobbins and his wife, Toril, from my time at U.S. Embassy Bonn. He was deputy chief of mission (DCM) there from 1985 to 1989 with Richard Burt as ambassador. They were a formidable diplomatic team. Dobbins was an avid student of history. In his office, he had the complete set of Edward Gibbons’ History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire on a shelf behind his desk. And he had a display of miniature uniformed tin soldiers representing a part of Napoleon’s army on a credenza. He often quoted from historians of German and European history in his meetings, especially when he met with American journalists at the embassy. Part of my job was to vet journalists’ requests to see Ambassador Burt or DCM Dobbins, especially during the time when the U.S. was deploying NATO missiles to counter the Soviet intermediaterange nuclear SS-20 missile threat. Having served in Kabul under Ambassador Adolph “Spike” Dubs from 1978 to 1979, I was surprised and pleased to learn that Jim Dobbins had been appointed envoy to the Afghan opposition during President George W. Bush’s administration, and then as integrate Arabs still living in Israel, with no intention of extending this process wholesale to all Palestinians living outside Israel’s borders. Both integrations have succeeded, and Palestinians sit in the Knesset, suffering no obvious apartheid consequences despite such warnings. The last successful search for peace agreed to at Oslo three decades ago ended with the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a Jewish extremist. Its goal was Israeli-Palestinian cooperation leading to two states, but it did not prematurely set that goal. Today, new Israeli and West Bank– Gaza governments might usefully follow the pre-1967 model until the Israeli public is convinced that a violent, hostile government will not take over a new Palestinian state, and Palestinians are convinced that Israeli governments will not continue to support West Bank settlers who pursue seizure of Palestine to the Jordan River. Over the years, however, Israeli governments have been moving steadily to more aggressive extreme right positions. Thus, it will take determined action by the U.S. and Western governments as well as neighboring Arab states to persuade and assist Israelis and Palestinians to make that effort. George Lambrakis Senior FSO, retired Paris, France n special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan during President Barack Obama’s second term. Amb. Dobbins became an expert on Afghanistan and the ongoing struggles to establish a stable, viable government there. Bruce K. Byers USIA FSO, retired Reston, Virginia A Two-State Solution Recent University of Chicago research agreed that killing civilians in Gaza along with Hamas just builds new future terrorists. It suggested that Israel could change that reality if it announced that it will work for a two-state solution by, say, 2030. Obviously, this requires a major transition from mutual enmity to cooperation. Neither the present extremist Israeli government suspected of aiming to conquer the rest of Palestine to the river Jordan nor the current old, unpopular, ex-Fatah terrorist West Bank government can deliver on such a pledge. Many Western pundits are beginning to look for a way forward after current hostilities, but with no clear plan. A forgotten model from before the 1967 Six-Day War can be helpful. As early as 1963-1966, when I worked in our Tel Aviv embassy, the Israeli government was busy integrating newly arrived Sephardic Jews into the dominant Ashkenazi society and government of European Jews that established the state of Israel. Similarly, an adviser in the prime minister’s office had begun a process to
12 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL TALKING POINTS State Officials Talk AI on the Hill On Nov. 15, 2023, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) held a hearing on “U.S. leadership on artificial intelligence in an era of strategic competition.” Two State Department officials were invited to speak: Matthew Graviss, the department’s chief data and AI officer (CDAO), and Nathaniel Fick, ambassadorat-large for cyberspace and digital policy. Ambassador Fick told the SFRC that AI is “transforming every aspect of our foreign policy. Many traditional measures of strength, such as GDP or military capacity, are increasingly downstream from our ability to innovate in core technology areas. In that sense, technology innovation is driving more and more of what is, and is not, possible in our foreign and national security policy.” The hearing followed a flurry of recent activity related to the rapid development of AI technology. President Biden issued an executive order (E.O.) on the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence (14110) on Oct. 30. The order “establishes new standards for AI safety and security, protects Americans’ privacy, advances equity and civil rights, stands up for consumers and workers, promotes innovation and competition, advances American leadership around the world, and more.” It requires developers to share safety test results and “other critical information” with the U.S. government and orders the development of a “national security memorandum” to ensure the military and intelligence communities “use AI safely, ethically, and effectively in their missions.” As Graviss and Fick told the SFRC, the State Department was already working on developing AI standards before the E.O. was announced. In October 2023, the We see a booming demand for data and AI services across the department. Over the past three years, the Center for Analytics has received over 350 project requests from all corners of the department. Some of them promote foreign policy objectives while others bring about operational efficiencies. We’re positioning federal data science skills as close to the mission as possible. We’re already elevating our diplomacy and enhancing operational efficiencies. —Matthew Graviss, State Department chief data and AI officer, Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on artificial intelligence, Nov. 15, 2023. Contemporary Quote department published its “Enterprise Artificial Intelligence Strategy FY 2024-2025.