The Foreign Service Journal, April 2024

STATE VP VOICE | BY HUI JUN TINA WONG AFSA NEWS Contact: | (202)-647-8160 Implementing the NDAA AFSA is closely tracking all aspects of the provisions of the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) related to State Department personnel policy priorities. Many of the provisions have 90- to 120-day implementation deadlines, but here I want to focus on actions mandated by NDAA 2024 that are linked to AFSA’s broader, collaborative work with the department and employee organizations. First, AFSA continues to engage with the department to improve transparency and processes involving restriction appeals and assignment reviews. In February I spoke with The New York Times about assignment restrictions and reviews, as did several a˜ected employees who recently won appeals. NDAA 2024 mandates a status update on all those assignment restrictions or reviews (or “pass through objections”) pending for more than 30 days and the establishment of a right to appeal, along with a process for employees to do so. It also states that a Security Appeals Panel is to be convened within 120 days of an appeal filing. AFSA is pushing the department to share these implementation details for our review. Second, we were pleased to see the February announcement of the launch of the Workplace Conflict Prevention and Resolution Center within the Ombuds O£ce (S/O). This implements the NDAA 2024 provision (see section 6211) to increase department e˜orts to improve employee retention and prevent retaliation by establishing a single point of initial reporting for allegations of discrimination, bullying, and harassment. We look forward to learning more as this o£ce becomes fully sta˜ed and operational. (See the related article from the Ombuds O£ce on page 26.) Third, AFSA will be joining the American Federation of Government Employees (the Civil Service union at State), in a walkthrough of lactation spaces in the Harry S Truman building and will continue to monitor the department’s implementation of the NDAA 2024 provision to report on breastfeeding accommodations overseas. Write to to report any changes in demand for such spaces. Fourth, we sent an AFSAnet on Feb. 8 regarding the department’s first-ever knowledge transfer e˜ectiveness survey, an e˜ort to assess workforce views and current practices of predecessors providing job knowledge, briefings, and other mentoring to their successors during transfer and onboarding overseas. We encouraged all active-duty State FS members to share their related experiences. We will request a briefing on the department’s survey results this spring, as the report is due to Congress in the first quarter of 2024. Fifth, we sent out an AFSAnet regarding the department’s launch of the congressionally mandated Mid-level Lateral Entry Pilot Program (LEPP) on Jan. 29. My priorities during this period are to monitor LEPP implementation, communicate updates to members, and press the department to outline its measures to assess the success of the program. We also continue to advance specialist issues, including advocating for career development opportunities for specialists and consular fellows. (See page 47 for more.) Thank you to those members who have written in to share questions and views. It is critical for both department leaders and members of Congress to hear your concerns, and we will continue to be your voice on this matter. Some members reached out with concerns that many of the “critical needs” outlined in the LEPP describe skills they already have, especially economic-coned o£cers. We would not want LEPP hiring to further reduce already problematic promotion and retention rates for economic o£cers. Nevertheless, in NDAA 2024 Congress does recognize the need to retain talent, including a provision mandating the department’s report on recruitment, retention, and promotion of economic o£cers. AFSA will continue to press the department to examine how LEPP will a˜ect promotions for FS generalists and specialists. Last, but not least, I am deeply engaged in further reform of our promotion precepts. We welcome congressional interest in incorporating Foreign Service experiences at multilateral organizations, service in hardship posts across various geographic regions, experience in critical and emerging technologies, and trainings and details into our promotion considerations. We are concluding negotiations on the new crossfunctional competency—a sixth area that will be scored alongside the five existing core precepts—for generalist classes FS-2 and above. We want to ensure that all adjustments made to the scoring rubric will be clearly defined and explained. During the celebration of this Foreign Service centennial year, I could not be prouder of our AFSA labor management team as we work to foster an environment that embraces innovation and change. n 44 APRIL 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL