The Foreign Service Journal, March 2022

70 MARCH 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Major Advocacy Milestones Achieved AFSA ON THE HILL | BY KIM GREENPLATE At the end of 2021, AFSA cel- ebrated the fact that several of our 117th Congress policy priorities became law. Passage of the Foreign Service Families Act (FSFA, S. 1550) and the Department of State Authorization Act (DSAA, H.R. 1157), and the resulting positive effects on FS life, are already rever- berating throughout our community. These two bills, contained in the Fiscal Year 2022’s National Defense Authoriza- tion Act (NDAA), achieve many goals that have been a part of AFSA’s legisla- tive agenda for years, if not decades. The Foreign Service Families Act achieves more for Foreign Service parity with the U.S. military than any effort in recent memory. AFSA hopes it will set a precedent for further parity provisions to become law. The Department of State Authorization Act is the first comprehensive reauthoriza- tion bill in almost 20 years. We hope this passage marks the beginning of annual authorization approvals. Both bills first emerged in the 116th Congress and were crafted with bipartisan support. When they were reintroduced in the 117th Congress, provisions were added to the Foreign Service Families Act that aimed to accomplish even more to achieve parity with the military. Neither bill was passed by itself under regular order. Instead, AFSA took the initia- tive to get them attached to a must-pass piece of legisla- tion: the NDAA. We calmed concerns about provisions in the bills from members of Congress, committee staff within the bills’ jurisdiction and outside stakeholder groups to help get them signed into law within the year. As you may recall, the Ser- vicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) became law in 2003, granting members of the Armed Forces reprieve from monetary penalties when given military orders to serve elsewhere and affording them other significant financial benefits. The Foreign Service has had no equivalent civil relief until now. The FS Families Act allows members under diplomatic orders to serve overseas the ability to break residential, vehicle or cell phone contracts without penalty. The bill also ensures the in-state tuition rate in one’s state of domicile at public institutions of higher edu- cation for Foreign Service members, their spouses and dependents (effective in 2024). No FS family will be left “stateless” due to their lack of physical presence in a state when looking to reap a benefit nearly every other U.S. resident receives in at least one state. The DSAA contains several personnel-related changes of priority for AFSA. For exam- ple, those who are subject to an assignment restric- tion are afforded the same appeals rights as those with suspended security clear- ances, and cases must be settled within 60 days with a list of reporting requirements explaining the need for that assignment restriction. The bill also calls for a study on FS overseas allow- ances and what financial factors incentivize bidding on specific posts, alongside a comparison to military pay. AFSA looks to expand on our recent policy gains in future advocacy, noting key provisions either left out or goals only partially accom- plished through the FY22 NDAA. For example: • AFSA would like to see the remaining SCRA provi- sions extended to the Foreign Service. • AFSA would like to see the Accountability in Assign- ment Restrictions Act (H.R. 5275) signed into law, thereby removing decision-making from the Bureau of Diplo- matic Security and establish- ing an independent appeals process for assignment restrictions. • AFSA would like to see a formalized paid student internship program with housing assistance created for all foreign affairs agencies. • AFSA would like to see the two-thirds cap on overseas comparability pay (OCP) relative to the Wash- ington, D.C., locality rate lifted and the third tranche implemented, which would achieve parity with the intel- ligence community on this important element of base pay. It is our hope that the new study on allowances as incentives at posts and the differences in pay between the Foreign Service and the military, which is stipulated in the DSAA, will emphasize the need for the final tranche of OCP. This list only scratches the surface of how we can expand on what the Foreign Service gained with passage of the Foreign Service Families Act and the Department of State Authorization Act. AFSA remains vigilant for future opportunities to build on our progress. n Passage of the Foreign Service Families Act (FSFA, S. 1550) and the Department of State Authorization Act (DSAA, H.R. 1157), and the resulting positive effects on FS life, are already reverberating throughout our community.