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With more than 100 Foreign Service officers (and counting) assigned to

93 overseas offices helping to link U.S. agriculture to markets in more

than 171 countries, the Foreign Agricultural Service appears strong and

is moving in the right direction.

The FAS budget for Fiscal Year 2016 is $191 million—a small but

important increase over 2015 that will help FAS more effectively carry

out its mission.

Much of the credit for this bump goes to FAS leadership and its advo-

cacy efforts on Capitol Hill to promote our work and gain recognition

of our role supporting the American economy. We are grateful that the

U.S. agricultural industry recognizes the importance of exports to rural

income and is an ardent supporter of both FAS and the Foreign Service.

A positive budget environment in 2015 allowed AFSA to re-engage

FAS management on addressing long-term staffing challenges caused

by years of adopting short-term fixes to weather temporary budget

constraints. Specifically, AFSA redoubled efforts to raise awareness

of the critical need for succession planning. Our push led management

to take concrete and measurable steps, yielding the largest incoming class of officers ever. We also saw the largest number of promotions


many years.

In addition, FAS management retracted certain Civil Service

overseas assignments—ones that FSOs are qualified to fill—that

violated the collective bargaining agreement, which requires equal

access, open competition and transparency in the assignments

process. Despite these successes, AFSA still has a lot to do on

behalf of FAS FSOs in 2016.


lack of officers

at senior levels continues

to stress the personnel placement system and

has led management to propose a greater

number of Civil Service employees in overseas


AFSA will push for meaningful succession

planning for all levels and advances in

training and education opportunities to de-

velop our officers to meet the ever-evolv-

ing demands of our profession.

Allow me to conclude by recognizing my pre-

decessor, David Mergen, for his several years

of excellent service as FAS VP. He has been a

strong voice for FAS Foreign Service officers

and had a significant impact on moving the

needle on many of these issues, especially

on creating awareness and support for robust

succession planning.


Mark Petry