The Foreign Service Journal, October 2020

66 OCTOBER 2020 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL AFSA NEWS The Foreign Service Act of 2022? Why doesn’t the Foreign Service mandatory retire- ment age (65) match the age at which full Social Security benefits are available (age 67 for those born after 1959)? Because making that common-sense adjustment to the mandatory retirement age would require amending the Foreign Service Act of 1980. And opening that law to amendment could prompt harmful proposals to raise the minimum retirement age or reduce retirement benefits. In recent decades, neither AFSA nor the Director General of the Foreign Service has judged that a risk worth tak- ing. But pressure is clearly building to review and replace the 40-year-old Foreign Service Act. Depending on the outcome of the November elections, that effort could move forward quickly. If it does, AFSAwill need to play an active role in that process. The fundamental question to be answered is whether America today still wants a career Foreign Service. Career diplomats are hired and promoted on merit prin- ciples.We start at entry level and then serve decades in assignments of ever-increas- ing responsibility, gaining keen understandings of the affairs, cultures and languages of other countries and learning how to coordinate and inte- grate the efforts of agencies working overseas. We spend an average of two-thirds of our careers overseas, mostly in difficult or dangerous locations. We are accompanied by our family members at most posts, including locations where employment oppor- tunities for spouses are poor and educational facilities for children are below U.S. standards. If America does still want a career Foreign Service, then its members need a viable career path. Members who have spent 10 to 15 years serv- ing in tough spots should not find their career advancement suddenly stopped by an influx of mid-level hires (which is being proposed on the Hill). Instead, other ways should be found to increase Foreign Service expertise in areas such as climate change and addressing persistent imbal- ances in diversity. If America still wants a career Foreign Service, then its members need to play a leading role in the formulation and implementation of foreign policy. That cannot happen if more than 40 percent of ambassadorial positions and almost all assistant secretary positions continue to be filled by political appointees. If the Foreign Service Act is reopened in the next few years, we retirees will certainly have suggestions and insights to contribute to the process. But the current generation of Foreign Service members— working through AFSA, as the “Voice of the Foreign Ser- vice”—should take the lead on charting their future. n RETIR E VP VOICE | BY JOHN K. NALAND AFSA NEWS Contact: AFSA Names High School Essay Contest Winner The American Foreign Service Associa- tion’s national high school essay contest completed its 22nd year with nearly 440 submissions from 36 states. Three randomized rounds of judg- ing produced this year’s winner, Jonas Lorincz, a junior from Marriotts Ridge High School in Marriottsville, Maryland. In his essay, “Verification, Media- tion, and Peacebuilding: The Many Roles of the U.S. Foreign Service in Kosovo,” Jonas focuses on the importance of interagency cooperation in mediating the crisis in Kosovo. He looked into how diplomats and other civilian agencies engaged in peacebuilding throughout the conflict. Jonas will travel to Washington, D.C., to meet with a member of the State Department’s leadership. He will also receive a full tuition scholarship for an educational voyage with Semester at Sea and be celebrated at a reception at the United States Institute of Peace, a co-sponsor of the contest. Claire Burke was this year’s runner-up. She is a junior at Mill Valley High School in Shawnee, Kansas. Claire will attend the international diplomacy program of the National Student Leadership Conference next summer. There were eight honorable mentions: • Grace Cifuentes – Concord, California • Grace Lannigan – Easton, Connecticut • Seryung Park – Tenafly, New Jersey • Vynateya Purimetla – Troy, Michigan • David Richman – Norfolk, Virginia • Madeleine Shaw – Bloomington, Indiana • Sara Smith – Fargo, North Dakota • Jack Viscuso – Northport, New York n Jonas Lorincz COURTESYOFJONASLORINCZ