The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2012

ment in the Middle East, but reaching out to its members. As a political offi- cer in Tunis, Douglas A. Silliman re- ceived the Harriman Award in 1988 for “extraordinary initiative and achieve- ment in reporting and analyzing his- toric changes in Tunisia’s internal political scene.” His citation continued: “He demon- strated intellectual courage in insisting on contacts with the largely under- ground Islamic fundamentalist groups.” Though the Harris Award for con- structive dissent by Foreign Service specialists is a relatively new program, it is already making a real difference. Andre de Nesnera , a 32-year Voice of America correspondent, bureau chief and news director, received the award in 2002 for his efforts to defend VOA’s charter and preserve the integrity of its news broadcasts. As his award citation explains, VOA correspondents work under a congres- sional charter that requires them to be “accurate, objective and comprehen- sive” in their news reporting. Even so, the Department of State and Interna- tional Broadcasting Bureau exerted in- tense pressure on VOA not to broad- cast a report that used excerpts from a post-9/11 interview with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. Despite the pressure, de Nesnera authorized the release of the segment, which accurately quoted Omar as say- ing Osama bin Laden would not be surrendered, and the Taliban was preparing for war. Dissent: A Job Requirement As these examples show, dissent is not a luxury — it is a necessity of our job. Our work requirements statement should include the phrase, “bring at- tention to problems, contradictions and unproductive policies.” What kind of Foreign Service do we have if em- ployees say nothing when they see something that wastes money, endan- gers health and safety, or damages the nation’s foreign relations? Dissent should be put alongside our Service’s core values of duty, honor and country. The question for each of us should be, “Why am I not expressing my disagreement?”— not, “Will I hurt my career if I dissent?” Taking a contrary position can be uncomfortable in an organization that values consensus and collegiality. It can damage friendships and even di- vide family members. Dissent can force us to confront facts we would prefer to ignore. So why dissent? Because we have goals beyond advancing our careers. We have a conscience, and care about our country’s fortunes and about the fate of our Service. We have a duty to point out misguided policies —be they in Iraq or elsewhere — and to provide a constructive solution. We are also the people on the ground with the training, knowledge, judgment and experience to advise the president and the Secretary of State. We owe it to our country to use what we know and to give our honest views, even when they may differ with cur- rent orthodoxy. For if not us, who? When AFSA issues the call for nominations for the 2013 dissent awards this fall, please consider nomi- nating a deserving colleague—or even yourself — for one of these unique awards. You will do us all a great serv- ice by honoring the best among us. Dissent is not a luxury — it is a necessity of our job. J U LY- A U G U S T 2 0 1 2 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 41 The Nomination Process Anyone may propose a superior, peer or subordinate — or themselves — for an AFSA dissent award, so long as the nomination (700 words or fewer) includes all of the following elements: • The name of the award for which the person is being nominated, along with the nominee’s name, grade, agency and position. • The nominator’s name, grade, agency and position, along with a description of his or her association with the nominee. • A justification for nomination that describes the actions and qualities that qualify the nominee for the award. This should cite specific examples demonstrating that he or she has “exhibited extraordinary accomplishment involving initiative, integrity, intellec- tual courage and constructive dissent.” Additional Guidelines • Only career or career-conditional members of the foreign affairs agencies (e.g., State, USAID, FCS, FAS or IBB) are eligible for a constructive dissent award. • An individual may be nominated more than once in different years for the same award, provided that he/she has never won that award. • The time period during which the actions attributed to the nominee took place does not have to be within the most recent calendar year. However, they should have oc- curred not more than four years before the time of the nomination. • While messages sent via the State Department Dissent Channel and USAID’s Direct Channel may be cited as the basis of a dissent award, it is still necessary to submit a nomination directly to AFSA for consideration. For more detailed information on AFSA’s Constructive Dissent Award Program, in- cluding criteria and procedures for nominating recipients and lists of past winners, visit, or contact Perri Green, AFSA’s coordi- nator for awards and outreach, at or (202) 338-4045, ext. 521.