The Foreign Service Journal, June 2003

and promotion system that is representative of all Americans, and defining the use of non-career person- nel. It was our perception that the growing use of Foreign Service Reserve officers and Civil Service employees to fill overseas positions, and the existence of “Foreign Service” personnel with no commit- ment to overseas service, had seriously undermined the principles of the Rogers Act. This tendency was also evident in the trend toward appointing non-career personnel as ambassadors, fre- quently without regard to their qualifications. In addition, we recognized the need for the Foreign Service to rectify all too many years of under-repre- sentation of minorities and women, particularly in the upper ranks, but to do so without sacrificing the objec- tive, competitive criteria for recruitment, promotion and retention on which the Foreign Service is based. All of these issues were sensitive and charged with emotion. It was necessary for leaders of the AFSA team to meet privately with Under Secretary for Management Ben Read, as well as with Secretary Cyrus Vance, Deputy Secretary Warren Christopher and Under Secretary for Political Affairs David Newsom, to reconcile divergent views on the subject. Out of these informal sessions we developed the com- promises that we were able to present jointly to the Hill and to our own constituency. The Outcome The general provisions of the Foreign Service Act captured the essence of these compromises in laying out the need for a professional service, the qualities required of its members, the merit principles to be fol- lowed in recruitment, advancement and separation, and the measures, including affirmative action, for achieving a more representative Service. The act was equally forceful in prescribing narrow criteria for use of non-career people to fill Foreign Service positions, especially ambassadorial appointments. In the end, we got most of what we went after. We also achieved pay raises for many Foreign Service employees. The compensa- tion provisions were inciden- tal to the act, but proved a major incentive to Foreign Service recruitment and retention. By resetting pay equivalencies at specific lev- els, it was possible to raise junior and middle-grade Foreign Service pay to the levels that their Civil Service counterparts of similar experi- ence and education were earning. Similarly, introduc- ing performance pay (despite the opposition of sev- eral senior FSOs who considered it demeaning) ben- efited senior members of the Foreign Service by pro- viding tangible rewards for exceptional service. Finally, the reaffirmation and expansion of pension provisions, hardship and danger differentials and the introduction of special differentials for those required to perform additional work on a regular basis spread these benefits widely throughout the Service. In promoting these and other core concerns of the Service, the advice and support of former FSO Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, were invaluable. So, too, was the contribution of AFSA Retiree Representative Amb. Charlie Whitehouse in winning the active support of the Senate Foreign Relations Chairman, Claiborne Pell, D-R.I. But most crucially, whenever we needed to mobilize our “troops” to overcome the objections of Sen. Helms or the AFL-CIO to specific provisions, or the general apathy of most of the Congress toward this arcane bill, AFSA members and their families visited the Hill, made phone calls, wrote letters, and sent telegrams from around the world. The many professional issues we sought to address did not and will not go away. However, I believe those of us who participated in the process of overhauling the Foreign Service created better mechanisms for dealing with them — and not just in the 1980 Act itself. The devil is in the details, but the carefully crafted conference report accompany- ing the legislation has frequently given our succes- sors ammunition to bolster AFSA’s interpretation of the act. ■ F O C U S 46 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J U N E 2 0 0 3 Two FSOs, Bruce Laingen and Diego Asencio, contributed to AFSA’s efforts even while being held hostage in Tehran and Bogotá, respectively.