The Foreign Service Journal, May 2021

66 MAY 2021 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL AFSA NEWS View from Washington Webinar A Foreign Service Ripe for Change More than at any time since he started his Foreign Service career 36 years ago, there is serious focus in both parties on Capitol Hill to reform, update and improve the Service, AFSA President Eric Rubin told retired AFSA members in a March 4 webinar. AFSA holds its “View from Washington” webi- nar four times a year. The Zoom call gives retirees the chance to hear about AFSA’s current areas of focus, including expanding and reinvigorating the Foreign Service, restoring morale and improving retention. Amb. Rubin acknowl- edged that the past few years have been a very difficult time for the Foreign Service. “This is a pivotal time, especially from the past four years, but not only from the past four years,” he said, adding that a number of trends have been building for a long time. America’s foreign affairs agencies have been under- staffed and underfunded consistently since the end of the Cold War, he said, adding that the United States is now second to China in terms of number of diplomats and diplomatic posts. Encouragingly, the Biden administration and Congress are both interested in restor- ing the Foreign Service. “I think this will be a more pro- ductive time than under any recent administration,” he said, adding that it is a good time to revisit the Foreign Service Act of 1980. Amb. Rubin said one of AFSA’s biggest concerns is improving diversity in the Service. “We have a very major diversity problem,” he said. “I’m sorry to say that many of you worked in a more diverse Foreign Service than we have now.” AFSA is also working to improve morale and retention in the Foreign Service. He added that AFSA hopes to see a significant number of career Foreign Service officers nominated for high positions, such as assistant secretaries and ambassadors. He said he is also interested in seeing embassies built in cities again instead of in bunkers in suburbs. “We have to get away from the Accountability Review Board model, where when something happens, someone has to be punished. Not that we should eliminate all risks, but we should miti- gate them,” Rubin said. He also noted that he has sent The Foreign Service Journal ’s March 2021 “Notes to the New Administration” feature, which includes several dozen recommenda- tions from AFSA members, around to administration officials. “Ideas are being taken seriously now,” he said. n FS I LEADERSH I P COURSE OF FER I NGS I N FY2 1 The Foreign Service Institute’s Leadership and Management School has asked AFSA to help publicize their program of leadership distance learning courses.  These courses are mandatory for most promotions and can be taken virtually from anywhere in the world.  The courses are offered on D.C. time. Course dates were listed in Department Notice #78087 on Feb. 18. They will be available online through the end of this fiscal year—September 30. The Leadership and Management School points out that many of these courses are undersubscribed. Therefore, there are plenty of opportunities for overseas students to get this mandatory training.  AFSA welcomes this initiative by LMS, and we encourage members to take advantage of these opportunities. n NEWS BRIEF AFSA holds its “View from Washington” webinar four times a year. The Zoom call gives retirees the chance to hear about AFSA’s current areas of focus.