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote in the introduction: “As the United States works to advance a vision of effective, ethical, and responsible use of AI globally, it is important we lead by example in our use of AI here in the Department. Harnessing the benefits of AI to advance our foreign policy and increase management efficiency in the Department requires a secure and AI-ready technological infrastructure; the recruitment, upskilling, and retention of an AI-ready workforce; consistent, responsible governance and standards; and tangible deployment of AI to improve our operations.” Two weeks later, on Nov. 13, the department issued a press release announcing that 45 countries had signed onto an agreement to “launch the implementation of the Political Declaration on Responsible Military Use of Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy.” The initiative contains 10 specific measures intended to begin building an international framework of responsibility around AI development. Unfortunately, as the Centre for International Governance Innovation noted, Russia and China were “missing from the discussion.” In his remarks to the SFRC, Fick responded to concerns about Russia and China’s lack of involvement in the development of rules around the use of AI, saying, “When you’re running a race, sometimes it’s important to simply run faster than your competitor.” President Biden and People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping discussed AI at a summit in California on Nov. 15— the same day as the SFRC hearing—and the two agreed to “address the risks of advanced AI systems and improve AI safety through U.S.-China talks.” Most observers see the chance of cooperation as slim. Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, told The Washington Post that the U.S. and China “appear to be heading toward a technology cold war.” Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai urged cooperation between the U.S. and China, telling attendees at November’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Summit in San Francisco: “No way you make progress over the long term without China and the U.S. deeply talking to each other on something like AI. It has got to be an integral part of the process.” Presidents Biden and Xi meet in California on Nov. 15, 2023. WHITEHOUSE.GOV
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2024 13 T he After Action: True Stories of the Diplomatic Security Service podcast first aired in April 2023 with an episode featuring Special Agent Kala Bokelman, who discussed her role in breaking up a child pornography trafficking ring in Costa Rica and Mexico—a story Bokelman first wrote about in the June 2018 FSJ. A later episode features Larry Doggett, a now-retired security engineering officer who hunted for bugs in the embassy in Moscow in the 1980s, at the same time as Clayton Lonetree—a Marine Security Guard later convicted of spying for the Soviets—was posted there. Doggett served in Moscow again in the 1990s, when the new embassy building had to be partially destroyed because it was riddled with listening devices, and he talks about what it was like to be on the team trying to outsmart the Soviets. Other episodes include one on the work that goes into protecting the Secretary of State, with Special Agents (and former FSJ Editorial Board members) Karen Brown Cleveland and Lawrence Casselle, and another featuring retired Agent Paul Davies on what it was like to be at the consulate in Herat during the September 2013 terrorist attack. Podcast of the Month: After Action (https://bit.ly/After-Action-podcast) The appearance of a particular site or podcast is for information only and does not constitute an endorsement. More Than 100 Aid Workers Killed in Gaza In the 78-year history of the United Nations, it has never experienced so much loss so quickly. On Nov. 13, 2023, the United Nations reported that 101 of its aid workers serving at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza had been killed since the start of the conflict on Oct. 7. Flags were lowered to half staff at U.N. outposts around the world and the U.N.’s Secretary-General António Guterres led a minute of silence at U.N. headquarters in New York in honor of their fallen colleagues. Tatiana Valovaya, director-general of the U.N. office in Geneva, said: “Thousands of our colleagues continue to work under the U.N. flag in [the] most risky parts of the world. Let’s pay tribute to their activities, to their work, to their devotion.” Established in 1949, UNRWA is the main U.N. agency operating in Gaza and has been sheltering 780,000 people in more than 150 facilities since the start of the conflict. More than 60 UNRWA facilities, mostly schools, have suffered either collateral or direct damage due to Israeli strikes. