Foreign Service Associates Program

This program arose from concerns about the lack of employment opportunities overseas for spouses of Foreign Service employees. AAFSW’s Employment Committee members met regularly with State Department management and Members of Congress and wrote letters to Congressional members and staffers. One proposal was to provide compensation for official entertainment duties, as seen in some other countries’ diplomatic services. The Foreign Service Associates program was unfortunately halted due to budget cuts, but after the fall of the Soviet Union, the State Department created the Professional Associates Program, which provided employment opportunities for spouses due to staffing shortfalls in the new emerging countries. The program was eventually rebranded into the Expanded Professional Associates Program (EPAP), which is still active.

Proposal for Foreign Service Associates (1984)


Concept of the Foreign Service Associates

Sue Low (1987)[ADST interview][Speech audio recording] Transcript file from, p. 14

The remaining strand was the one that became the Foreign Service Associates. That was the one which was designed to provide a framework within which spouses could use their professional skills in the sequence of countries in which they found themselves — so that they wouldn’t have to undergo the frustration, first of all, of just sitting on their hands in terms of using the skills they had acquired. And, moreover, so that they could take advantage of being in a country to get further insight into it than they could if they just went out and helped with a charity, let’s say. We felt, and feel, that this is of great value to the mission itself. As we further refined that subject, it became clear to us that from the taxpayer’s point of view this would be worthwhile. We visualized it as being a service corps.

Sue Low

Article by Susan Low on p. 24 of Foreign Service Journal, March 1985


AAFSW Newsletter – December 1985


Foreign Service Associates added to State Department authorization bill

Sue Low (1987)[ADST interview][Speech audio recording] Transcript file from, pp. 14-15

We talked about this on the Hill both to I think particularly of Pat Schroeder and her aide, Andrea Nelson. We talked about it to Congressman Mica and his staff; we caught him just as he came out of a meeting on the budget and how stringent things were. We talked to Dante Fascell and a number of other people on the House side. And on the Senate side also to a number of people, including Senator Mathias. And to our surprise and delight, he said he wanted to introduce it as an amendment on the floor when the Senate considered the State Department authorization bill. Which he did. And it was accepted. So in mid-August of 1985, a piece of legislation was enacted that instructed the Secretary of State to design a pilot program to test the principle of the Foreign Service Associates and to report back to the Congress by the first of February, 1986, on the design [of the pilot] and on plans for its implementation

Sue Low

AAFSW Newsletter – March 1986


Sue Low (1987)[ADST interview][Speech audio recording] Transcript file from, p. 15

Plans had been made for the Department to absorb the start-up costs so that by October of 1986, they would have been ready to actually employ people, and the people would start working. They already by the first of February [the Department] had a pretty good idea of the posts they would choose; they would have liked to have done ten and of different size and in different geographical places. So that they could really test the idea. And their ideas were pretty well along and they were all ready to swing into action to do this. But two weeks after it was sent to the Hill, the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings lowered the boom to the extent that it just was not possible to find those funds nor to start something that would require further Congressional funding.

Sue Low

AAFSW Newsletter – September 1986


Marlene Eagleburger (1993)[ADST interview][Speech audio recording] Transcript file from, p. 19

As far as the Associates program is concerned, to me it should be all-encompassing. There should be as much weight given to doing representational work as there is doing a job in the embassy. Both are necessary to the successful conclusion of promoting U.S. interests abroad. One does not really act without the other. So to divide it and make one a stepchild and one not a “preferred child,” if you will, for me it’s just an untenable situation. If we cannot have the whole ball of wax, then I don’t think we should have any wax. You cannot single out some jobs as being good and other jobs as being schlock work. You are giving the wrong message to people. And I think that’s terrible.

Marlene Eagleburger

Q: I was just going to say, the budget has devastated so many things that were really advancing or wanting to be advanced, such as the Foreign Service Associates program.

ATHERTON: Which was an outcome of Wye. The germ of that idea was at Wye when Sue Low carried it to its very logical conclusion. (We were) just trying to give scope to Foreign Service spouses, whether they wanted to be volunteers or whether they wanted to work–just making some kind of sense out of their disjointed lives, and the need for recognition.

Q: Their need for recognition, and not just recognition but a kind of service or employment.

ATHERTON: It was a marvelous idea. It was the first thing to be cut when the Department decided to make cuts. Those cuts are a lot deeper now.

Betty Atherton (1987)[ADST interview][Speech audio recording] Transcript file from, p. 15

Joan Pryce (1992)[ADST interview][Speech audio recording] Transcript file from, p. 19

The Foreign Service Associates Program is a wonderful program that AAFSW worked on and a very competent professional group of members wrote and did a lot of research to develop the Foreign Service Associates Program. Many of the ideas that we incorporate into our employment programs really go back to that original FSA program.

Joan Pryce

News Media Coverage & Commentary

New York Times

“For years, the Foreign Service couple was considered a “twofer” – two for the price of one.

An adjunct to her husband, the Foreign Service wife was expected to show up at the teas, receptions and musicals, be on tap for visiting delegations, participate in educational and social welfare activities, play innkeeper for United States visitors and entertain graciously. She was considered an integral a part of the diplomatic team and her performance was rated in her husband’s annual evaluation performance report. …. Now there is talk in Washington of a new proposal that would recognize in a tangible way the contribution made by Foreign Service spouse who wants to be part of the team, she should be paid.”

New York Times, April 10, 1985, “Foreign Service Wives Goal: Pay” by Barbara Gamarekian

Washington Post

Patricia Barbis responds:

The proposed pilot project on the Foreign Service Associates program being presented to Congress early in February was never intended to be limited to social and charitable work. In fact, it primarily proposes full-time positions that require professional credentials and experience for all spouses.

There are many jobs that need to be done that can be performed efficiently and cost effectively by Foreign Service spouses at posts abroad. Because of labor shortages and security, many of these positions already are being filled by spouses at isolated hardship posts.

Washington Post, January 25, 1986, Letters to the Editor: “FS Associates Program 1960”