The Foreign Service Journal, March 2023

AFSA NEWS 48 MARCH 2023 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL For the second year in a row, Congress was able to pass a comprehensive State Department Autho- rization Act by attaching it to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which followed nearly 20 years without passing one. AFSA reported the notable State Authorization provi- sions in our December 2022 advocacy update, found at (members only link), includ- ing AFSA’s legislative wins. Since the passage of the Foreign Service Families Act in late 2021, AFSA has sought to build on its previous wins and advocated a new set of priori- ties to meet the congressional focus on modernization. In early 2022, AFSA’s Governing Board crafted Foreign Service reform priorities (see www. , which serve as goals for our moderniza- tion-based advocacy. The 2022 State Depart- ment Authorization Act was a vehicle for provisions related to AFSA’s reform priorities and easing hardships stem- ming from life in the Foreign Service. The themes of pro- fessional training and leader- ship accountability for the Foreign Service, both AFSA priorities, were highlighted in the act. For example, a provision encouraging those seeking entry into the Senior Foreign Service to participate in professional development outside the department for six or more months was included in this year’s bill. An example of leadership accountability is a provision prescribing an annual, vol- untary, and fully anonymous survey offered to all staff assigned to a post who are U.S. citizens (excluding the chief of mission) to assess the management and lead- ership of that post by the chief of mission, the deputy chief of mission, and/or the chargé d’affaires. AFSA’s top advocacy items related to easing For- eign Service life hardships included in the 2022 State Department Authorization Act were the following: • A provision that estab- lishes a mechanism for third parties to verify the employ- ment of, and the validity of permanent change of station (PCS) orders received by, members of the Foreign Service, in a manner that protects sensitive employee information. This verification is meant to ease implemen- tation of the Foreign Service Families Act, which extended the benefits of the Service- members Civil Relief Act to the Foreign Service (e.g., breaking leases without incurring financial penalties when given orders to serve overseas). • A provision that pro- vides members of the Civil Service on domestic employee teleworking over- seas (DETO) agreements locality pay or overseas comparability pay (OCP), whichever is less. OCP is two-thirds of D.C. locality pay and is equivalent to the locality pay that members of the Foreign Service receive on DETO agreements. AFSA advocated for equitable pay among federal employees on DETO agreements, or those physically overseas often due to their spouses’ employment. Congress was also able to pass a Fiscal Year 2023 final appropriations package, which included $61.66 billion for the International Affairs Budget (IAB) that funds diplomacy and development activities. Even though Con- gress proposed providing a nearly 15 percent increase for the IAB in its individual FY23 appropriations bills, the final funding package fell well short of the original proposed increases. The final bill provided around a 6 percent increase for the IAB, not including emergency funding for Ukraine. This is the largest IAB increase in six years, which should be celebrated. AFSA is glad to see these significant increases go into effect. For example, the State Department’s Human Resources account, which includes funding for U.S. direct hires, increased by more than $200 million in FY23. Operational accounts, often called salaries and expenses, for the smaller foreign affairs agencies also received increases. Finally, the appropriations package included $18 million for State Department paid internships, a significant increase from the previous fiscal year. At AFSA’s urging, the explanatory statement for the final State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) appro- priations bill included the following language: “The agreement includes funding for additional Foreign Service Officers and Civil Service positions for the Department of State in Fiscal Year 2023.” The explanatory state- ment also included the sub- mission of quarterly reports to Congress detailing the onboard personnel levels, hiring, and attrition of the Civil Service, Foreign Service, eligible family members, and the locally employed staff workforce of the Department of State. Together, the explanatory statement texts indicate Congress’ desire for more Foreign Service positions, an emphasis on hiring and retention, and a general call for more data transpar- ency—all goals supported by AFSA. In the 118th Congress, AFSA will continue to push for regular authorizations of foreign affairs agencies and urge appropriators to pro- vide a robust FY24 Interna- tional Affairs Budget. n AFSA ON THE HILL | BY KIM GREENPLATE Authorizations and Funding Outcomes