The Foreign Service Journal, September 2010

S E P T EMB E R 2 0 1 0 / F OR E I GN S E R V I C E J OU R N A L 53 A F S A N E W S V.P. VOICE: FCS ■ BY KEITHCURTIS Amidst Fiscal Uncertainty, Commerce Leaders Remain Committed to Growth S torm clouds are gathering over the Hill, and the Commercial Service may get caught in a downpour. In July, the Senate Appropriations Committee agreed ona ceiling for theFiscal Year2011budget. Thismeans substantial cuts in the president’s proposals. Programs like ours and relat- ed National Export Initiative efforts will be under tough scruti- ny to prove we deserve a substantial increase. Our House Sub- committee (Commerce, Justice, Science) has already cut some $20 million from the request. Although this might make some squeamish, I prefer to look on the bright side. Both sides of the political aisle appreciate the importanceof exports, jobcreationand theneed tocompete inter- nationally. Moreover, our leadership—the Secretary, the under secretary and the director general—strongly support us and are working hard to defend the CS budget and programs. We had our first sit-down meeting with the director gener- al in June, andhe respondedaggressively andpositively to almost every concernwe raised. Hismove to free up$2million for post travel and activities showed a commit- ment to take concrete action to relieve thepressures on the field. He strongly supportsprocedural reform of senior pay, is implementing round twoof locality pay andhas agreed to meet with us on a regular basis to respond to issues. He and the Secretary have beenbusy defending theCommercial Service against loose Government Accountability Office allega- tions of funds mismanagement. In addition, the under secretary has led several AFSA-related events, and the Secretaryhas tentatively agreed to take part in the AFSA speaker series, discussing the National Export Initiative. I jokedwith theDGwhenwemet that hehasbeenout tovisitmore of you at post in his short tenure than I have in 20 years in the Service. He knows our issues and seeks to resolve them. As we head into the heat of the congressional election sea- son, it is hard to know what the forecast will bring for the Commercial Service. But at least we have the Commerce Department’s leadership working hard for us. ❏ operational budgets for State andUSAID. Andrea Mitchell, host of the MSNBC news program“AndreaMitchell Reports,” commands respect amongherpeers forher in-depth knowledge of foreign affairs. Lowey’s belief in a strong Foreign Service came through clearly in her talk. Referring to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ November 2007 speech at Kansas State University, inwhich he called for an “increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security” such as diplomacy and development, Lowey ex- pressed her own enthusiasm for “putting agencies back into their lanes.” But Lowey could make no promise that more resources for foreign affairs would be forthcoming, instead focusing on the importance of thinking strategically in tight fiscal times. It is imperative, she remarked, “that we make the most effec- tive use of our foreign assistance dollars,” so that we have a diplomatic work force ready to “get outside the walls of the embassy.” Mitchell’s questions for Lowey focused on foreignaffairs resources, particularly on those allocated for “hot spots” such as Afghanistan. Congress is continually eval- uatingU.S. involvement in bothAfghani- stanand Iraq, Lowey responded. “Inmany of our hearts, in many of our brains, in many of our committees, in many of our forums, there are ongoing evaluations.” However, she continued, “There is a commitment, and an understanding that we can’t just leave.” But she alsounderlined the critical need for economic development, pointing to growthopportunities inAfghanistan such as copper and lapis mining. To that end, herwords about the future ofUSAIDwere encouraging. “We cannot afford,” she stressed, “to lose theworld’s leading devel- opment agency.” Mitchell asked if the U.S. is at risk of ignoringAfrica andother entire continents. Loweypointed toSec.Clinton’s recent trav- el there, accompaniedby Lowey andother legislators, which she found inspiring. But she confirmed that resources going to Afghanistan and Pakistan are “front and center,” and that ongoing situations else- where, unless there’s anewemergency, tend to remain “on the back burner.” Yet foreign affairs dollars are also com- petingwithdomestic ones, especially in an economic downturn. “When people are out of work,” said Lowey, “it’s very hard for the averageperson tounderstand[fund- ing for the Foreign Service]. Theywant to see domestic programs expanded.” Alivelyquestion-and-answerperiod fol- lowed the discussion, with Amb. Thomas Boyatt,Amb.RobertBeecroft andLutheran CollegeDeanNancy Joyner among thepar- ticipants. To view and hear the full discussion, includingLowey’s answers toquestions on corruption, diplomatic training and the possibility of a reserve Foreign Service, go toWETA’s Forum, now featuringAFSA’s programs at This lecture series ismadepossible through AFSA’s Fund forAmericanDiplomacy and the generous sponsorship of Lockheed Martin. ❏ Nita Lowey • Continued from page 49