The Foreign Service Journal, November 2015

There is a saying: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step.” That adage summarized my sentiments exactly as I sat in a room in August 2014 with a baker’s dozen contract specialists, human resource experts and vendor-business develop- ment types. Our goal was to launch Global Markets’ new temporary duty (TDY), direct billing/contract lodging program. After several months of hard work, I’m pleased to announce that this worth- while initiative is now opera- tional. The new housing ben- efit is really rather simple. Designed after State’s highly successful temporary quarters program, it allows Foreign Commercial Service officers on TDY in the Wash- ington, D.C., area to stay in temporary extended-stay apartments at no out-of- pocket cost to the employee. It also authorizes full cov- erage of lodging costs for the At Last! Temporary Duty Housing THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | NOVEMBER 2015 71 FCS VP VOICE | BY STEVE MORRISON AFSA NEWS Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA FCS VP. Contact: | (202) 482-9088 duration of the TDY. Officers will continue to be respon- sible for covering the meals and incidental expenses portion of the per diem allowance and for vouchering those expenses using Form CD-370. The program stands to alleviate a large burden for most eligible employees and save the government money. Any FCS officer in Washing- ton, D.C., on an extended TDY basis or detail assignment of less than one year is eligible to take advantage of this lodging option. Bear in mind that these extended-stay apartments are not intended for stays of less than 30 days. AFSA played a significant role in bringing this program to fruition. Working together, the AFSA vice presidents for State, Commerce and USAID co-hosted the original inter- agency meeting that kicked off the project’s planning phase. We also facilitated the sharing of critical start-up, contractual and program rollout information between agencies (e.g., statements of work, announcements, etc.), and we helped draw up key parameters, such as total room nights, for the Com- merce contract. In August, the contract was awarded to a company called Basic Overnight Quar- ters, LLC (aka BOQ Lodging). The first set of CS employees will stay at the Parc Ross- lyn apartments, located in Arlington at 1531 North Pierce Street. We hope that the program will gradually be embraced by many more CS officers, as was the case over at State. BOQ’s State program, for what it’s worth, had grown more than fivefold as of this past July, resulting in hun- dreds of thousands of dollars in savings to the government. Early reaction from FCS officers has been positive. “We are so thankful for the direct-billing, temporary lodging program. It has made my TDY transfer experience unbelievably easy,” wrote one officer. “To walk in and turn the key to a beautiful apart- ment that is fully furnished and ready (for cooking, laundry and entertaining) was amazing.” Another officer wrote: “Very happy to be trying out this program. I know it has the potential to relieve a lot of stress for officers com- ing in for TDY assignments and language [training].” He added, “I was a bit dismayed at the choices [prior to this program] and out-of-pocket costs I was facing.” Thank- fully, that is no longer the case. For information on the Parc Rosslyn, check out its website at www.boqlodg boqproperties-parcrosslyn. htm. For general information on BOQ’s extended-stay apartments, visit www. department/index.htm. n AFSA RECE I VES H I GHEST COMMENDAT I ON I N 20 1 4 AUD I T For the sixth year in a row, the American Foreign Service Association received the highest possible commendation in its annual audit: a clean, unmodified opinion. The accounting firm of CliftonLarsonAllen LLP found no deficien- cies in AFSA’s financial operations. During 2014, AFSA continued to steadily upgrade its financial management and related governance procedures. The renewed attention to such matters began several years ago. AFSA’s financial strength has enabled it to deepen services and professionalize as an organization. Regarding the audit results, AFSA Executive Director Ian Houston said: “Consistently achieving high marks in these outside opinions is always AFSA’s goal. The fact that we continue to achieve strong ratings reflects positively on the good work of AFSA staff and on the strong governance and oversight structures that the organization has in place.” n NEWS BRIEF