HFAC Passes the Department of State Operations Authorization and Embassy Security Act (S. 1635)

Posted: 12:12 am ET
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S.1635 – Department of State Operations Authorization and Embassy Security Act, Fiscal Year 2016 passed the Senate with amendments by unanimous consent on April 28, 2016. (Also see Whoa! Senate Passes @StateDept Operations Authorization and Embassy Security Act, FY2016).

On May 26, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, chaired by Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), passed, as amended, the Department of State Operations Authorization and Embassy Security Act (S. 1635).  The legislation authorizes critical embassy security enhancements, Inspector General oversight of the State Department, and “streamlines and modernizes key aspects of the Department’s bureaucracy.”

Chairman Royce issued the following statement including some details:

“The annual authorization of the Department of State is the signature legislative action of this Committee.  It is our responsibility. The House has passed an authorization bill in each of the last six Congresses – but unfortunately it’s been 15 years since this legislation was signed into law.  We have an opportunity to break this unfortunate streak. 

“From improving oversight capacity of the Inspector General – an office this Committee successfully fought to have filled after sitting vacant for five years – to strengthening embassy security, today’s legislation improves the Committee’s ability to influence the agenda and activities of the Department of State.

“As a result of contributions from many members, this is a strengthened and important product; a bipartisan bill that bolsters this Committee’s role as overseer of State Department operations.  I look forward to seeing this measure advance.”

This legislation improves embassy and personnel security by:

  • Requiring the State Department to designate a list of high-risk, high-threat posts, thereby prioritizing resources and security for these posts;
  • Directing the State Department and Defense Department to jointly develop enhanced contingency plans for emergency situations, including planning for rapid deployment of military resources;
  • Improving security for the children and families of U.S. diplomats abroad;
  • Increasing the Department’s ability to hold personnel accountable for misconduct and unsatisfactory conduct related to embassy security;
  • Enhancing security training requirements for personnel assigned to high-risk, high-threat posts;
  • Expanding the Department’s ability to transfer funds from other accounts for immediate embassy security needs;
  • Authorizing the Department to use “best value” contracting globally, ensuring the highest standards of local guards providing security at embassies abroad; and
  • Improving the integrity of U.S. passports, ensuring that all security components are made in the U.S. by personnel with appropriate security clearances.

This legislation improves congressional and Inspector General oversight by:

  • Ensuring that the files and emails of the Inspector General (OIG) are not accessible by unauthorized Department employees;
  • Increasing the OIG’s access to reported instances of waste, fraud, and abuse;
  • Mandating monthly briefings to Congress on embassy security, especially at high risk, high threat posts.

Related items:

Markup: S. 1635
Full Committee | May 26, 2015

[Full text of S. 1635, as introduced]

S. 1635, To authorize the Department of State for fiscal year 2016, and for other purposes

An Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute was offered by Mr. Royce and agreed to by voice vote.

Summary of Committee Action

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FSO Matthew Palmer’s New Book — The Wolf of Sarajevo (Excerpt)

Posted: 12:08 am ET
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In February 2015, we did an excerpt of Matthew Palmer’s book, The American Mission (see Move Over Jason Bourne! Meet Diplomat Alex Baines, Our New Favorite Fictional Hero). In June 2015, he came out with a new book Secrets of State and a new protagonist, former FSO Sam Trainor. This May, he is back with a new thriller featuring FSO Eric Petrofina, back at the American Embassy in Sarajevo after 20 years.

Matt Palmer was a desk officer for Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) through the end of the 1999 Kosovo conflict. He was  also posted twice to the American Embassy in Belgrade, initially as a first-tour officer at the height of the war in Bosnia and, later as the political counselor.  He speaks fluent Serbo-Croatian, and his many experiences in the region served as inspiration for The Wolf of Sarajevo.  We’re looking forward to reading his third book.  We’re pleased to share an excerpt below courtesy of Amazon Kindle.

