The Foreign Service Journal, September 2009

This is my first column as AFSA president, and my first opportunity to warmly thank all who reposed trust in me to carry on AFSA’s tradition of working together to advance the interests of the Foreign Services of all our member agencies. My thanks, as well, to all voters who par- ticipated in the election for their sup- port of AFSA— our collective voice. Within days of taking office, I sought a meeting with Under Secretary for Management Pat Kennedy to hear what he and his team are doing to implement overseas comparability pay and the ex- panded definition of Eligible Family Members/Members of Household. I am pleased to report that they have moved expeditiously on both fronts. By the time this column appears, those of you overseas should soon see the first of three planned annual salary adjustments that should move us to- ward ending a longstanding inequity. However, we need to keep Congress fo- cused on achieving this final objective. Management is also implementing changes that willmake same-sex partners eligible for most of the benefits that they have long sought. Both of these break- throughs are hard-won, historic achieve- ments, made possible by AFSA’s diligent work and Secretary Clinton’s unequivocal support. On the broader front, the change in AFSA’s leadership coincides with an important time for the Foreign Service. The new administration has taken up its responsibilities at a time of systemic global crisis. Gov- ernments and foreign ministries world- wide are trying to adjust to new imperatives of development, which de- mand diplomacy that delivers visible and measurable results. An energetic, creative and united AFSA, focused on constructive part- nership with the Secretary and her team, will maximize our ability to get the resources and the policies necessary for a high-quality, 21st-century diplo- matic service and development pro- gram. My broad goal as president is to make AFSA a stronger, more effective and credible voice of our Foreign Serv- ices, better able to represent, protect and advance our professional interests. To get there, we will focus on modern- izing the way AFSA does business and improving our communications capac- ity tomake full use of new technologies. State Vice President Daniel Hirsch and I have already met with AFSA staff to establish a working group that will up- date our online presence to make it a premier site: user-friendly, interactive and relevant to our membership. I also encourage those of you serv- ing overseas to work closely with your AFSA post representatives, and hope that all AFSA members will share their ideas and concerns with their respective constituency vice president and repre- sentatives — and with me (Johnson@ ). Such engagement will en- able us to more fully realize AFSA’s po- tential as a robust professional associat- ion and bargaining unit for all our ac- tive-duty and retired members. The perspective of our retiree members, reflecting their experience, is especially valuable in helping us identify effective ways to make all of our agencies the premier institutions that they can and should be. The previous AFSA Governing Board, led by John Naland and Steve Kashkett, has delivered important achievements, with overseas compara- bility pay, staffing increases and ex- panded Eligible FamilyMember bene- fits at the top of the list. I am sure that I speak for the new board in thanking them — and AFSA’s dedicated profes- sional staff — for their sustained work. As the new AFSA Governing Board begins its term, we need your support, your suggestions and your constructive criticism as we seek to work together to refresh, update and strengthen AFSA to meet the challenges before us. We want to promote transparent and collaborative governance for bet- ter results, but we need you to make that happen! ■ Susan R. Johnson is the president of the American Foreign Service Association. P RESIDENT ’ S V IEWS Challenges and Opportunities B Y S USAN R. J OHNSON S E P T E M B E R 2 0 0 9 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 5