The Foreign Service Journal, September 2009

T his column should probably be about all the exciting new things we will do this year, but we are still pretty much where we have been over the last six months — stuck in a budget crisis. Here’s the bad news: The House actually cut the president’s request for our Fiscal Year 2010 budget by about $5 million. The good news, however, is that the Senate was more gener- ous and allocated $6 million over the president’s request. As of this writing, we are awaiting the decision of the conference committee scheduled for Septem- ber. If we can somehow manage to persuade the House of the wisdom of the Senate’s judgment and not end up with the usual split baby, we may have a lit- tle extra money to hobble through the coming fiscal year. At least there is more hope for FY 2011, if we can just hold on. However, a more interesting question has recently been circulating unoffi- cially in the rumor and policy mills: “Will there be some movement to bring the Commercial Service back into the State Department?” How would we feel about it? It seems that our priorities and the larger role we play might receive more resources and attention if we were back in the main foreign policy fold, rather than lost in the belly of the $7 billion Commerce Department behemoth. The two biggest concerns for officers would be the adjustment between the “can do” business culture of the FCS and the think-tank/cable-ridden culture of State, and the prioritization of commercial issues within that culture. This is a problem that deserves close examination. After all, it was because commercial issues did not get proper attention that FCS was moved out in the first place. Still, I heard someone say this week that the State Department is cur- rently in such flux between new priorities, war-zone staffing and the biggest influx of officers ever, that the culture is “up for grabs.” Maybe that means there is a chance for something really new and interesting: a truly integrated foreign operations establishment. Isn’t this the time of “Yes, we can”? Speaking of rumors, probably you already know that the latest AFSA Gov- erning Board elections may have been the most contentious ever. Fortunately I’ve been largely above the fray because of the dubious distinction of having run completely unopposed. It is therefore doubly ironic that I received the highest percentage of votes among the VP constituencies. Thank you for supporting me. I believe there is a strong will on both sides to have an active and produc- tive board. This may well be one of the good direct benefits of the controver- sial nature of the election. I am pleased and impressed with new Governing Board President Susan Johnson’s attention, activity and determination to give all agencies equal voice in AFSA issues. We have already met with her several times and briefed her fully on our issues; and she has already taken action to help us with lobbying on the Hill. We also met at length with Daniel Hirsch, the new AFSA State vice president, and he has expressed his strong commitment to the priorities of the smaller agencies. He also has laid out a number of good ideas for im- proving the openness and transparency of the organization. These meetings have left me with the feeling that the combination of these two slates may, in the end, be the best thing for AFSA. Who knows? Maybe there really is change in the air. ❏ V.P. VOICE: FCS ■ BY KEITH CURTIS Looking Forward 60 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / S E P T E M B E R 2 0 0 9 A F S A N E W S Historic Consulates in Ireland Embassy Dublin is seeking information on former consulates in Ireland, located in towns such as Cobh and Foynes, for a project commemorating the U.S. presence in Ireland. If you have any information on these consulates, or know of someone who does, please send an e-mail to Asgeir Sigfusson at . AFSA and Ambassadorial Statistics AFSA has kept a close eye on ambas- sadorial appointments for a number of years. With a new administration taking the reins inWashington, we have up- dated our statistics on these appoint- ments, which you may find at That page includes a link to our running tally, which is updated on the first day of each month. Please send nomination news to Marketing and Outreach Manager Asgeir Sigfusson at . TRANSITION CENTER SCHEDULE OF COURSES FOR SEPTEMBER 2009 Sept. 9 MQ704 Targeting the Job Market Sept. 11 MQ950 High Stress Assignment Out-Brief Sept. 12 MQ116 Protocol Sept. 19 MQ115 Explaining America Sept. MQ104 Regulations, Allowances 24-25 and Finances in FS Context Sept. 26 MQ302 Transition to Washington for Foreign-Born Spouses Sept. 30 MQ803 Realities of Foreign Service Life To register or for further information, please e-mail the FSI Transition Center at ❏ Briefs • Continued from page 58