Posted: 6:17 pm EDT
Updated: 11:31 am PDT
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Update: A source on the Hill alerted us that the State Authorization bill was offered as an amendment when the NDAA was debated in the Senate last month but it was not voted on and the NDAA passed on June 18 (That would be H.R. 1735 which passed 215 (71-25) We understand that both chambers are now starting the process to bring the bill to conference in order to resolve differences. The State Authorization bill, we are told, will not be part of those discussions. In order for this to move forward, it will either need to be brought to the floor as a stand alone vote or Corker/Cardin could try again to attach it to another piece of legislation. Given that this is the first authorization bill passed by the SFRC in 5 years, and made it through the committee with bi-partisan support, we suspect that the this is not the end of this bill. We hope to write a follow-up post on the security clearance component of this legislation.
On June 9, 2015, U.S. Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, applauded the unanimous committee passage of the Fiscal Year 2016 Department of State Operations Authorization and Embassy Security Act. The SFRC statement says that it has been five years since the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a State Department Authorization bill and 13 years since one was enacted into law.
“Our committee has a responsibility to ensure limited federal resources for the State Department are used in a cost-effective manner to advance U.S. interests,” said Corker. “This effort takes a modest but important step toward reestablishing oversight of the State Department through an annual authorization, which hasn’t been enacted into law since 2002. In addition to prioritizing security upgrades for U.S. personnel at high threat posts, the legislation lays the groundwork to streamline State Department operations and make them more effective.”
This State Department Authorization bill has been offered as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which currently is on the Senate floor. It is quite lengthy so we will chop this down in bite sizes.
Below is the part related to the suspension of security clearance. If this bill passes, it means placing a member of the Foreign Service in a temporary status without duties and without pay once a determination to suspend clearance has been made. Diplomats with suspended clearances are typically given desk jobs or telecommuting work that require little or none of their expertise; looks like this bill changes that. The bill does not say what happens (does he/she gets back pay?) if the suspension of clearance does not result in revocation and the employee is reinstated. Or if suspended employees with no work/no pay will be allowed to take temporary jobs while waiting for the resolution of their suspended clearances.
Section 216. Security clearance suspensions
Section 610 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 (22 U.S.C. 4010) is amended—
(1)by striking the section heading and inserting the following:
610.Separation for cause; suspension
(2)by adding at the end the following:
(1)In order to promote the efficiency of the Service, the Secretary may suspend a member of the Service without pay when—
(A)the member’s security clearance is suspended; or
(B)there is reasonable cause to believe that the member has committed a crime for which a sentence of imprisonment may be imposed.
(2)Any member of the Foreign Service for whom a suspension is proposed under this subsection shall be entitled to—
(A)written notice stating the specific reasons for the proposed suspension;
(B)a reasonable time to respond orally and in writing to the proposed suspension;
(C)representation by an attorney or other representative; and
(D)a final written decision, including the specific reasons for such decision, as soon as practicable.
(3)Any member suspended under this subsection may file a grievance in accordance with the procedures applicable to grievances under chapter 11.
(4)If a grievance is filed under paragraph (3)—
(A)the review by the Foreign Service Grievance Board shall be limited to a determination of whether the provisions of paragraphs (1) and (2) have been fulfilled; and
(B)the Board may not exercise the authority provided under section 1106(8).
(5)In this subsection:
(A)The term reasonable time means—
(i)with respect to a member of the Foreign Service assigned to duty in the United States, 15 days after receiving notice of the proposed suspension; and
(ii)with respect to a member of the Foreign Service assigned to duty outside the United States, 30 days after receiving notice of the proposed suspension.
(B)The terms suspend and suspension mean placing a member of the Foreign Service in a temporary status without duties and pay.
More here: Department of State Operations Authorization and Embassy Security Act, Fiscal Year 2016. This old article (pdf) on security clearance and knowing your rights might also be a useful