The Foreign Service Journal, March 2024

FCS VP VOICE | BY JOSHUA BURKE AFSA NEWS 60 MARCH 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Contact: Signs of a Spring Thaw? Not long ago, AFSA President Tom Yazdgerdi and I met with Arun Venkataraman, the Commerce Department’s assistant secretary for global markets and Director General (DG) of the Foreign Commercial Service. I believe it was the first time that Global Markets leadership in this administration has taken the time to meet with the union. We enjoyed a cordial, frank, and open conversation about the state of our Service. While many things are going well for Global Markets and the International Trade Administration (ITA), we continue to face significant headwinds— budget woes and operational inefficiencies chief among them. Good news tends to flow upward in organizations, so it was not surprising that leadership appeared concerned when I shared some insights about the culture and other challenges that officers are facing. As the AFSA VP for FCS, I often only see one side of the organizational balance sheet. I tend to hear about the difficulties that occur in ITA, as I am far removed from overseas and many of the rewarding aspects of our roles. It’s no wonder that AFSA and management see things differently at times. Thankfully the meeting with Arun helped paved the way for further discussion and collaboration on issues that affect the professional and personal lives of our officer corps. In December, Tom and I received a kind and thoughtful year-end message from Secretary Gina Raimondo. Her grandfather, she told us, was a union member, and she strongly supports the work and role that unions play at Commerce and in the United States. This was the first time in memory that AFSA has received such a letter from the Secretary of Commerce. I hope to see her at our cenAFSA Governing Board Meetings December 6, 2023 The following action item was decided upon: Legal Defense Fund Request: With one recusal, the board agreed to provide up to $10,000 in Legal Defense Fund support for a retired member who was called to testify on Capitol Hill regarding the Afghanistan withdrawal. January 17, 2024 The following action items were decided upon: Advocacy Reports: The board approved the advocacy list for the second session of the 118th Congress and ratified the list of AFSA-supported bills introduced in the 118th Congress. Resignation/Appointment: The board accepted the resignation of Lisa Ahramjian, effective July 1, 2024, from the position of FAS vice president due to her reassignment overseas. The board appointed Evan Mangino to serve as FAS vice president, effective July 1, 2024. n tennial gala this May, where I can thank her in person for her note. I have also been fortunate to meet other top leadership within ITA and Commerce to share our stories and advocate for our cause. More doors are opening for AFSA, which will pay dividends in the coming months. Many issues between AFSA and FCS management are still unresolved, yet with the relationships being nurtured in the Herbert Clark Hoover building and with the administration, I remain hopeful that 2024 will be a good year for our officer corps and for Commerce as a whole. n Federal Benefits Series 2024 Insurance Update On Nov. 16, 2023, AFSA welcomed Paula Jakub, CEO and executive vice president of the American Foreign Service Protective Association (AFSPA), for an online presentation on the 2024 Federal Employee Health benefits (FEHB) insurance program, including a discussion of Medicare and FEHB updates. She fielded questions from active-duty and retired members about their FEHB and Medicare benefits. Paula stepped down from her position at AFSPA in December 2023 after a long and distinguished career. She was known as an unflagging advocate for providing the best care possible for participants in the Foreign Service Benefit Plan (FSBP) and as an expert in the complex world of the FEHB and health care writ large. Kyle Longton, who was formerly AFSPA’s chief operating officer, has succeeded Paula. Members can view a recording of the event at n