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Trump EO Also Suspends Visa Interview Waivers – Expect Long Visa Wait Times, Again

Posted: 10:28 am  PT

 

In 2012, then President Obama issued an Executive Order on Establishing Visa and Foreign Visitor Processing Goals and the Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness, which among other things, “ensure that 80 percent of nonimmigrant visa applicants are interviewed within 3 weeks of receipt of application, recognizing that resource and security considerations and the need to ensure provision of consular services to U.S. citizens may dictate specific exceptions”.  The Obama EO directed a plan that “should also identify other appropriate measures that will enhance and expedite travel to and arrival in the United States by foreign nationals, consistent with national security requirements.” In 2012, an Interview Waiver Pilot Program (IWPP) was introduced for for low-risk visa applicants. It became was made permanent in 2014, and became the Visa Interview Waiver Program (VIWP).

According to congressional testimonies, there are 222 visa-issuing embassies and consulates where “highly-trained corps of consular officers and support staff process millions of visa applications each year, facilitating legitimate travel while protecting our borders.”  In FY2015, overseas posts issued over 10.8 million nonimmigrant visas. That number is only a partial picture of the workload as it does not include visa refusals, a number that is significantly higher than visa issuances.

Section 8 of President Trump’s Executive Order: Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States refers to the immediate suspension of visa interview waivers specifically, the VIWP, and imposes a requirement that all nonimmigrant visa applicants, with exceptions, undergo in-person interviews.

Sec . 8 . Visa Interview Security

(a) The Secretary of State shall immediately suspend the Visa Interview Waiver Program and ensure compliance with section 222 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1222, which requires that all individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa undergo an in-person interview, subject to specific statutory exceptions.

(b)  To the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations, the Secretary of State shall immediately expand the Consular Fellows Program, including by substantially increasing the number of Fellows, lengthening or making permanent the period of service, and making language training at the Foreign Service Institute available to Fellows for assignment to posts outside of their area of core linguistic ability, to ensure that non-immigrant visa-interview wait times are not unduly affected.

We understand that the current Visa Interview Waiver Program (VIWP) was “carefully crafted”, and rolled out in consultation with the Congress. It was designed not/not to go back to pre-911 situation but to facilitate travel in cases of no discernable risk.

Here is what the Consular Affairs bureau told Congress:

Since 9/11, a risk-based approach grounded on greater and more effective domestic and international information sharing has become a key principle of visa processing policy.  This approach enables the United States to channel more resources toward the prevention of high-risk travel while simultaneously increasing the number of legitimate visitors arriving by land, air, and sea.  The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prescreening process for Visa Waiver Program (VWP) travelers, international information sharing arrangements, Global Entry, which expedites the movement of low-risk, frequent travelers who proceed directly to automated kiosks upon arrival in the United States, and interagency counterterrorism and eligibility checks are examples of how U.S. agencies can use information collected from visitors and/or governments in advance of travel to accomplish complimentary and mutually re-enforcing goals of preventing terrorists and serious criminals from traveling to the United States while facilitating the entry of legitimate visitors.

We asked the State Department about the suspension of the VIWP and its impact on visa operations. We were interested in the number of applicants who used the Visa Interview Visa Program for the last fiscal year.  In trying to get a sense of the impact of the new EO on visa operations, we also were interested on number of consular officers in visa sections worldwide.

Our question is in general staffing terms not specific to any posts, nonetheless, a State Department official on background declined to discuss staffing levels or the number of officers working at any embassy or consulate.  However, the SDO  did provided the following information:

The Executive Order suspends previously authorized portions of the Interview Waiver Program. The Interview Waiver Program will continue for certain diplomatic and official visa applicants from foreign governments and international organizations (categories: A-1, A-2, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through -6, C-2 and C-3) applicants under the age of 14, or over the age of 79; and applicants who previously held a visa in the same category that expired less than 12 months prior to the new application. As always, a consular officer must require that any applicant appear for an in-person interview in any situation where information provided on the application or during the screening process indicates any reason for further questioning. All visa applications, including those cases above, for which the visa interview is waived, are subject to the same rigorous security screening.

Previously, applicants renewing their visas in the same category within 48 months of expiration were eligible for their interview to be waived, as were first-time Brazilian and Argentine applicants ages 14-15 and 66-79.

We don’t know what is the current number but in 2013, Brazilian visitors contributed $10.5 billion to the U.S. economy, a 13 percent increase from the prior year.

