American Foreign Service Association

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The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), established in 1924, is the professional association of the United States Foreign Service. With over 15,000 dues-paying members, AFSA represents 28,000 active and retired Foreign Service employees of the Department of State and Agency for International Development (AID), as well as smaller groups in the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), Foreign Commercial Service (FCS), and International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB).

About AFSA[edit]

AFSA's principal missions are to enhance the effectiveness of the Foreign Service, to protect the professional interests of its members, to ensure the maintenance of high professional standards for both career diplomats and political appointees, and to promote understanding of the critical role of the Foreign Service in promoting America's national security and economic prosperity.

Among its professional activities, AFSA publishes the monthly Foreign Service Journal, presents an annual set of awards for intellectual courage and creative dissent, organizes programs of speakers on foreign affairs, maintains meeting facilities for its members, provides a college scholarship program for Foreign Service children and offers specialized insurance plans to its members. AFSA's legislative affairs department coordinates efforts to keep Congress aware of the concerns of the Foreign Service and of active and retired Foreign Service personnel.

AFSA is the exclusive bargaining agent for the Foreign Service employees of all five agencies. In this labor/management relations capacity, AFSA negotiates with the agency management on personnel policies and practices affecting members' working conditions. AFSA also represents members in formal grievance proceedings, office of security and inspector general investigations, and EEO cases, while providing them informal assistance in dealing with administrative problems.

Foreign Service retiree concerns are an integral part of the AFSA agenda. AFSA works closely with retired Foreign Service personnel on legislative issues related to retiree pensions and benefits. Retirees, individually and through independent retiree groups around the country, actively promote the Foreign Service and international engagement in their communities.

In its efforts to explain the Foreign Service's role and to build domestic constituencies to support its activities, AFSA operates a speakers’ bureau, which makes experienced diplomats available to speak to a wide range of groups all across the country. Through Road Scholar programs, AFSA members conduct continuing education classes on the Foreign Service.


AFSA's Governing Board is elected by the membership every two years. The current composition of the board includes 28 members: a president, a secretary, a treasurer, five constituency vice presidents, and 20 constituency representatives. The current board's term expires in July 2015.

The association's President is Robert J. Silverman, a Senior Foreign Service Officer who has previously served in Sweden, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Egypt and Iraq. He is in his first term as President.


AFSA maintains its headquarters building at 2101 E Street NW in Washington, DC. There are also smaller offices within the Department of State, USAID, and the Department of Commerce.


AFSA's staff is divided into the following departments: Executive Office, Member Services, Advocacy, Scholarships, Communications, Foreign Service Journal, Business and Accounting, and Labor Management.


Since 1968 AFSA has honored achievement, performance, courage and sacrifice within the Foreign Service community through their awards program. All of AFSA’s awards programs, as well the AFSA memorial plaques, are administered by AFSA's Coordinator for Special Awards and Outreach.

Constructive Dissent Awards[edit]

AFSA's Constructive Dissent Awards recognize Foreign Service members who work constructively within the system to change policy and performance for the better. Such dissents may be made in any non-public channel including meetings, emails to superiors, memoranda, telegrams, or via the State Department's formal Dissent Channel. Thus, AFSA's Constructive Dissent Awards may be given to, but are not restricted to, employees who send in Dissent Channel messages. These awards are unique within the federal government, and remain the lynchpin of AFSA’s awards program.

  • F. Allen 'Tex' Harris Award
  • W. Averell Harriman Award
  • William R. Rivkin Award
  • Christian A. Herter Award

Exemplary Performance Awards[edit]

Six Exemplary Performance Awards are given each year to highlight the professionalism and spirit of service and volunteerism found within the Foreign Service community. These awards honor community liaison officers, office management specialists, family members, and AFSA post representatives for their important contributions at work, at home and in the community at large. In addition, these awards honor contributions to AFSA and those who have excelled in the advancement of democracy.

  • Nelson B. Delavan Award
  • Avis Bohlen Award
  • M. Juanita Guess Award
  • AFSA Achievement and Contributions to the Association Award
  • Post Representative of the Year Award
  • Mark Palmer Award for the Advancement of Democracy

Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy[edit]

The American Foreign Service Association established its award for Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy in 1995. By giving this high-profile award, AFSA also seeks to bring greater recognition to its other awards, including its unique annual awards for constructive dissent. Candidates are proposed by AFSA’s Awards and Plaque Committee. The AFSA Governing Board makes the final decision.

Originally, there were no criteria beyond those implied by the award’s name. In 2009, the AFSA Governing Board specified that “lifetime” means at least a decade of service to diplomacy, ideally including continuing involvement after retirement. The contributions should include involvement in foreign policy development and/or implementation as well as efforts that advance the diplomatic profession. Recipients will normally be career diplomats, but may include other individuals in exceptional cases. Recipients must attend the annual AFSA awards ceremony.

The presentation takes place during AFSA’s annual Awards Ceremony in June in the Benjamin Franklin Diplomatic Room of the State Department. The Secretary of State is invited to present this award. If the Secretary is unable to attend, a distinguished individual who has worked with the recipient is asked to present the award. Colin Powell presented the award to Thomas Pickering and to George Shultz; Elliot Richardson presented the award to Frank Carlucci; Mr. Carlucci presented it to Lee Hamilton; Robert Zoellick presented it to Richard Lugar; Senator Lugar presented to award to Senator Nunn; and Lawrence Eagleburger presented the award to Joan Clark. Honorees are presented with a globe and certificate.

The Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy is AFSA's highest award. It is offered to an inspiring and respected diplomat or public servant for their contributions to the conduct and success of American diplomacy. The criteria call for a sustained commitment to the cause for a good portion of their professional lives.

Previous Recipients of the Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy Award:

Year Given Recipient(s)
2015 William Harrop
2014 Charles Stuart 'Stu' Kennedy, Jr.
2013 George W. Landau
2012 William Lacy Swing
2011 Rozanne L. 'Roz' Ridgway
2010 L. Bruce Laingen
2009 Sen. Sam Nunn
2008 Thomas D. Boyatt
2007 Joan Clark
2006 Morton Abramowitz
2005 Sen. Richard Lugar
2004 Richard B. Parker
2003 George Shultz
2002 Thomas Pickering
2001 Rep. Lee Hamilton
2000 David Newsom
1999 Cyrus Vance
1998 Lawrence Eagleburger
1997 George H.W. Bush
1996 Frank Carlucci
1995 U. Alexis Johnson

Sinclaire Language Awards[edit]

These awards celebrate those Foreign Service employees who have demonstrated the greatest facility and success in the learning and utilization of languages in their career. This learning may have taken place at FSI or individually. The awards are made possible through a generous bequest from former FSO Mathilda W. Sinclaire.

George F. Kennan Writing Award[edit]

Each year, AFSA honors the State Department employee whose essay has been chosen as the best from among their cohort during the National War College graduation ceremonies. Named after George Kennan, AFSA is proud to sponsor an award in the tradition of a man whose writing skills literally changed American foreign policy.

AFSA Memorial Plaques[edit]

Two large memorial plaques in the C Street lobby of the Department of State honor those of our colleagues who have given their lives in service to their country. Each year, names are added and those on the plaques are honored during a solemn ceremony on Foreign Affairs Day.

Selected publications[edit]

  • American Foreign Service Association; Dorman, Shawn (2003). Inside a U.S. embassy: how the foreign service works for America (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: American Foreign Service Association. ISBN 0964948826. 

See also[edit]


External links[edit]