The Foreign Service Journal, March 2014

48 MARCH 2014 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL AFSA NEWS In recent months, AFSA President Bob Silverman addressed Foreign Ser- vice retiree associations in Virginia, Maryland and New England on the challenges and opportunities facing U.S. diplomacy and the Foreign Service. No r t he r n V i rg i n i a On Sept. 25, Silverman gave a luncheon presentation to 45 members of Foreign Affairs Retirees of North- ern Virginia. He noted that AFSA’s considerable growth in membership (now stand- ing at more than 16,000) is a result of the rapid growth of the Foreign Service itself. He discussed the more limited policy role FSOs now play, due in part to the expansion of the number of political appointees in the department. At the close of the meeting, the audience posed a number of questions regarding AFSA’s positions on issues affecting retirees. Ma r y l and On Dec. 19, the Foreign Affairs Retirees of Maryland hosted the AFSA president at a luncheon in Bethesda attended by more than 50 reitrees. Silverman high- lighted the 90th anniversa- ries of AFSA and the Foreign Service—which began with AFSA President Meets FS Retirees From Eight States the passage of the Rogers Act of 1924—and the many events taking place through- out 2014. Discussion centered on the risk of reductions to retiree pensions should Congress impose a “chained” Consumer Price Index provi- sion on federal pensions. Sil- verman stressed that AFSA opposes such an action and is working hard to see that it doesn’t happen through advocacy in all relevant con- gressional committees. New Eng l and Silverman traveled to Boston on Jan. 10 to speak to more than 50 retirees at a luncheon hosted by the Foreign Affairs Retirees of New England. Comparing the current generation of FSOs with retirees, Silverman observed there has been substantial growth in the numbers of Foreign Service specialists, especially in the area of security. He also noted that virtually all members of the Foreign Service will serve in a war zone. The AFSA president shared his belief that the For- eign Service is distinguished by three features: flexibility, especially worldwide avail- ability; discipline, as reflected in the “up- or-out” system; and experience, especially the ability to understand foreign cultures. In his view, maintaining these features as the core of the Foreign Service is important. Based on his experi- ence in the Middle East and South Asia, Silverman told the group he believes that Secretary of State John Kerry’s initiative in the Middle East Peace Process deserves support. He applauded the secretary’s decision to make an Israeli-Palestinian accord a priority at the beginning of his tenure because as Silver- man said, he believes that an agreement is possible. Subsequent questions and discussion included skepticism that Kerry will fare any better in the Middle East than his predecessors. Silverman concluded by noting some issues AFSA is working on and made a pitch for more retirees to join AFSA. To protect their retire- ment benefits, he stressed, retirees need to weigh in with their congressional represen- tatives on the “chained” CPI. Participants also discussed the When Actually Employed process and overseas locality pay issues for generalists. AFSA has given priority to reaching out to retired mem- bers’ associations around the country to better understand and respond to retiree con- cerns. n BY TOM SWITZER, SPEAKERS BUREAU DIRECTOR Amb. Tom Hull, president of Foreign Affairs Retirees of New England, and FARNE officer Toni Stearns, greet AFSA President Bob Silverman before his luncheon presentation in Boston on Jan. 10. PHOTOBYLIZBARNETT,FARNE