Statement on Federal Hiring Freeze

For Immediate Release
January 25, 2017
Contact: Director of Communications Ásgeir Sigfússon,

Washington, D.C. – The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), the professional association and labor union of the United States Foreign Service, supports strong American global leadership, as do nine in ten Americans. The January 23 Executive Order imposing a freeze on federal hiring has the potential to weaken the Foreign Service and undermine America’s global leadership.

Said AFSA President Ambassador Barbara Stephenson: “The Foreign Service—America’s diplomatic corps—is an indispensable part of America’s foreign policy and national security toolkit. Disrupting the regular flow of new Foreign Service officers and specialists into the Service damages America’s national interests not only now but also for decades to come. Just as it takes twenty years to develop a navy captain or an army colonel, so it takes two decades to develop a new Foreign Service officer into a seasoned leader ready to run an embassy and guide an important bilateral relationship.”

The negative impact of a hiring freeze, which reports show does not save money, is amplified by the structure of the Foreign Service, which, like the military, brings in new members at entry level and promotes only the best to the next level. While this up-or-out system—those who fail to move up are forced out—ensures high performance and accountability, it depends on a steady stream of new recruits to function. Disrupt the intake of new recruits, and the Foreign Service is weakened both now and for decades to come. America’s global leadership inevitably suffers from freezing Foreign Service hiring.

AFSA, the voice of the Foreign Service, is the professional association and labor union of the U.S. Foreign Service. Founded in 1924, AFSA represents 31,000 active and retired Foreign Service employees at the Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, Foreign Commercial Service, Foreign Agricultural Service, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.