The Foreign Service Journal, June 2021

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JUNE 2021 49 Words of Thanks Spring has sprung as I write this in mid-April. Birds are chirping, flowers are bloom- ing and the administration’s budget, which suggests a healthy increase for USAID, is out. And, thankfully, people are being vaccinated. I would like to build on the gratitude I feel and take a moment to express deep and strong appreciation to USAID colleagues for their service, strength and commitment throughout the pandemic. And I’d like to extend a few shout-outs along with a few words of hope. Each Foreign Service officer has a unique story of joining USAID. Each can describe the specific spoonful of bureaucratic alphabet soup that nourished the hiring pro- cess (e.g., IDI, NEP, DLI, C3). We all remember our initial supervisors, mentors, posts and colleagues. But take a moment and think of our newest FSO colleagues, hired and onboarded during the pandemic, assigned to posts that are overstretched and operating beyond capacity. What stories these will be! As we all know, our success doesn’t just happen. And so, I want to use this column to say “thank you.” Thank you to our Office of Human Capital and Talent Management colleagues, who didn’t start from the premise that,“Well, we can’t hire under COVID-19—that won’t work.” Rather, in true USAID fashion, they figured out how to con- tinue recruiting, onboarding and hiring. This wasn’t just a matter of switching to a Google Meets interview platform. There are laws, rules, forms, paperwork, processes, oversight and engagement that our HCTM colleagues had to adhere to and address—all the while supporting our current employees in the midst of a pandemic (not to mention a reorganization!). And a special shout-out to HCTM’s Foreign Service Cen- ter—you know who you are! Thank you for your dedication, your care of colleagues and your commitment. And thanks to those beyond HCTM who also play critical roles in bring- ing new FSOs on board and into the FS family. Thank you to all the backstop coordinators, assignments and career counselors and individuals across bureaus and indepen- dent offices, missions and beyond—including imple- menting partners who help the whole process. All of you are committed colleagues who serve as formal and informal supervisors, allies and supporters. Often you do this above and beyond your “day jobs.” Joining the Foreign Service goes beyond just adapting to a new job—it involves getting used to a new way of life. The collective support and care from formal and informal mentors are critical to ensur- ing the success and integra- tion of new FSOs and their families. A special thank you to all our Foreign Service National colleagues, as well. I know that you often find yourselves working with new FSOs who have less embassy and mis- sion experience, and quite often less technical experi- ence, than you. I knowmany of you serve as mentors and invaluable colleagues, helping new—and seasoned!—FSOs learn the ropes, the forms, the rules and, of course, the culture, political economy and com- plexities of your countries and governments. I know this because I benefit from your expertise each time I go to a new post. Thank you. Last but not least, a sincere thank you and welcome to all of our new FSO colleagues. You chose to become Foreign Service officers at a complex time both for USAID and for development. There will be excitement and rewards for you, along with challenges. Thank you—and your fami- lies—for committing to USAID and its mission at this critical juncture. And know that the agency and AFSA are here to support you. Looking ahead, we all need to keep up our mutual sup- port and gratitude. President Biden’s discretionary request seeks resources for “strength- ening a diverse and inclusive diplomatic corps by increas- ing the size of the Foreign Service and Civil Service for the Department of State and USAID, along with the technol- ogy and training to revital- ize these agencies’ national security workforce.” In this spirit, we will—hope- fully—continue to welcome new Foreign Service officers and build USAID’s future together. n USAID VP VOICE | BY JASON SINGER AFSA NEWS Contact: | (202) 712-5267 AFSA RETENT I ON AND I NCLUS I ON RECOMMENDAT I ONS Over the past six months, AFSA invited our members to complete two surveys: one on bias in the workplace, and another on retention.  Using the feedback we received from those surveys and from an extensive round of consultations with employee affinity and resource groups, AFSA has identified a list of priority advocacy items to promote improved retention, diversity, equity and inclusion in the Foreign Service. We believe our recommendations would, if implemented, arrest the growing problem of declining retention and restore and repair morale in the U.S. Foreign Service. ViewAFSA’s retention, diversity, equity and inclusion recommendations at n NEWS BRIEF