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said on Nov. 8 that both Israel and Hamas have committed war crimes since the start of the conflict. On Nov. 14, CNN reported that at least 42 media workers have also been killed since the start of the conflict. Introducing ADS Bureau The State Department announced on Nov. 13, 2023, that it had renamed the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance. In a nod to its role in “addressing new challenges posed by emerging security technologies and computing, aiming to play “a key role in establishing and promoting norms of responsible behavior in outer space, cyberspace, and with artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies.” The new name is intended to reflect a broader effort to modernize the Foreign Service and address emerging national security challenges. Dissent in a Connected World Disagreements over the Biden administration’s Israel and Gaza policy continue to make headlines rather than remain behind closed doors. domains,” the bureau will now be known as the Bureau of Arms Control, Deterrence, and Stability (ADS). Mallory Stewart continues in the role of assistant secretary for the renamed bureau. According to the release, ADS “leads Department of State efforts on developing, negotiating, implementing, and verifying compliance with a range of arms control and disarmament agreements and arrangements; extended deterrence; missile defense; confidence- and security-building measures (CSBMs); risk reduction; and crisis communications.” The bureau is also building capacity on AI, biotechnology, and quantum A moment of silence at U.N. headquarters in New York on Nov. 13, 2023. UNITED NATIONS
14 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL PEPFAR Stuck in Washington Gridlock Until recently, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) mission was considered unassailable. According to the State Department’s Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Global Health Diplomacy, which manages and oversees PEPFAR, the U.S. government has invested more than $100 billion in the global HIV/ AIDS response since the program began under President George W. Bush in 2003. This has saved 25 million lives and already gone through the channels of trying to do it internally.” The Washington Post reported that Secretary of State Antony Blinken sent an open letter of his own to the entire department and to all employees at USAID, acknowledging that “some people in the department may disagree with approaches we are taking or have views on what we can do better.” USAID Administrator Samantha Power has been criticized for her silence in the face of dissent within her organization, with one USAID official calling her silence “frustrating and disappointing.” Diplomacy and the AI Revolution Thus far, much of the discussion around AI is centered around the military and private sector, but making money or making war is too narrow of an approach for the AI revolution. … Our diplomats also must be involved as we manage our AI competition with nations like China and Russia. Diplomats know how to take on complex and multifaceted problems. They know how to balance competing ideas. American diplomats know how to drive an agenda based on American values. ... If we’re going to lead on global AI governance, if we’re going to avoid dangerous AI arms race, if we’re going to harness AI to improve the lives of people on this planet, the State Department must be in the lead. —Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, at SFRC hearing on U.S. leadership on artificial intelligence, Nov. 15, 2023. Data-Driven Diplomacy I’m pleased to see the department begin to pursue a data-driven approach to diplomacy because it has the potential to improve our foreign policy. … But data-driven diplomacy can’t just be a talking point. The department has to truly commit to integrating data into the policymaking process and changing course if necessary when it receives objective feedback that a policy or procedure simply isn’t working. The State Department’s center for data analytics was established to better integrate data analysis and expertise into foreign policy decision making and to develop a workforce that possesses the skills needed to take advantage of these technologies. —Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, at SFRC hearing on U.S. leadership on artificial intelligence, Nov. 15, 2023. HEARD ON THE HILL JOSH Dating to 1970, the State Department Dissent Channel allows staff to reach senior leadership with their concerns without fear of retribution and without going public—dissent cables and their authors are classified. But in today’s connected world, some government insiders are going to the press and to their social media accounts with their policy concerns. A letter calling for an immediate cease-fire gained more than 1,000 signatures from USAID employees and was delivered to news outlets and publications including Foreign Policy and The Washington Post. On Nov. 17, The New York Times reported on an open letter in support of Biden administration policies and signed by more than 100 former Obama and Biden officials. On Nov. 19, the Associated Press reported that 650 staffers from more than 30 federal