Background of the Visa Interview Waiver Program (VIWP)

In January 2012, the Department and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initiated the two-year Interview Waiver Pilot Program (IWPP) to streamline processing for low-risk visa applicants.  The worldwide pilot program allows consular officers to waive in-person interviews for certain nonimmigrant visa applicants who were previously interviewed and thoroughly screened in conjunction with a prior visa application, and who are renewing a previous visa within four years of its expiration.  The pilot program also allows consular officers to waive interviews for qualified Brazilian applicants falling into specific age ranges, even when applying for visas for the first time.

All IWPP applications are thoroughly reviewed by a commissioned consular officer, with the applicant’s fingerprints, photograph, and biodata undergoing extensive database checks.  Consular officers have been directed to require an interview for any applicant who might otherwise qualify for the IWPP, if the application is not immediately approvable upon paper review, including if database checks reveal potential grounds of inadmissibility or other possible concerns.  State concluded an August 2013 validation study of the IWPP, which showed that B1/B2 visa issuances under the IWPP present no greater risk of overstay than interview-based B1/B2 visa issuances.

In 2013, State/CA’s congressional testimony indicates that “more than 90 percent of applicants worldwide were interviewed within three weeks of submitting their applications.”  This includes key markets such as China where consular officers were able to keep interview wait times to an average of five days while managing an average annual workload increase of 23 percent over the past three years.  In Brazil, consular officers were able to bring down wait times by 98 percent, from a high of 140 days in São Paulo, to just two days in September 2013, while also managing an eleven percent jump in annual workload between 2011 and 2013. These results were partially attributed to the VIWP:

The Department’s success is partially attributable to the introduction of secure, streamlined processes such as the Interview Waiver Pilot Program (IWPP), which allows consular officers to waive in-person interviews for certain nonimmigrant visa applicants who are renewing their visas, and whose biometric data we have on file.  IWPP is operational at more than 90 visa processing posts in more than 50 countries, and consular officers have already waived interviews for more than 500,000 of these low-risk visa applicants.  The pilot has been particularly successful in China, where it constitutes 30 percent of Mission China’s visa renewal workload.  Of course, these applicants are subject to all of the security checks conducted for any interviewed applicant.  State also concluded an August 2013 validation study of the IWPP, which showed that B1/B2 visa issuances under the IWPP present no greater risk of overstay than interview-based B1/B2 visa issuances.

One of the most effective ways we have to improve the efficiency of visa operations is to eliminate in-person interviews for low-risk travelers, while retaining all of the security checks that apply to every visa applicant.  Although the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requires our consular officers to interview in-person all visa applicants aged 14 through 79, it also provides limited authority to waive interviews, including authority to waive for diplomatic and official applicants from foreign governments and for some repeat applicants.  We are utilizing technology and advanced fraud detection techniques to help us expand the pool of applicants for whom interviews can be waived under the Interview Waiver Program.  This allows us to focus resources on higher-risk visa applicants while facilitating travel for low-risk applicants.

We are working with our colleagues across the government to expand this successful program, which became permanent in January 2014.  In fiscal year 2013, we waived over 380,000 interviews, and a recent study showed that tourist and business visitor visa holders whose interviews were waived, all of whom were subject to the full scope of security checks, posed no greater risk for an overstay than those who were interviewed.  We are interested in explicit legislative authority to supplement the existing Interview Waiver Program by adding additional low-risk applicant groups such as citizens of Visa Waiver Program members applying for other types of visas such as student or work visas; continuing students moving to a higher level of education; non-U.S. citizen Global Entry and NEXUS trusted traveler program members; and holders of visas in other categories, such as students and workers, who wish to travel for tourism or business.  The Department is interested in working with Congress on legislation specifically authorizing the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to enhance our interview waiver programs.

Since the VIWP is available in China and India, and many other countries with high visa demand, and includes visitor/business (B1-B2) visas, student (F) visas, and temporary worker’s (H1-B) visas, the workload impact on consular sections will be significant.  As more applicants require interviews, more interview windows will be needed, more consular officers will be needed, and larger facilities would become necessary.

By shutting down the IVWP, the Trump EO immediately expands the number of applicants that require in-person interviews. Section 8 (b) of the Trump EO also “immediately expand” the Consular Fellows Program, while a separate EO imposed a federal hiring freeze. Even if hiring is allowed under the Consular Fellows program, training new limited noncareer employees cannot occur overnight.

According to CA official’s congressional testimony, in 2014, 75 million international visitors traveled to the United States, a seven percent increase over 2013; they spent over $220 billion.  “Tourism is America’s largest services export and one that can’t be outsourced.” See current key numbers on US tourism in infographic below.

