The Foreign Service Journal, March 2020

56 MARCH 2020 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL RETIREE VP VOICE | BY JOHN K. NALAND AFSA NEWS Contact: Powerful Tools to Defend the Foreign Service This is the fifth time I have served on the AFSA Govern- ing Board since joining in 1999 as State vice president. During each of those tours, controversies arose that preoccupied the board. But as important as those issues seemed at the time, they pale compared to what AFSA faces today. The White House contin- ues to propose draconian cuts to funding for diplo- macy and development. Senior elected officials have verbally attacked the career, nonpolitical, nonpartisan Foreign Service. The percentage of Foreign Service members in ambas- sadorships and positions at and above the assistant sec- retary level is at an historic low. Some of our colleagues have found themselves at the center of events that led to the impeachment of the president. When my current board term began last summer, I had no idea that a few months later I would be sitting behind an A-100 classmate as she testified at a House impeachment hear- ing. As I write this column in January, I do not know if other surprises will have transpired by the time you read this in March. I cannot begin to guess what will happen on Elec- tion Day 2020 or thereafter. But I do know that, whatever happens, AFSA has powerful tools to defend its members, our Service and our profes- sion. They are: Solidarity. Nearly 85 percent of active-duty Foreign Service members belong to AFSA. When AFSA speaks, it can legitimately claim to do so as the voice of the Foreign Service. That voice would be even louder if more annui- tants maintained their AFSA membership after retirement. Currently, less than 30 per- cent do so. Please encourage your retired colleagues to join. Support. Over the past three years, bipartisan votes in the Senate and House have overwhelmingly rejected cuts to funding for diplomacy and development. Newspaper and other media editorials across the nation lauded our colleagues who honored their oath to the U.S. Constitution by testifying when subpoe- naed by the House impeach- ment committee. Staff. AFSA’s 34-mem- ber professional staff has decades of legal, congres- sional and communications experience. AFSA’s 21-mem- ber Governing Board includes representatives of all six foreign affairs agencies. Financial Strength. AFSA has a $5.3-million operating budget. AFSA has reserves exceeding $3 million to draw on if needed to wage legal or media battles to protect career diplomacy. When AFSA needed more funds, donors quickly contributed more than $700,000 to ensure that members who testified in the impeachment hearings would not suffer personal financial ruin due to bills for legal representation. Whatever the future holds, AFSA must use the tools at its disposal to defend our Service. When the opportunity presents itself, AFSA should go on the offense to restore the Foreign Service’s role as the main instrument for con- ducting U.S. foreign policy. n Congress Approves Paid Parental Leave for Federal Employees President Trump signed the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act into law on Dec. 20. The law provides, among other things, all federal government employees with 12 weeks of paid leave for the birth, adop- tion or fostering of a child. This provision is set to take effect on Oct. 1. Last fall, AFSA joined with other federal employee groups in successfully urg- ing the House to adopt the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act as an amendment to the FY2020 NDAA. During the NDAA Conference Commit- tee process, AFSA encour- aged members to express support for this amendment to members of Congress. One thing to note: Though the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act included paid leave to provide care for a family member suffering from a serious health condition, this provision was not included in the final FY2020 NDAA. With the passage of the NDAA into law, AFSA cele- brates paid parental leave for more than two million federal workers! n I cannot begin to guess what will happen on Election Day 2020 or thereafter. But I do know that, whatever happens, AFSA has powerful tools to defend its members, our Service and our profession.