The Foreign Service Journal, November 2019

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | NOVEMBER 2019 93 AFSA NEWS FAS VP VOICE | BY MICHAEL RIEDEL Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA FAS VP. Contact: | (202) 720-2502 The Trees or The Forest? Returning to Washington, D.C., from an overseas post- ing always has its challenges and “opportunities for growth.” Coming back to start as AFSA vice president offers me the chance to serve the greater good, and provides additional opportunities to be immersed in a whole new uni- verse of issues. I am quickly reminded that the woods are always made up of trees, and also their branches and roots. But enough with the forestry analogies. Serving as VP for our chronically understaffed Foreign Service corps in FAS is an honor that compels one to focus on so many areas. Some of these are forest- sized—such as the need for AFSA to play a constructive role in the ongoing “Thrive” reconfiguration—while simul- taneously fulfilling its role as the first line of defense for our Foreign Service community. “Thrive,” according to FAS Administrator Kenneth Isley, is a “reorganization [that] will better position FAS to capitalize on its elevated role by making the agency more efficient, effective and customer-focused. In the new organizational structure, FAS mission-critical functions will be realigned to four program areas: Trade Policy and Geo- graphic Affairs, Global Market Analysis, Global Programs and Foreign Affairs.” Thrive was originally scheduled to be implemented on Oct. 1, but it has been delayed as adjustments and negotiations continue. AFSA and FAS must con- tinue to take everyone’s con- cerns to heart and help people arrive at the best possible outcomes.What affects one member affects not just that individual; it almost certainly has an impact on our entire Foreign Service family. After all, the concern of one mem- ber is sure to be the concern of someone else as well. This brings me back to the original question posed in this column’s title. I submit that, without tending to and strengthening the health of FAS, we (AFSA FAS) will not be living up to our responsibilities to our individual members. And vice versa: if we do not care for and assist each of our members, then why tend to our interests in a healthy FAS? Luckily, we don’t need to choose. As a strong and construc- tive partner to both FAS as an organization, and to each member of our Foreign Ser- vice family, AFSAwill continue to fulfill its mandate. In my next column, look for more detail on the issues (no trees or forests, I prom- ise) that AFSA FAS aims to address over the next two years. Near the top of that list is the stigma of mental health issues, its acknowl- edged devastating effects, and ways for us all to “get over it” and openly fight it in our Foreign Service, agency management and profes- sional communities. n AFSA Congratulates Job Search Program Graduates AFSA President Eric Rubin congratulated graduates of the Job Search Program at the Foreign Service Institute on Aug. 30 and thanked them for their years of service. He noted that it is impor- tant to maintain a strong net- work in retirement, and that AFSA’s resources, including the retiree directory, are some of the best ways for JSP graduates to preserve and grow connections to the Foreign Service community. AFSA encourages gradu- ates to join AFSA’s campaign to educate the public about what the Foreign Service does, and why it matters. Foreign Service gradu- ates of the JSP program who are interested in sharing the story of the Foreign Service should consider volunteer- ing to take part in AFSA’s Speakers Bureau. AFSA can provide talking points and other resources for retir- ees (as well as active-duty members) who speak at high schools, colleges and to community groups. Switching from active- duty to retiree membership with AFSA is not an auto- matic process, so members approaching retirement should contact Member Ser- vices ( ) to ensure that they do not lose out on the benefits of being an AFSA member. AFSA President Eric Rubin congratulates graduates of the Job Search Program at the Foreign Service Institute. Those benefits include access to the AFSA online forum, dedicated retiree counseling and a bimonthly newsletter, as well as a subscription to The Foreign Service Journal. n AFSA/CHRISTINEMIELE