The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2019

FCS VP VOICE | BY DANIEL CROCKER AFSA NEWS THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JULY-AUGUST 2019 57 Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA FCS VP. Contact: | (202) 482-9088 A Small Player Generates Big Returns After two years as AFSA’s FCS vice president, I have a few parting observations. We are part of a much larger Foreign Service community, but at the same time, we’re housed within Commerce, an agency that is more focused on domestic priorities like the Census, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administra- tion, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Patent and Trademark Office. This creates a chal- lenge that we need to meet: ensuring that our Secretary of Commerce, the administra- tion and Congress all under- stand and support how we advance America’s economic security. The Foreign Commercial Service does not formulate policy. Instead, we salute and execute the administration’s priorities. In 76 countries overseas, and with 106 offices throughout the United States, we are the first stop for any U.S. company that needs help overseas. We are an integral part of challenging unfair trade and investment practices over- seas, which are increasingly being deployed for geopoliti- cal purposes by such coun- tries as China. And our results are impressive. Using only $320 million in appropriations in Fiscal Year 2018, we assisted 33,000 U.S. companies overseas, generating more than $100 billion in export benefits and another $20 billion in inward investment, and supporting more than 570,000 jobs in the United States.We generated $392 of economic benefit for every $1 given to us by Congress. Our work supports jobs in every congressional district. When we help a company overcome a barrier and win business in a challenging market, that company retains or grows jobs back at home. We know when we’re success- ful because the companies we work with tell us.We docu- ment it. And that’s where the numbers come from. Being a small player within a $10 billion agency makes it difficult at times to ensure that the administration and Congress are aware of what we do for American busi- nesses overseas. But I remain optimistic that our political leadership will see the value in what we do and, ultimately, fund us accordingly. n RETIREE VP VOICE | BY JOHN NALAND AFSA NEWS Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA Retiree VP. Contact: | (703) 437-7881 Challenges Facing AFSA A newAFSAGoverning Board takes office on July 15. Here is my advice to them based on my eight years’ service on four governing boards since 1999. Future of the Foreign Service: The last two years have witnessed the dramatic acceleration of the long-term trend of a diminution of the Service’s role as the main instrument for conduct- ing U.S. foreign policy. For example, a historically low number of Foreign Service members are currently serv- ing as assistant secretaries of State or U.S. ambassadors. The time is approaching for AFSA, in cooperation with other concerned organiza- tions, to think deeply about the future of the Foreign Ser- vice, focusing on organization, professional education and areas of expertise. Black Swan Event: The Trump administration’s unprecedented attacks on federal employees and their unions have so far been blunted by Congress or the courts. But AFSA may someday face an existential threat to the career Service or to AFSA itself. Prudent governing boards over the past 15 years have amassed reserves exceeding $3 million. If needed, AFSA must draw on those funds to wage a legal battle to protect career diplomacy. Centennial: The incom- ing governing board should begin planning to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1924 founding of the Foreign Service and AFSA. With only eight open spaces left on the AFSA Memorial Plaques, the first task is to create space for our fallen colleagues to be honored in the coming decades. A key objective of the cen- tennial celebration must be to educate the American public about the U.S. Foreign Service. AFSA should think creatively about how to achieve that goal. Member Services: As always, AFSAmust focus on providing valuable services and programs to members. Since most of that work is done by AFSA’s professional staff, the incoming governing board should maintain the necessary working conditions and benefits to retain them. n