In FY 2014, Consular Affairs also generated $3.6 billion in revenue, which supports all consular operations in the Department and provides border security-related funding to some interagency partners. The CA bureau is probably the only fully fee-funded operation in the State Department.  It collects and retains fees for certain visa and passport services pursuant to specific statutory authority.  According to congressional testimony, the current fee statutes allow the bureau to retain approximately 80 percent of the fees it collects, with the balance going to the Treasury, which then help fund 12 other arms of the USG supporting border protection/national security.

 

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House GOP Brings Back Holman Rule to “Retrench” Agency Spending, Cut Pay of Any Federal Employee

Posted: 2:59 pm PT

 

Via WaPo:

House Republicans this week reinstated an arcane procedural rule that enables lawmakers to reach deep into the budget and slash the pay of an individual federal worker — down to a $1 — a move that threatens to upend the 130-year-old civil service.

The Holman Rule, named after an Indiana congressman who devised it in 1876, empowers any member of Congress to offer an amendment to an appropriations bill that targets a specific government employee or program.

A majority of the House and the Senate would still have to approve any such amendment, but opponents and supporters agree that it puts agencies and the public on notice that their work is now vulnerable to the whims of elected officials.

Via Federal News Radio:

The House of Representatives voted on party lines and approved the rules package for the 115th Congress. It reinstates the “Holman Rule,” a little-known provision that allows lawmakers to bring an amendment on an appropriations bill to the House floor that may “retrench” agency spending, reduce the number of federal employees in a particular agency or cut the salary or “compensation of any person paid out of the Treasury of the United States.”

srene

 

Excerpt from the GOP Rules Package from January 3, 2017:

Holman Rule – A new standing order for the first session of the 115th Congress reinstates the “Holman Rule”, most of which was removed from the standing rules in 1983.  The standing order functions as an exception to clause 2 of rule XXI to allow provisions changing law in certain limited circumstances.  Under this order, a provision in a general appropriation bill or an amendment thereto may contain legislation to retrench expenditures by (1) reducing amounts of money in the bill, (2) reducing the number of salaries of Federal employees, or (3) reducing the compensation of any person paid by the Treasury. To qualify for treatment under this order, an amendment must be offered after the reading of the bill and must comply with all applicable rules of the House, such as germaneness.  The purpose of this provision is to see if the reinstatement of the Holman rule will provide Members with additional tools to reduce spending during consideration of the regular general appropriation bill.

FreedomWorks which praised the inclusion of the “Holman Rule” in the rules package that passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 234 to 193 says:

The provision, which is effective only for the first session of the 115th Congress, allows Members to introduce amendments to appropriations bills on the floor of the lower chamber to reduce the size of a federal agency’s workforce or adjust compensation for certain federal employees, who, according to a 2015 study by the Cato Institute, earn an average of 78 percent more than workers in the private sector.

The group also puts out a backgrounder for the Holman Rule, which we are not acquainted of, until today:

Named after Rep. William Holman (D-Ind.), the “Holman Rule” was first adopted by the House in 1876. Holman, a member of the House Appropriations Committee and a fierce opponent of federal spending, introduced the amendment to reduce extraneous spending. The Holman Rule was part of the House rules from 1876 until 1895. It was adopted again as part of the rules in 1911 and survived intact until 1983, when Democrats, who had the majority in the House, nixed it.

Some House Democrats complained about the reinstatement of the Holman Rule prior to the vote on the rules package, foolishly suggesting that it is an attack on federal workers. “Reinstating the so-called ‘Holman Rule’ would allow any Member of Congress to simply offer an amendment that could reduce the salary of any federal employee, or eliminate a federal employee’s position without hearings, testimony, or due process,” Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.), Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), John Delaney (D-Md.), and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said in a press release. “[W]ith this rule House Republicans would instead treat these civil servants like political pawns and scapegoats.”

FreedomWorks notes that “the reinstatement of the Holman Rule is temporary, lasting only for the first session of the 115th Congress, or the 2017 legislative year. But its revival is a trial run that could lead to spending cuts for federal agencies that often run roughshod over congressional authority in Article I of the Constitution, as well as achieve the goal of reducing federal spending as the national debt approaches $20 trillion.”

So a “trial run” for this legislative year, but could become normal in the years ahead.  The reinstatement of the Holman Rule was lost in the uproar over the proposed gutting of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). The WaPo report says that as “a concession to Republicans who oppose this rule, leaders designed it to expire in one year unless lawmakers vote to keep it in place.” But the same report quotes House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) saying that “insofar as voters elected Trump with the hope of fundamentally changing the way government works, the Holman Rule gives Congress a chance to do just that.”  

