The Foreign Service Journal, July/August 2018

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JULY-AUGUST 2018 79 USAID VP VOICE | BY JEFFREY LEVINE AFSA NEWS Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA USAID VP. Contact: | (202) 712-5267 We Have Urgent Work to Do USAIDAdministrator Mark Green testified back in April before both the Senate and House Appropriations Com- mittees on USAID’s 2019 budget, saying that “at USAID, we have urgent work to do.” Later, he briefed Congress on USAID’s transformation plan, Executive Order 13781, improving the efficiency, effectiveness and account- ability of the executive branch. For USAID, the fallout for FSOs from these and other new policies may be bad or good, threatening or helpful. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. FSOs—both current and retired, and not just at USAID— should hear this as a call for engagement withAFSA. As FSOs, we cannot leave the details of these issues for others to decide, because any changes made will affect our careers and our families. These initiatives and their implications for us fall within the scope of AFSA’s bargaining agreement, and therefore within AFSA’s ability to negotiate. To do so effec- tively, though, AFSA needs FS members to engage, giving weight to AFSA’s efforts on your behalf. “We have urgent work to do” has many implications for the long-term institutional well-being of FSOs at USAID. AFSAwants to recognize and thank those FSOs leading Transformation Teams, as well as those participating in “Community of Stakehold- ers” feedback groups for both the Transformation and other USAID initiatives. But, I’m sorry to say, it’s not enough. Recently I was asked by a colleague “Is it true that AFSA really is just about helping FSOs with their grievances?” Not at all, I explained. AFSAwill always safeguard the interests of FSOs, but our larger purpose is to serve as an advocate for the long-term health of the Foreign Service as a profession, mitigating the need for grievances. AFSA’s bargaining agree- ment with State, USAID and others allows us to negotiate the impact and implementa- tion of policies that could affect the well-being and careers of our FSOs. But AFSA’s voice is only strong when you participate. What’s the urgency? Back in May, Administrator Green went to Congress with final reorganization plans. Reorga- nization will have implications for D.C. assignments at a time when both Senior Foreign Service and mid-career FSOs are being “encouraged” to do a tour inWashington, D.C. Reorganization will have impli- cations for missions overseas in terms of strategic priori- ties, resources and technical assistance. The other Trans- formation initiatives, such as HR Transformation, will have implications for assignments, evaluations and promotions. Thanks in part to AFSA President Ambassador Barbara Stephenson and her team, the 2018 budget held the line on international affairs funding. By painting a clear picture of the importance of core diplomatic capability, AFSA ensured that the Foreign Service was front and center in Congress’ conceptualiza- tion of any potential budget cuts. The 2018 budget main- tained appropriation levels for FSOs. Budget cuts would have drastically reduced the scope of USAID’s work. Congratula- tions, though, are short lived, as AFSA is already engaging with Congress on the FY2019 budget and beyond. For me here at AFSA, suc- cess in the coming year will be measured in large part by how this “urgent work” plays out for USAID FSOs. Our success will be measured by how few grievances result from the work being done today. The example USAID FSOs set, one way or another, will also play a part in how these changes affect all FSOs and our core diplomatic capability. The work is urgent, and so is the need for your engage- ment and your voice. n On May 24 AFSA President Ambassador Barbara Stephenson and the AFSA advocacy team met with Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) to discuss the $4 billion budget cut to the State Department budget in Overseas Contingency Operations funding set by the February Bipartisan Budget Act. AFSA President Meets with Representative Nita Lowey AFSA/ERIKABETHMANN