The Foreign Service Journal, September 2010

AFSA does vital work as the union representing all Foreign Service employees of the five foreign affairs agen- cies, a role it has carried out since 1973. However, it has performed an equally impor- tant function as a professional association ever since its creation in 1924. It is that side of the equation I wish to highlight this month. Specifically, AFSA is leading the charge to reinforce the relevance and effectiveness of American diplomacy and development in the 21st century, and to identify the diplomatic skills and substantive knowledge essential to meeting new challenges. We want to make sure the Foreign Service is as ef- fective as possible at acquiring and ap- plying essential skills and know-how like foreign-language proficiency, re- gional expertise, analysis, reporting, communication, negotiation, manage- ment and institutional leadership. Toward that end, we are exploring the following questions: Is diplomacy a recognized profession in the United States, as in most other countries? If so, what are the basic requirements and content of professional formation, expectations and ethics for American diplomats? How well do we pass on knowledge of the role of diplomacy in our own government? And are we developing a profes- sional diplomatic service and operational cadre that are as skilled in the multilateral world as the bilateral? To address these issues, as part of our support for the Academy of American Diplomacy’s Diplomatic Professional Education and Training Project, AFSA represen- tatives participate in the advisory group chaired by retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering. We have also set up a mid- level focus group coordinated by two AFSA State representatives to provide feedback on draft DPET materials via a SharePoint site, giving active-duty personnel an opportunity to be heard. To participate, contact Austin Tracy at Earlier this year, we surveyed two sets of active-duty members on these issues. Among other things, we asked entry-level members to say what at- tracted them to the Foreign Service; whether they equate the Service with diplomacy; what training best pre- pared them for their first assignment; what their professional expectations were; and whether their agency and the Foreign Service have communi- cated core values. We posed some of the same ques- tions to mid-level members, but also asked whether they consider them- selves professionals; what that profes- sion is and what it requires; how well their agency is preparing leaders to manage both institutional and global change; and whether they have taken required leadership and management courses (and, if so, what were their three most important “takeaways?). AFSA received more than 1,700 responses (almost 20 percent of AFSA members in those cohorts) to the two surveys within a week. Many partici- pants commented that “it’s about time someone addressed these issues.” Preliminary analyses of the survey re- sults are available at professionalismsurveys.cfm. In addition, AFSA reached out to a dozen former Foreign Service officers now in academia to solicit their thoughts on an appropriate core cur- riculum for a one-year master’s pro- gram in diplomatic studies. This could complement AAD’s DPET project. To follow up, we held a workshop at the end of June that is generating new papers, many of which will be posted on a new page on our Web site and will appear in future issues of the FSJ . I invite all members to submit comments, questions and suggestions about these initiatives to President@ , but I particularly encourage active-duty members to get involved. It is your future —make sure to have your say in how it develops. ■ Susan R. Johnson is the president of the American Foreign Service Association. P RESIDENT ’ S V IEWS AFSA’s Role As a Professional Association B Y S USAN R. J OHNSON S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 0 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 5