The Foreign Service Journal, March 2024

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MARCH 2024 61 At AFSA headquarters recently, a draft message to members circulated for Governing Board clearance. When I saw that it referred to the “foreign service” four times in all lowercase letters, I immediately responded that, while international business executives and religious missionaries may participate in “foreign service,” we are in the Foreign Service, which is always capitalized. Not all newspapers follow that rule, but it is always capitalized in federal law, executive branch documents, federal court decisions, and in The Foreign Service Journal. HQ corrected the draft before transmitting the message to members. Capitalization may seem to some like a minor editing issue, but it is not. The Foreign Service enjoys a variety of financial and other benefits that are not afforded by federal law to the Civil Service, including enhanced retirement benefits, special consideration when applying for in-state college tuition, and beneficial treatment when calculating capital gains tax due upon the sale of a primary residence after an extended absence. To maintain our benefits, it is vital for the Foreign Service to continue to be recognized as a corps of professionals distinct from the Civil Service. While that includes capitalizing “Foreign Service,” the substantive basis for the differentiation is that our conditions of service more closely resemble those of the uniformed military than of the Civil Service. Any drift in our conditions of service towards that of the Civil Service could someday prompt Congress to reconsider our unique benefits. A future Foreign Service must keep its rigorous exam process to remain distinct from the Civil Service. A future Foreign Service must also welcome diverse members while ensuring worldwide staffing needs are met. And while I would support raising the mandatory retirement age to 67 to match the full Social Security retirement age, a complete abandonment of mandatory retirement would make the Foreign Service less distinct from the Civil Service. As a Foreign Service retiree, I no longer have “skin in the game” by serving overseas in harm’s way. As a baby boomer, I undoubtedly have some opinions that differ from those of the current generation of Foreign Service members. Thus, I believe that it is primarily up to current and future Foreign Service members to chart the future of their profession. But, having invested three decades in that profession, I hope that they choose carefully. n Esprit de Corps RETIREE VP VOICE | BY JOHN K. NALAND AFSA NEWS Contact: AFSA Welcomes New USAID Class On Nov. 14, 2023, AFSA hosted USAID’s newest Career Candidate Corps class. AFSA President Tom Yazdgerdi and USAID Vice President Randy Chester welcomed the 10 members of Class 38 to the Foreign Service and outlined the benefits of becoming an AFSA member. USAID AFSA Representative Christopher Saenger and Sue Bremner, AFSA’s USAID labor management adviser, also met with the class. The 10 class members combined speak nine foreign languages and have worked or studied in 54 countries. Seven class members have prior experience working for USAID, six have worked in other government agencies in the past, four have Peace Corps experience, and four have worked in the private sector. They include a glass blower, a pilot, a soccer player, and even someone who traveled 32 hours by bus just to run a marathon—that person ought to do fine on a 24-hour journey to their new post. Please join us in welcoming Class 38 to the Foreign Service. n College Scholarships Available Applications are now open for nearly $400,000 in college aid to children of AFSA members. Financial Aid: In 2024, AFSA will award $223,000 in need-based financial aid to incoming or current college undergraduates. Last year, 71 students were awarded scholarships ranging from $2,000 to $6,000. Merit Aid: In 2024, AFSA will award $143,500 in merit aid to high school seniors. Last year, 158 students applied, and 39 received grants. Most scholarships amount to $3,500 and will be given in four categories: academic merit, art merit, community service, and best essay. The AFSA Scholarship Program is made possible through generous donations from our partners at BlueCross BlueShield and DACOR, as well as numerous donations from individuals. No AFSA membership dues are used for the AFSA Scholarship Program. The application deadline is midnight on March 11, 2024. For full details or to apply, visit scholar. n