The Foreign Service Journal, December 2023

68 DECEMBER 2023 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL USAID VP VOICE | BY RANDY CHESTER AFSA NEWS Contact: | (202) 712-5267 More than the end of the fiscal year, the end of the calendar year offers a time for celebration, reflection, and planning. CELEBRATE completing another promotion cycle, the Operational Plan, the Performance Progress Reporting, and the bidding cycle. These milestones are accompanied by our everyday successes at posts and in Washington, D.C. From daily responsibilities managing awards and supervising staff to completing new designs, strategies, or policy papers, the work we do matters. Taking time to pause and REFLECT gives us an opportunity to internalize our Time to Celebrate, Reflect, and Plan individual accomplishments and assess our role in achieving mission and agency goals. Regardless of rank or position, our service has an impact, a point of pride we all should recognize. Finally, as we approach a new calendar year, taking the time to PLAN your next steps is critical. Reflecting on and celebrating your achievements are instrumental to the coming year. Whether it’s planning to retire, transfer, or take a new direction—the successes and failures of the past year guide our future. At AFSA, we are CELEBRATING our member engagement—we manage 60 to 100 monthly requests from USAID AFSA members needing assistance to overcome and resolve issues on allowances, promotions, assignments, security clearances, and other problems in the workplace. At the policy level, we hope we can soon celebrate passage of the State Department authorization bill, which will (1) offer per diem allowance for newly hired Foreign Service members; and (2) waive Fly America restrictions for personnel traveling with pets. We are REFLECTING on successful engagements with the Bureau for Human Capital and Talent Management (HCTM). Positive engagement with HCTM on the Foreign Service/Senior Foreign Service Strengthening Initiative and ongoing dialogue with the Office of Employee and Labor Relations on personnel policy reform highlight approaches for change and strengthened relations. Building on 2023, AFSA’s PLANNING includes: working with HCTM to develop and implement a workforce plan that strengthens career FSOs; promoting and streamlining promotion reform; improving transparency in assignments; and supporting a strong, vibrant, diverse, and empowered Foreign Service. As 2024 nears, take a minute to celebrate, reflect, and plan. I wish you all the best in 2024, and remember: AFSA is only an email or phone call away. n RETIREE VP VOICE | BY JOHN K. NALAND AFSA NEWS Contact: Reviewing Your Retirement Plan The end of the year is a good time to review your finances and retirement-related planning to determine if any course corrections are needed. For example, how has your choice of investments in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) or elsewhere been doing? Is your Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) plan still the best for your current situation? Have you had a relationship change that might prompt you to revise your estate planning documents and beneficiary designations? Do you have an up-todate list of your financial accounts, insurance, debts, and assets if your next of kin should someday need that information? To help you conduct an end-of-year retirement plan checkup, I am scheduled to present the webinar “Reviewing Your Retirement Plan” on Dec. 5 covering 15 topics. Registration instructions were emailed to members and posted on the AFSA homepage in November. About a week after the webinar, a video will be posted at retirement for viewing any time. On that same webpage is the one-page “Retirement Planning: Checklist for Current Retirees” that will be referenced in the webinar. Later in December, retired members will receive the 2024 AFSA Directory of Retired Members containing a front section with information on Medicare, FEHB, Social Security, beneficiary designations, survivor benefits, and more. That guidance should assist in your end-of-year retirement plan checkup. If you have not done so, please review the “2024 Foreign Service Annual Annuitant Newsletter” published by Continued on next page