The Foreign Service Journal, May 2024

30 MAY 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL AFSA and the modern Foreign Service were founded within a few months of each other in 1924. During the intervening century, the Foreign Service has undergone dramatic changes as an institution and a career. This article examines the role that AFSA—as a professional association and, later, as a union—played in that evolution. Early Years In its first four decades, AFSA was primarily a social club dedicated to fellowship. It deferred to State Department management to look after the Foreign Service and its members. The masthead of AFSA’s American Foreign Service Journal (as it was then named) declared that articles “aimed to influence legislative, executive, or administrative action … are rigidly excluded.” That outlook changed briefly in the mid-1940s as AFSA provided substantial input into what became the Manpower Act of 1946 and Foreign Service Act of 1946. But in and after 1947, AFSA fell mostly silent as Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.) and his allies demanded and obtained the firing of hundreds of alleged security risks at the Department of State. During the 1950s through the mid-1960s, AFSA rarely difIn negotiations with agency management, AFSA focuses on the long-term institutional well-being of the career Foreign Service. fered with department management on Foreign Service issues. In fact, several AFSA presidents were part of management as they concurrently filled senior positions such as deputy under secretary for political affairs. From Passivity to Activism In 1967, a new generation of AFSA leaders began to transform the organization from passivity to activism. Seeing AFSA as the leading advocate for the Foreign Service, they sought to influence the State Department, White House, and Congress to improve the Foreign Service as an institution and career. They issued a nearly 200-page reform manifesto, “Toward a Modern Diplomacy,” containing numerous recommendations to improve personnel policies, training, and benefits. And they created a Members’ Interests Committee that pushed the department to adopt or expand benefits, including an educational allowance covering kindergarten and improving overtime pay for Foreign Service specialists. In the face of determined State Department opposition, AFSA played a leading role in the creation of the Foreign Service grievance system. Previously, employees had no mechanism to seek redress for unfair treatment by the personnel system. After legislation co-drafted by AFSA to create a grievance system was introduced in the Senate in 1971, the department headed off its enactment by including a provision directing the creation of a grievance process in an executive order signed by President Richard Nixon. But after the department held out for implementing procedures that severely limited the new grievance John K. Naland, a retired FSO, is in his fourth term as AFSA retiree vice president. He also served as AFSA president (two terms) and AFSA State vice president. He is the 2016 recipient of the AFSA Achievements and Contributions to the Association award. FOCUS ON CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION AFSA and the Evolution of the Foreign Service Career BY JOHN K. NALAND