“This is a big rule change inside there that allows people to get at places they hadn’t before,”  McCarthy told reporters.

Note that WaPo says a majority of the House and the Senate would still have to approve any such amendment to an appropriations bill that targets a specific government employee or program, but that this puts agencies and the public on notice that their work is now vulnerable to the whims of elected officials.

So, we’re now all just waiting to see which congressional representative will be the first to throw a tantrum and attempt to get a federal employee’s salary down to $1.00?

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Senate Bill to Slash Embassy Security Funds in Half Until US Embassy Jerusalem Officially Opens

Posted: 2:22 am ET
Updated: Jan 12, 4:55 PM PT

 

Apparently, a viral image created by the group called the Other 98 with three Republican senators who once blasted lax embassy security in Benghazi, Libya made the social media rounds recently and readers asked @PolitiFact to check it out. “The image includes pictures of three Republican senators — Ted Cruz of Texas, Dean Heller of Nevada and Marco Rubio of Florida — along with the caption, “The same 3 senators who have spent the last 3 years s——- themselves over ‘Benghazi!’ just introduced a bill to reduce embassy security by 50 percent.” PolitiFact judged the meme “mostly false” but this blogpost was accused of being a “fake news’. We’ve re-read our reporting on this issue and there’s nothing that we feel needs a correction. For those who are new in this blog, you can read our post below, and you can also read the similar points made by PolitiFact here.    

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On January 3,  Senator Dean Heller (R-NV)  announced that he, along with Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), have introduced the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act, “legislation that would fulfill America’s commitment to Israel to relocate the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.‎”

Excerpt from Heller’s announcement:

“My support for Israel is unwavering.  From my very first days as a United States Senator, I have prioritized the strengthening of the important relationship shared between Israel and the United States. That’s why I’m proud to reintroduce the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act. For years, I’ve advocated for America’s need to reaffirm its support for one of our nation’s strongest allies by recognizing Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.  It honors an important promise America made more than two decades ago but has yet to fulfill. While Administrations come and go, the lasting strength of our partnership with one of our strongest allies in the Middle East continues to endure. My legislation is a testament to that.

The announcement quotes Senator Marco Rubio: “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish state of Israel, and that’s where America’s embassy belongs. It’s time for Congress and the President-Elect to eliminate the loophole that has allowed presidents in both parties to ignore U.S. law and delay our embassy’s rightful relocation to Jerusalem for over two decades.”

It also says that Heller’s bill “withholds certain State Department funds until that relocation is complete.”

That is some understatement.  The bill does not withhold just any State Department funds but embassy security funds.

This is a similar bill Senator Heller had introduced in the 112th, 113th, and 114th Congress. The version of the bill introduced but died in the 114th Congress includes the provision to restrict State Department funding in FY2015, FY2016, and FY2017 and the following language:

Restriction on Funding Subject to Opening Determination.–Not  more than 50 percent of the funds appropriated to the Department of  State for fiscal year 2015 for ``Acquisition and Maintenance of  Buildings Abroad” may be obligated until the Secretary of State  determines and reports to Congress that the United States Embassy in Jerusalem has officially opened.

The current bill, S.11, which had been read twice and referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee includes the elimination of the waiver and similar language on funding restriction but targets a specific State Department funding — not funds for the “Acquisition and Maintenance of  Buildings Abroad” but for “Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance.” The bill further includes restrictions for all security, construction, and maintenance funding worldwide for FY2018 and FY2019 except for the embassy in Tel Aviv until its relocation.

Restriction on Funding Subject to Opening Determination.–Not  more than 50 percent of the funds appropriated to the Department of  State for fiscal year 2017 under the heading  “Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance” may be obligated until the  Secretary of State  determines and reports to Congress that the United States Embassy in Jerusalem has officially opened.

Just so we’re clear, three American senators including those who were screaming #BENGHAZI for the last several years have put forward a bill that would freeze half the State Department funding on embassy security until the new secretary of state reports to Congress that the US Embassy in Jerusalem has “officially opened.”

