The State Department has a longstanding tradition of recognizing Foreign Affairs Day in May. This year, Secretary Blinken will deliver the keynote address for Foreign Affairs Day on Friday, May 7. As President of the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) and a member of the Foreign Affairs community, I am interested in hearing what he has to say and what the new administration wants to do for our community.
This past March, AAFSW submitted a short article to the Foreign Service Journal’s Notes to the New Administration. AAFSW State Liaison, Mette Beecroft, took the lead in writing this article. I plan to use the content of the article for an upcoming meeting with the new administration as part of the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC). AAFSW has a long history of advocating for family members and it is my intention to advocate for family members during this meeting. Other partner organizations of the FAC will focus on Foreign Service officers and policy.
In the article, we encourage the new Administration to recognize an untapped source of “diplomats” in addition to Foreign Service officers. These are the family members of U.S. Department of State employees who are serving overseas. It is important to gain a better understanding of the roles and achievements of diplomatic family members, ranging from bravery during crisis and long separations due to unaccompanied tours, to outstanding professional, artistic and volunteer achievements abroad. Countless diplomatic family members engage in significant voluntary efforts in their host countries. This volunteer work promotes understanding among peoples, demonstrates the highest American values, and advances the cause of U.S. diplomacy in important ways. You can read the entire article here: https://afsa.org/sites/default/files/flipping_book/0321/32/index.html
Equally valuable is the contribution of family members through the Foreign Service Family Member Reserve Corps. The Corps currently fills a significant number of positions at posts overseas and could fill even more. This is an economic way of meeting the numerous challenges all posts face as Corps members only require direct salary funding. Their transportation, housing and other support costs for the family unit are already being funded by the spouse. More positions could be filled by the Corps enabling posts, at a significant savings, to address staffing shortfalls. This is a way for the government to leverage talent and resources that are already in place to be a force multiplier for mission objectives.
I encourage you to tell AAFSW what is important to you – what issues are most important to you. We will be providing an opportunity to do just that later this May. AAFSW will be conducting a survey of employees and family members to learn what is important to the Foreign Affairs community whom we serve. Your participation will help us better understand your needs and interests so we can prioritize resources to improve services to our members and the broader foreign affairs community.
Lara Center, AAFSW President