The Foreign Service Journal, October 2020

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | OCTOBER 2020 65 AFSA NEWS Some Shining Stars Amid the COVID Dark Over the past six COVID- driven months, I’ve seen USAID FSOs demonstrate their resilience and dedi- cation even as they find themselves and their families slogging through bureau- cratic morasses. I have also witnessed colleagues from the Office of Human Capital and Talent Management step up to these rising challenges, pro- viding new levels of support even as they face their own COVID-related stressors. While the challenges are likely to intensify over the coming months, I want to recognize these accomplish- ments. FSOs and their families face an unprecedented situ- ation. As schools are start- ing—or not starting—around the world, many FSOs are in temporary locations, some unable to travel to their next posts, others unable to leave their current posts. Many are unsure where their children will attend school. Some are separated from families and are bear- ing heavy workloads and unyielding stress, even as they continue to help combat COVID-19 and advance the agency’s mission. Single FSOs may face challenges of isolation and loneliness, exacerbated by the pandemic’s toll. In addi- tion to school uncertainty, many EFMs are carrying their own workloads. Jobs have been interrupted and family care duties increased. Thank you all—and thank you to your families. And please know that AFSA will continue to advocate on your behalf. Throughout this period, I have seen the agency make great strides in its support of FSOs. The COVID Task Force, comprising dedicated col- leagues from across bureaus and offices, has presented a model of the responsiveness, engagement, communication and candor that have been long sought by FSOs. The task force may not always have the answers, and unfortunately may provide responses that disappoint FSOs; but the speed, clarity and comprehensive nature of most task force responses show how the agency can better deliver services. Unfortunately, the task force is being phased out. In my opinion, this is premature, as the pandemic certainly is not following suit. Regard- less of the task force’s formal future—it is a temporary con- struct—the agency should take the lessons learned and institutionalize this employee-oriented model. To its credit, HCTM has also continued to recruit and hire career Foreign Service officers. I have had the great pleasure of welcoming two classes over the past few months. Our newest FSO colleagues have diverse personal backgrounds and impressive professional experience, a broad array of language skills and a com- mitment to USAID’s mission. AFSA looks forward to continued career-FSO onboarding and welcoming new members. The technical, operational and tragic human tolls of the pandemic continue. But USAID and FSOs are rising to these challenges, and I am greatly appreciative of all. n USAID VP VOICE | BY JASON SINGER Contact: | (202) 712-5267 The speed, clarity and comprehensive nature of most task force responses show how the agency can better deliver services. Benjamin Phillips Joins AFSA LM as Grievance Counselor Benjamin Phillips has joined AFSA’s Labor Management team as a grievance coun- selor. Ben recently gradu- ated from the Washington College of Law at American University. During law school, he clerked for the AFSA LM Benjamin Phillips team from August 2018 to August 2019 and assisted with legal and regulatory research and representing members in their griev- ances. He also served as a stu- dent attorney in the Wash- ington College of Law’s Civil Advocacy Clinical Program, where he represented clients in cases related to employ- ment issues. As grievance counselor, Ben represents members on various issues at every stage of the grievance process. He is excited to return to AFSA and to continue assisting our members. n