Writing for FP, Hussein Ibish, Senior Resident Scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington writes:

Jerusalem is the most sensitive issue between Israelis and Palestinians, as the outbreak of the Second Intifada and other repeated instances in which it has served as a uniquely potent flash point have illustrated. Jerusalem brings together religious, nationalistic, symbolic, and ethnic sensibilities in a singularly powerful and dangerous mix. […] Along with other members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the leading Gulf Arab states would almost certainly feel it necessary to practically demonstrate their objections to the relocation of the U.S. Embassy by finding some means of reasserting Palestinian, and even broader Christian and Muslim, claims on Jerusalem — and the most likely fallout would be a curtailment of security cooperation with Israel on matters concerning Iran’s nefarious activities in the Middle East. Adding such an additional layer of tension between Israel and the Arab states would be an enormous gift to Tehran and its regional alliance.

Since officially opening the US Embassy in Jerusalem could not happen overnight, this bill with its restrictions on embassy security funding would put all American diplomats and family members overseas at greater risks. At a time when embassy security could be most crucial, only 50 percent of appropriated State Department  embassy security, construction, and maintenance funds may be obligated.

Get that?

So with only half the embassy security funds obligated, what happens to our 275 posts overseas? Half gets the funds and the other half doesn’t? Reduced funding across the board? Do these good senators realized that the unfunded parts could get Americans killed? They don’t know? How could they not know? That leaves us with two troubling guesses — that they know but don’t care, or that they know this bill won’t go anywhere but its worth squeezing the juice, anyway.

Oops, is that our jaded slip showing?

We should point out that similar bills were introduced previously by Senator Heller, and they all died in committee. This bill, however, now has the support of  Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). The two need no special introductions.

 

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Ring in 2017 By Gutting the Ethics Office: Here and There

Posted: 1:01 pm ET

 

Last night, House Republicans voted quietly to gut their own independent ethics watchdog, the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). House Republicans adopted a proposal by Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) to put the Office of Congressional Ethics under the jurisdiction of the House Ethics Committee. According to Politico, under the Goodlatte proposal, the OCE would be renamed the “Office of Congressional Complaint Review,” citing a summary of the House rules amendment obtained by POLITICO. It “places the office under the oversight of the Committee on Ethics.”  The provision would “provide protection against disclosures to the public or other government entities,” essentially sealing accusations against lawmakers. Currently those investigations are made public several months after the OCE refers the matter to the Ethics panel.  After an uproar, House Republican leaders have now reportedly pulled the Goodlatte amendment on OCE changes and the ethics office rules won’t change.

A related item —

Last month we asked what happened to AFSA’s Committee on the Foreign Service Profession and Ethics?  Retired Ambassador Charles A. Ray who was the first chair of AFSA’s Committee on the Foreign Service Profession and Ethics (‘PEC’) offered an answer. It looks like eliminating the PEC was also quietly done.

After we published the blogpost, one of our readers pointed us to a “Professionalism in the U.S. Government” talk with Dr. Don Snider posted on YouTube.  On May 29, 2014, AFSA welcomed Dr. Don Snider of the Strategic Studies Institute to AFSA headquarters to discuss “Professionalism in the U.S. Government”. Dr. Snider used his experiences and expertise as a widely respected scholar and speaker on issues of professionalism writ large, to pose the question of how systems of professionalism affect the U.S. government and whether the Foreign Service might be able to learn some lessons on this subject from the U.S. Army. Have a look.

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@StateDept Nominations Forgotten By the Senate Time Lords of the 114th Congress

Posted: 5:34 pm PT

 

The following are civilian nominations submitted by the President to the Senate for confirmation during the current 114th Congress and have not made it out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) when the Senate adjourned on December 10, 2016.  Senate rules provide that “nominations neither confirmed nor rejected during the session at which they are made shall not be acted upon at any succeeding session without being again made to the Senate by the President…” These nominations have sometimes been returned to the President at the end of the first session and are always returned to the President at the end of the Congress.

The Senate will convene at noon on January 3, 2017, for the 115th Congress.  We expect that the career nominations in the Foreign Service lists will be resubmitted in January. All other nominations are dead at this point; the incoming Trump Administration will make its own nominations for ambassadorships, as well as the top ranks at State, USAID, BBG and related posts.

Ambassadors

2016-09-28 PN1802 Department of State | Jeffrey DeLaurentis, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Cuba.

2016-09-22 PN1763 Department of State | Tulinabo Salama Mushingi, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Senegal, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Guinea-Bissau.

State Department

2016-09-19 PN1758 Department of State | Justin H. Siberell, of Maryland, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Coordinator for Counterterrorism, with the rank and status of Ambassador at Large.

2016-09-19 PN1757 Department of State | Tina S. Kaidanow, of Maryland, a career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Political-Military Affairs).

