The Foreign Service Journal, April 2024

Honoring Courageous Colleagues AFSA’s Constructive Dissent Awards AFSA’s four awards for constructive dissent are unique in the federal government, and likely in the world. They honor intellectual and moral courage as exhibited by challenging the system from within to change a substantive policy or administrative procedure for the better. The awards were created at the height of the Vietnam War, when o£cers in the political section at U.S. Embassy Saigon saw their reporting cables edited to remove negative information. As AFSA’s uno£cial historian Harry W. Kopp observed, “By denying itself honest reporting, the [Johnson] administration confirmed its preconceptions and magnified its mistakes.” In December 1967, AFSA announced the creation of two awards for intellectual courage and creativity: the W. Averell Harriman Award for an entry-level o£cer and the William R. Rivkin Award for a mid-level o£cer. Two years later, the Christian A. Herter Award for reasoned dissent by a senior o£cer was added. Finally, in 2000 AFSA initiated the F. Allen “Tex” Harris award for constructive dissent by a Foreign Service specialist. These awards encourage Foreign Service members to question the status quo and take a stand, but to do so within non-public channels such as meetings, emails to superiors, memoranda, telegrams, or via the State Department’s formal Dissent Channel (created four years after AFSA’s dissent awards). During its first decades, most AFSA constructive dissent award winners challenged some aspect of U.S. foreign policy. In recent years, most recipients have challenged an administrative procedure. There are undoubtedly multiple reasons for this trend, but a likely factor is that the success rate for changing agency or embassy management practices has been significantly higher than for changing an administration’s foreign policy stand. Constructive dissent awards are conferred each year at AFSA’s annual awards ceremony, along with winners of AFSA’s several exemplary performance awards. Usually held in the Benjamin Franklin Diplomatic Reception Room on the eighth floor of the State Department, the ceremony draws a large crowd, often including the Secretary or Deputy Secretary of State. Recipients make brief but heartfelt acceptance remarks, often thanking the colleagues who supported them. Many entry-level and mid-level recipients of AFSA dissent awards have gone on to have highly successful careers. Previous winners include Geo˜rey Pyatt (current assistant secretary for energy resources); Anthony Quainton (former Director General of the Foreign Service); Daniel Russel (former assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific a˜airs); Janet Bogue (former deputy assistant secretary for European a˜airs); Diana Putman (former USAID deputy assistant administrator for East Africa); Ambassadors Joel Ehrendreich and Michael Gonzalez; and Ambassadors (ret.) Thomas Boyatt, Ryan Crocker, John Limbert, Luis Moreno, Eric Rubin, and Douglas Silliman. Colleagues who have received the award as senior o£cers include Thomas Shannon (former undersecretary for political a˜airs); Je˜rey Feltman and Robert Pelletreau (former assistant secretaries for Near Eastern a˜airs); Herman “Hank” Cohen (former assistant secretary for African a˜airs); and Ambassadors Michael Guest, Dennis Hays, Dennis Jett, and Kenneth Quinn. Foreign Service specialists winning the Tex Harris Award include Frontis Wiggins (former State Department chief information o£cer). AFSA is proud to have upheld the tradition of constructive dissent for more than half a century and will continue to recognize colleagues who have the courage to stand up for their beliefs. Each year, AFSA issues a call for nominations of those who have had the courage to dissent within the system. Some years, awards are not given in all four categories due to lack of submissions. AFSA encourages members in all Foreign Service agencies to nominate a colleague so they can receive the recognition—including a $4,000 cash prize—that they richly deserve. The nomination deadline for 2024 is May 13. Nominations must be submitted through the AFSA website. For details, including a list of past recipients, see —John K. Naland n AFSA’s Good Works Each month during our centennial year, The Foreign Service Journal is profiling an AFSA program that advances the collective or individual interests of its members. This month we feature Constructive Dissent Awards. THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | APRIL 2024 53 AFSA’S GOOD WORKS AFSA NEWS