agencies, including the State Department, USAID, the Department of Defense, the Census Bureau, and the Executive Office of the President, jointly signed another open letter, this one demanding that the U.S. pursue a cease-fire in Gaza. Former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Tom Shannon criticized the signatories, telling AP that he is “not a fan of open letters.” He believes the Dissent Channel is a better way for department employees to make their views known. “In the Foreign Service as in military service, discipline is real and it’s important,” Shannon said. But an unidentified political appointee, who helped organize the multiagency letter, told AP that the signatories felt their concerns had been dismissed by the administration, saying, “That’s why people are using all sorts of dissent cables and open letters. Because we’ve
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2024 15 prevented millions of HIV infections in more than 50 countries, along the way garnering strong bipartisan support. The program was easily reauthorized in 2008, 2013, and 2018; but in 2023, a small group of Republican U.S. representatives began using reauthorization of PEPFAR to argue against access to abortion. Federal officials say abortion services are not provided under the program. According to Time magazine, global health practitioners and advocates “worry that even if PEPFAR is eventually reauthorized, the uncertainty created both by Congress missing the deadline and by the fading of bipartisan support for the program could ultimately increase costs and inefficiencies as well as harm U.S. diplomatic interests.” The program relies on multiyear contracts to make large-scale purchases of antiviral medications at affordable prices; the predictability of the program’s funding “facilitates longer-term investments that build resilience in health systems at the heart of eliminating HIV and battling other infectious diseases, such as COVID19, malaria, tuberculosis, and Ebola,” according to American Progress. A spokesperson from the National Security Council told Time that PEPFAR is important to U.S. foreign relations, particularly with African nations, saying: “This departure from 20 years of strong support could open the door for Russia and China in the Africa region.” Additionally, says Jen Kates, director of global health and HIV policy at Kaiser Family Foundation, if PEPFAR is not funded, “it would just change the game around what has been one of the few government programs that has been incredibly successful. The symbolic effect of it not being able to withstand that pressure could have repercussions down the road.” Arms Control Agreement Collapses On Nov. 7, 2023, the United States announced its decision to suspend its obligations under the Cold War–era Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE). The decision followed Moscow’s withdrawal from the treaty hours earlier. All NATO member countries froze their participation in response because, according to NATO, “a situation whereby Allied State Parties abide by the Treaty, while Russia does not, would be unsustainable.” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said: “Russia’s withdrawal is The newcomer to any well-regulated and oldestablished organization is always a bewildered creature. The rosiest pledge of a college fraternity, the newest shavetail in the infantry, the most untutored vice consul are alike in their blushing self-consciousness and patent helplessness. Their frame of mind is comparable to that of a man who has jumped from a balloon, and, noticing with some perturbation the rapid approach of the earth, wonders if his new parachute is going to work. … It is of the worst period of all that I wish to speak—that interregnum en route from Washington to the first post—because it is the one most neglected by those who are in a position to reminisce. Many have spoken and written and afterwards laughed about the hushed moment when the roll-call of doomsday is read, the assignments. But that is tense, dramatic and fleeting. You return to your chamber and either kick over the table with joy or search for a stray grain of strychnine, as the case may be. An hour later, you are back to normal. This other matter, this voyage to an unknown fate, is more quietly and effectively troublesome, more difficult to appreciate and analyze. An hour in a steamer-chair comes to my mind with peculiar vividness. The deck was deserted. A scudding wind swept the gray mist over the water. From where I sat, enveloped in rugs, I could see the bows rising and falling with that rocking-chair movement peculiar to a small boat in a heavy sea, and at each downward plunge, my heart nestled closer to the bottommost floating rib. —Written by “a consular neophyte” in the January 1924 American Consular Bulletin (precursor to the FSJ). The Hour Before Dawn 100 Years Ago not expected to have any practical impact on its force posture, given Moscow’s failure to abide by its CFE Treaty obligations since 2007. However, its withdrawal signals a further effort by Moscow to undermine decades of progress made towards building transparency and cooperative approaches to security in Europe.” The CFE was signed in 1990 and ratified two years later with the goal of ensuring peace by preventing Cold War rivals from massing troops along their mutual borders. n This edition of Talking Points was compiled by Donna Scaramastra Gorman.
