Senators Van Hollen and Sullivan Introduce the Foreign Service Families Act (S.1293)

 

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), cofounders of the bipartisan Foreign Service Caucus, have introduced the Foreign Service Families Act (S.1293), a bill to expand employment opportunities for spouses of Foreign Service officers.

Senator Van Hollen’s press statement notes that “This legislation will help ensure that the State Department is able to attract and retain a world-class diplomatic corps by providing expanded career options and services to eligible family members. For many of these family members, the process of finding employment isn’t easy — frequent moves, language barriers, and limited options pose significant challenges. This legislation will address that issue so our Foreign Service can continue to serve the best interests of Americans at home and abroad.”

According to Senator Van Hollen’s press statement, The Foreign Service Families Act would provide authority to the State Department to offer the same services to Foreign Service family members overseas that the Defense Department is permitted to provide to military families. This includes:

  • Expanded hiring authority and preference for qualified spouses
  • Ensuring that Foreign Services spouses receive notice of State Department vacancies and that those who apply receive consideration
  • Making space available in State Department facilities for outside entities to provide career services
  • Developing partnerships with the private sector to enhance employment opportunities for Foreign Service spouses, and
  • Incorporating hiring preferences for qualified Foreign Service spouses into contracts between the Department of State and private-sector entities.

Additionally the legislation:

  • Directs the State Department to expand telecommuting opportunities for Foreign Service family members, so that family members can continue to work federal civilian and private sector jobs while overseas
  • Ensures that family members in the Expanded Professional Associates Program, which offers career opportunities for family members with advanced education and professional experience, are not held to unfair hiring standards, and
  • Makes sure that the State Department has fully implemented the Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps, a program intended to speed hiring and improve clearance portability for Foreign Service family members.

The bill has been “read twice and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.” We’ve searched for the text but have not yet been able to locate it.  According to congress.gov, as of 05/10/2019 text has not been received for S.1293: “Bills are generally sent to the Library of Congress from GPO, the Government Publishing Office, a day or two after they are introduced on the floor of the House or Senate. Delays can occur when there are a large number of bills to prepare or when a very large bill has to be printed.”

Govtrack notes that the United States Congress considers about 5,000 bills and resolutions each year, but of those only about 7% will become law. All bills not enacted by the end of the session on Jan 3, 2021 die, and Congress will start over.

 

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