The Foreign Service Journal, April 2021

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | APRIL 2021 63 AFSA NEWS AFSA President Meets with Members in Virtual Town Halls AFSA President Eric Rubin and AFSA constituent agency vice presidents held a series of seven virtual town halls for AFSA members in different regions in the world in February. At the first, on Feb. 16, Ambassador Rubin told an audience of more than 50 AFSAmembers serving in Europe that the association greatly appreciates all the input it is receiving from its members, including the more than 80 responses The For- eign Service Journal received for its March “Notes to the NewAdministration” featur e. With a new administration in place, we are in “a moment of possibility”where change can happen, he said. The leadership of all the foreign affairs agencies AFSA repre- sents “are interested in what we have to say,” and there is enhanced interest in Foreign Service issues in Congress. “I’m very aware of how difficult the past four years have been for many of us, and I say that in a nonparti- san way,” Amb. Rubin said, noting in particular the first impeachment of former President Donald Trump, which involved testimony by many Foreign Service employees, and the COVID- 19 pandemic. Foreign Service employ- ees were pushed out of the policy process by the previ- ous administration, but Amb. Rubin said he hopes the State Department will be able to play a stronger role in that process now. “We take it as a given that a lot needs changing in the Foreign Service,” he said. AFSA is focused on contributing ideas on how to advance diversity in the for- eign affairs agencies, he said. Hiring and retention will also be areas of focus, he added, noting that the Foreign Service needs to double the hiring of new employees to keep up with attrition. The Senior Foreign Service is 87 percent white and two- thirds male, much less diverse than when he joined the Service in 1985, Amb. Rubin said.“I’m confident that we’ll see some change in those numbers.” In partnership with three Rangel Fellows at Harvard’s Kennedy School, AFSA recently surveyed its mem- bers about retention issues. Harvard will also sponsor focus groups on the issue. Amb. Rubin noted that the United States now has the second-largest diplomatic service in the world, trailing China.“Ever sinceWorldWar II, we were the foremost diplo- matic power,” he said, adding that AFSAwants to see the Foreign Service expanded and more Foreign Service officers posted overseas. He noted that Secretary of State Antony Blinken had reached out to AFSA and other unions and held a meet- ing with them just three days into office, a strong sign of support from the new admin- istration and that AFSA’s opinion will be sought and respected by State leadership. AFSA State Vice President TomYazdgerdi added that on the macro level, AFSA deals with important issues such as advocating for greater infor- mation about COVID-19 vac- cine distribution by the State Department and pushing for meritorious service increases (see story on page 59) . He also noted that AFSA’s Labor Management office fields dozens of queries from members each day on a wide variety of issues. “We are happy to be your advocate,” he said. AFSAwelcomes input on issues of concern to members at . n AFSA President Eric Rubin speaks on Feb. 16 during an AFSA town hall Zoom meeting with members serving in Europe. AFSAGoverning Board Meeting, Feb. 17, 2021 Legal Defense Fund: The Governing Board approved changes to the Standard Operating Pro- cedures for the Legal Defense Fund. The board also approved moving LDF funds into a new and separate bank account with Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Associate Members: The Governing Board approved the applications of two new associate members. Vice President Resignation: The Governing Board approved the resignation of Foreign Agriculture Service Vice President Michael Riedel and agreed to seek an interim FAS VP to finish out his term. n AFSA/CAMERONWOODWORTH