Screen Shot 2016-05-31

click on image to read the excerpt |recommends using the “full view” for easier navigation (see lower right hand side of screen after excerpt displays on screen)

 

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@StateDept Launches Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC)

Posted: 12:04 am ET
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The U.S. Department of State recently launched the Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC) “to more quickly mobilize family members to fill available positions in missions overseas.”  

The FSFRC is a program for family members seeking inside the mission employment opportunities. It will become the exclusive hiring program for Appointment Eligible Family Members (AEFM) into Family Member Appointments (FMA). Starting in 2016, eligible AEFMs will be able to apply for membership in the FSFRC, based on their current employment situation. The FAQ says that “After open enrollment commences, which we estimate to be 18 to 24 months from now, the Department will announce the initiation of a new hiring preference as outlined in 16 STATE 49074, paragraph 21.”

The FSFRC is reportedly designed for the majority of family members working in US missions overseas; unfortunately but it will not/not be open to all family members.  An individual who meets all of the following criteria is eligible to apply to join the FSFRC:

(1)  Is a U.S. citizen and

(2)  Is the spouse or domestic partner (as defined in 3 FAM 1610) of a sponsoring employee (i.e., a direct-hire Foreign Service, Civil Service, or uniformed service member) and;

(3) Is either:

(a) listed on the travel orders of a sponsoring employee for a post abroad at a U.S. mission under Chief of Mission authority, or at an office of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), or
(b) listed on an approved Form OF-126, Foreign Service Residence and Dependency Report (or agency equivalent), of a sponsoring employee and resides at the sponsoring employee’s post of assignment abroad, or, as appropriate, an office of the AIT.

(4) Does not receive a U.S. Government retirement annuity or pension from a career in the U.S. Foreign Service or Civil Service; and

(5) Is not a Foreign Service Officer in Leave Without Pay (LWOP) status.

NOTE 1: U.S. citizen spouses/domestic partners of a sponsoring employee who are on approved Voluntary Separate Maintenance Allowance (VSMA) or Involuntary Separate Maintenance Allowance (ISMA) and are temporarily residing apart from the sponsoring employee are also eligible to apply to join the FSFRC in non-paid status. However, they may only begin working in a local assignment when they resume residing with the sponsoring employee.

The State Department estimates that in excess of 5,000 family members are currently eligible to apply to join the Reserve Corps.

Immediate enrollment of everyone who is currently eligible is not possible. Therefore, beginning in 2016, we will start to enroll eligible family members in waves (exact dates TBD) based upon their planned departure date from their current Family Member Appointment (FMA) or TEMP Appointment overseas or based upon the Not To Exceed (NTE) date for family members currently in INWS status.

It does not look like this new program would have an impact on bureau-funded positions or post-funded jobs. It remains to be seen if the FSFRC will expand the job availability for Foreign Service spouses and if it resolves the issue of portability of security clearances for spouses.

For more details, please read the documents below.

Important Documents

 

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Related posts:

JW v. @StateDept: Ambassador Lewis Lukens Testimony (Transcript)

Posted: 12:02 am ET
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Last week, Judicial Watch released the deposition transcript of Ambassador Lewis Lukens, former executive director of the State Department’s executive secretariat.  The transcript is available here.  Amb. Lukens’ deposition is the first of seven allowed by the court as part of the discovery granted to Judicial Watch by U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in response to its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit involving HRC’s non-government email system (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:13-cv-01363)). Also see An Invitation to a Deposition: DC Court Judge Approves Extraordinary Procedure in FOIA CaseJudicial Watch Submits Plan to Depose Top Ranking @StateDept Officials and 30 (b)(6) WitnessesCourt Grants Request to Interview Clinton Aides and @StateDept Officials Under Oath Over Email Saga.

Following his assignment at S/ES, Ambassador Lukens was appointed as US Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau.  He is currently diplomat-in-residence responsible for for recruitment and outreach for the State Department in Montana, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and northern California.

You may read the transcript of the deposition below:

 

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