The Foreign Service Journal, June 2024

STATE VP VOICE | BY HUI JUN TINA WONG AFSA NEWS Contact: | (202)-647-8160 Advancing Diplomacy for the Next Century It was exciting to see so many of you at our May Foreign Service centennial events—Foreign Service Day, the Foreign Service centennial gala, our AFSA birthday party celebration, and other side events. Our 100th year celebration continues strong. Since the beginning of this centennial year, I have joined forces with department leaders to advance reform initiatives that sharpen our tools and shore up our workforce talents for the next century of diplomatic challenges. I am part of a community of like-minded practitioners within State and across our interagency working to build up our workforce’s abilities to leverage new capabilities, beginning with artificial intelligence (AI). In particular, I am thankful for the leadership of the Bureau of Cybersecurity and Digital Diplomacy, the Meridian International Center, and the U.S. Diplomatic Studies Foundation for launching their inaugural cohort of cross-sector mid-level leaders interested in AI policy and diplomacy. It was exceptional to personally witness the open exchange of ideas between the executive and legislative branches of government and the private sector. With internal testing of various AI tools underway, including the April launch of an internal ChatGPT-type tool, “Statechat,” the State Department is fostering a culture of innovation ahead of many parts of the U.S. government. Not only do we collaborate across sectors for a new era of U.S.-led diplomacy, but the acceleration of global challenges requires us to navigate and excel in new and ever-changing multifunctional settings—a key part of the department’s modernization agenda. Additionally, the new cross-functional competency aims to incentivize our workforce to work within multilateral institutions and in multifunctional roles in our overseas missions. The Director General’s launch of cross-functional competency scoring as outlined in 24 STATE 32372 establishes the baseline standards for every generalist at FS-2 and above to build out-of-cone/skill code assignments throughout their career. I know some members worry about how the new “sixth area” will affect their promotion prospects. The department explains these promotion opportunities will grow progressively with each rank above FS-2, and AFSA will continue to press the Office of Performance Evaluation for clarification on guidance to the promotion boards regarding its implementation. The scoring rubric was negotiated with the intent to give our Foreign Service generalists the chance to learn and have a positive effect at the agency, department, bureau, or unit levels while in crossfunctional capacity. Those going into longterm training (such as twoyear language programs) can discuss these aspects within their EER employee narrative before and after language training. For example, they can discuss their intent to use language to increase their cross-functional skill sets and how learning a language enabled them to develop future assignment cross-functionality. The bottom line: Whether you planned an out-of-cone next assignment or not, there are still many ways to show cross-functional competency, at every rank and throughout your career. This career, of course, is not just about serving out of cone, as an acting chief or deputy chief of mission, or on an interagency detail. I welcome Director General Bernicat’s announcement that 2024 is the “Year of Accountability,” offering employees training opportunities to increase their awareness of accountability in all its facets. However, we need to see measurable change in the retention data and climate surveys showing that more African Americans, other employees of color, and women are heard and that their concerns are addressed. AFSA has long been a champion for measures to investigate and resolve workplace conflict, bullying, harassment, and other toxic behaviors that weaken our workforce. We are stronger in facing our adversaries on the global stage when our internal house is healthy, barrier-free, equitable, inclusive, and self-aware. We need tangible measures that lead to long-term systemic improvements. AFSA welcomes the appointment of new Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Zakiya Carr Johnson, and we hope to see positive momentum on these matters not just during this Juneteenth celebration month but through the rest of this year and beyond. A final note to all our “next-gen” State AFSA members: If you are inspired by these columns, consider running for State vice president or any of the State representative positions. We need your experience and your voice. Our institution is better when our members step up to serve. Look for 20252027 elections information later this year. Write to or if you have any questions. n THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JUNE 2024 45