The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2023

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JULY-AUGUST 2023 71 AFSA REPORT AFSA NEWS A s my second and final term as AFSA president draws to a close, I can’t help but feel immense pride when I reflect on the dedication and resilience of our members, Governing Board, committee members, and professional staff during this turbulent moment in history. The past few years have not been easy—from a global pandemic to the Kabul evacuation to Russia’s egregious invasion of Ukraine—but they have also been full of opportunities and victories for the Foreign Service and AFSA alike. In November 2022, I pleaded in my FSJ column: “Can’t anybody here play this game?” quoting 1962 New York Mets manager Casey Stengel. As I write, I still find myself asking that question about senior diplomatic staffing. The Biden administration’s slowness with ambassa- dorial nominations and Senate delays on confirmations have significantly harmed the United States’ diplomatic footprint. We have had long-term vacancies in essential posts—Brazil, India, Saudi Arabia, Colombia, and more. China has no such vacancies in its diplomatic posts. Our ability to influence and shape policy has greatly suffered as a result. When I joined the Foreign Service, it was more family- friendly, more accommodating to tandem couples, and in some respects (the Senior Foreign Service and the corps of career chiefs of mission) even more diverse than it is now in 2023. AFSA fought to reinvigorate some aspects of this culture in the Service, and we have had many wins, but there is still a lot of work to be done. AFSA was a key player in crafting and advocating for the Foreign Service Families Act, which ensures that Foreign Ser- vice families are afforded more of the same rights as military families. When the State Department unnecessarily separated tandem couples with faulty reasoning, we protested. When the department banned breast pumps in controlled access areas, even though other medical equipment is allowed, we protested and won. For years, we protested the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s pet travel restrictions that continued to make our members’ lives difficult. Many of our members battled tedious red tape regulations on vaccine certifications, and spent thousands of their own dollars and hundreds of hours just trying to reunite with their beloved pets. In March 2023, the department announced that pet shipments are to be included in the Foreign Transfer and Home Service Transfer Allowances, which we applauded. We fought against the department’s lack of engage- ment on Anomalous Health Incidents, have seen real improvement in the official response and support, and will continue to advocate that our members get the care they need. 2021-2023 AFSA Governing Board Term Report Y ou have before you our 2021-2023 term report, detailing AFSA’s work and many successes on behalf of our members during the term of our outgoing Governing Board. This document is our way of officially report- ing AFSA activities to our members. We hope you find this report informative and illustrative of the many ways AFSA supports its members. Thank you for your membership. —Ásgeir Sigfússon, Executive Director President’s Message The 2021-2023 AFSA Governing Board. AFSA