16 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL SPEAKING OUT Zia Ahmed is a Foreign Service officer. The views expressed here are his own and not necessarily those of the U.S. government. I n a welcome development last May, the State Department revealed its intention to stop promoting bullies to senior positions. Reading about the department’s new “Framework to Promote Safe and Inclusive Workplaces and Address Workplace Harassment,” I was particularly thrilled to see a pledge of disciplinary actions and improved vetting for senior leadership positions related to harassment, discrimination, and bullying. State also notified Congress of its intent for the Bureau of Global Talent Management (GTM) to establish a Harassment and Bullying Intervention unit (which was at that time subject to a congressional hold). The department will also create an Accountability Working Group to assess its anti-bullying and other programs, and it will ensure that senior leadership routinely strengthens accountability for harassment and bullying through communications to the workforce. For me, the department has been much more than a career. It has enabled me to serve my country, live in fascinating places, and learn from inspirational mentors. I met my wife—another American diplomat—while shopping at an embassy commissary. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities this job has given me. I love my job, despite the tacit admission in the department’s announcement that some of our senior leaders are bullies. I worked for one, whose behavior was straight from the Workplace Bullying Institute’s list of common tactics adopted by workplace bullies. These include: • Harshly and constantly criticizing staff. • Staring, glaring, being nonverbally intimidating, and clearly showing hostility. • Discounting victims’ thoughts or feelings (“oh, that’s silly”) in meetings. • Yelling, screaming, and throwing tantrums in front of others to humiliate a person. My experience isn’t unique. As Ambassador Gina Abercrombie- Winstanley—State’s first chief diversity and inclusion officer—wrote in the July/ August 2023 FSJ, an “unacceptably high number” of employees report they have been the victim of discrimination, harassment, or bullying. Why and how do bullies succeed in an institution whose employees care about it so much? Bullying Myths One explanation is cultural. According to research from the Harvard Business Review (HBR), published in 2022, people often assume that bullies are star performers and that high performance justifies bad behavior. He’s tough, but he gets the job done. This is a myth. As the HBR research showed, bullies are usually mediocre performers who take credit for the work of others. The research also showed that one toxic employee negates the gains of two superstars. Another explanation for the department’s seeming tolerance of bullies is the time-bound nature of Foreign Service assignments. The traditional solution to a personnel problem is to do nothing; soon the bully will leave. Unfortunately, bullies leave only to spread their poison somewhere else. In this culture, improved vetting will be a game-changer if it can identify bullies and keep them from leadership positions. Prevention, according to the HBR research, is the most effective way to stop workplace bullying through selection, training, and screening. Importantly, researchers also caution that attempts to stop bullying by “fixing” personality traits don’t work. Bullying is often the product of a toxic personality and can take many forms. Anger management training may convince a bully to stop screaming or erupting, for instance— an obvious HR redline—but the need State’s Pledge to Stop Promoting Bullies BY ZIA AHMED Why and how do bullies succeed in an institution whose employees care about it so much?
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2024 17 to dominate and belittle will find other avenues of expression. Another problem, according to the HBR researchers, is placing the burden of proof on victims. This ignores the fact that bullying is traumatic, and it requires victims to document their own trauma while it’s happening. As the chief diversity officer noted, many employees do not file an official complaint because they either do not think the department would take the necessary corrective action or they fear retaliation. Such victims often choose to walk away. Consider the case of Jim (not his real name) who saved a colleague’s life after a violent attack. He later questioned the embassy’s response, including at a town hall meeting. Instead of rewarding Jim’s heroism, our leadership admonished him and created what he said was an emotionally abusive environment. Jim had no hope that this environment would improve, so he curtailed and walked away. A Culture of Avoidance The State Department’s improved vetting for senior leadership positions should keep bullies from becoming senior leaders. But the problem isn’t only who gets a senior position. The problem also is a culture of avoidance that doesn’t stop bullies from getting promoted. It’s the silence of cowards like me who fear that speaking up will hurt their careers. It’s the reluctance of individual leaders and the collective bureaucracy to act, even when victim testimonies pile up. “Bullying is a behavior of opportunity enabled by environments that allow it to occur and continue,” according to the HBR researchers. Successful antibullying measures must be codified in regulations that automatically trigger investigations and disciplinary action, which I expect will be the case after GTM launches the proposed Harassment and Bullying Intervention unit. It wasn’t always. Last year I got a call from the department’s Office of the Ombudsman. They were conducting a climate survey of my embassy. I told them about the bullying boss: the verbal abuse, the petty humiliations, the hostile work environment. Weeks went by, then months. Nothing happened, showing how worthless surveys are without follow-up action. I’ve been fortunate in my career to have worked for some role models— exceptional diplomats whose kindness and professionalism are why I love the State Department so much. But I must admit that by not standing up to a bully, I’m no model for the type of leader my institution deserves. Toxic workplace cultures persist because few have the courage to speak up. My experience highlights the need for a system that stops bullying without relying on the courage of individuals. I expect that the State Department’s pledge to promote safe workplaces will help enable ordinary employees like me to stand up to bullies, ensuring that they are never again eligible for leadership positions. n Speaking Out is the Journal’s opinion forum, a place for lively discussion of issues affecting the U.S. Foreign Service and American diplomacy. The views expressed are those of the author; their publication here does not imply endorsement by the American Foreign Service Association. Responses are welcome; send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
18 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Entering its second century, the professional association and bargaining agent for the U.S. Foreign Service is stronger than ever. BY HARRY W. KOPP AFSA’S FIRST HUNDRED YEARS “Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions constantly form associations.” —Alexis de Tocqueville
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2024 19 At its inception in 1924, the American Foreign Service Association was a small, quiet club dedicated to fellowship, good works, and professional improvement. One hundred years later, AFSA is a large and often noisy organization that shapes and protects the U.S. Foreign Service while enhancing the lives and careers of its members. AFSA’s story of growth and transformation is a tale worth telling and—or so this writer hopes—a tale worth reading too. The Early Years: 1924-1940 In the early years of the 20th century, the U.S. consular service—the greater part by far of the country’s official overseas representation—emerged from a long history of patronage and incompetence. A growing sense of pride in their work and their institution led a group of consular officers in 1918 and 1919 to form the American Consular Association and publish a monthly American Consular Bulletin, “an organ by which information of interest to the Service might be disseminated.” As soon as the Foreign Service Act of 1924 merged the consular and diplomatic services, the consuls invited members of the smaller (and, it must be said, snootier) diplomatic service to join their organization. The American Foreign Service Association took shape that August. The new association, called AFSA from the beginning, was open to “all career officers of the American Foreign Service.” It was to be “an unofficial and voluntary association” formed to foster “esprit de corps … and to establish a center around which might be grouped the united efforts of its members for the improvement of the Service.” The American Foreign Service Journal replaced the American Consular Bulletin with no gap in publication. In the period immediately following passage of the Foreign Service Act of 1924, the Service saw itself as the State Department’s creation, its ward. That the two institutions might have different or conflicting interests was unthinkable and unthought. The association had no interest in conflict. The Journal’s masthead carried this statement: “Propaganda and articles of a tendentious nature, especially such as might be aimed to influence legislative, executive, or administrative action … are rigidly excluded.” The appeal of the association lay in forming and maintaining connections among the scattered members of the Foreign Service, 90 percent of whom were overseas. Much space in the Journal was devoted to lists of transfers, promotions, appointments, weddings, births, and deaths, along with occasional social trivia. (“Consul Tracy Lay recently motored to the Berkshires. He caught some good fish.”) But the absence of conflict did not exclude good works. Three early AFSA initiatives—the scholarship fund, the insurance program, and the memorial plaques—have had a lasting impact. • In 1926, Elizabeth Harriman (spouse of a cousin of future diplomat W. Averell Harriman) gave AFSA $25,000 to establish a scholarship fund in honor of her late son, a Foreign Service John Jacob Rogers, the “father of the Foreign Service,” was a Republican congressman from Massachusetts. Born in Lowell, Mass., in 1881, he was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1912. After a brief stint in late 1918 as a private in the Field Artillery, Rogers introduced a series of Foreign Service reform bills, drafted largely by Wilbur Carr. He finally won passage in May 1924 of the act that bears his name. Less than a year later, he was dead. His wife, Edith Nourse Rogers, succeeded him in Congress. She worked for passage of the Moses-Linthicum Act and was a key sponsor of bills creating the Women’s Army Corps, the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, and the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly known as the GI Bill. Rep. Nourse Rogers served in Congress for 35 years until her death in 1960. Opposite page: This artwork appeared as the cover image for the early precursor to the FSJ, The American Consular Bulletin, in its first two years of publication (1919-1920). The epigraph is from the French diplomat and writer Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (1935). LIBRARY OF CONGRESS