2015-07-08 PN628 Department of State | Mari Carmen Aponte, of the District of Columbia, to be Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the Organization of American States, with the rank of Ambassador.

2015-01-08 PN48 Department of State | Jennifer Ann Haverkamp, of Indiana, to be Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

Foreign Service

2016-11-15 PN1810 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Jim Nelson Barnhart, Jr., and ending Anne N. Williams, which 20 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 15, 2016.

2016-11-15 PN1809 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Jeanne F. Bailey, and ending Robert Henry Hanson, which 9 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 15, 2016.

2016-11-15 PN1807 Foreign Service | Nomination for Alexander Dickie IV, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 15, 2016.

2016-11-15 PN1806 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning David Charles Miller, and ending Scott S. Sindelar, which 2 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 15, 2016.

2016-09-06 PN1704-1 Foreign Service | Nomination for Leslie L. Johnson, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on September 6, 2016.

2016-07-13 PN1643-1 Foreign Service | Nomination for Edward Peay, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on July 13, 2016.

2016-07-13 PN1642-1 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Michael Ashkouri, and ending Ethan N. Takahashi, which 4 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on July 13, 2016.

2015-06-10 PN573-6 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Jeffries Blunt de Graffenried, Jr., and ending Debbie Patrice Jackson, which 2 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on June 10, 2015.

2015-02-26 PN230-3 Foreign Service | Nomination for David Elliott Horton III, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on February 26, 2015.

2015-01-13 PN72-8 Foreign Service | Nomination for Daniel Menco Hirsch, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 13, 2015.

2015-01-13 PN71-2 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning David J. Barth, and ending R. Douglass Arbuckle, which 2 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 13, 2015.

Broadcasting Board of Governors

2016-11-29 PN1918 Broadcasting Board of Governors | Richard Stengel, of the District of Columbia, to be Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

2016-11-29 PN1917 Broadcasting Board of Governors | Richard Stengel, of the District of Columbia, to be a Member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors for a term expiring August 13, 2017.

United Nations

2016-09-13 PN1751 United Nations | Cynthia Ryan, of the District of Columbia, to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Seventy-first Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

2016-09-13 PN1750 United Nations | Valerie Biden Owens, of Delaware, to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Seventy-first Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Asian Development Bank

2015-02-26 PN229 African Development Bank | Marcia Denise Occomy, of the District of Columbia, to be United States Director of the African Development Bank for a term of five years.

2015-02-26 PN228 Inter-American Development Bank | Mileydi Guilarte, of the District of Columbia, to be United States Alternate Executive Director of the Inter-American Development Bank.

 

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Senate Confirms the Next US Ambassador to Malaysia Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir, and Six FS Lists

Posted: 2:55 pm PT

 

On December 10, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of Lakhdhir, Kamala Shirin (June 2016) as the next U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia. She is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Counselor, and most recently served as Executive Assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs in the Department of State, a position she held since 2011.

2016-12-10 PN1546 Department of State | Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir, of Connecticut, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Malaysia.

Earlier, on December 7, the Senate also confirmed the following Foreign Service lists:

2016-12-07 PN1808 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Marva Michelle Butler, and ending Adonis Mariano Matos de Mello, which 2 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 15, 2016.

2016-12-07 PN1907 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Stephen Donald Mull, and ending Victoria Jane Nuland, which 2 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 29, 2016.

2016-12-07 PN1908 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Robert L. Adams, and ending Laura Ann Griesmer, which 181 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 29, 2016.

2016-12-07 PN1909 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Robert Stephen Beecroft, and ending Marie L. Yovanovitch, which 5 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 29, 2016.

2016-12-07 PN1910 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Tristan J. Allen, and ending William F. Zeman, which 42 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 29, 2016.

2016-12-07 PN1911 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Anthony Abba, and ending Michael David Zgoda, which 180 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 29, 2016.

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House Democrats Call on @StateDept to Resist Potential Political Witch-Hunts

Posted: 1:12 am ET

 

In October 2016, then candidate Donald Trump retweeted an editorial by the NYPost about what it calls the “State Department’s shadow government.” Trump’s Twitter archive also includes a few tweets about the “State Department” here, “embassy” here, and the term “ambassador” here. Given the tenor of his typical tweets, these tweets are normal in their abnormality, that is, they’re not unique in themselves.

Last week, there were reports that the Trump Transition asked the Department of Energy for a list of agency employees or contractors who attended meetings or conferences on climate change. The 74-point questionnaire (PDF) includes questions like “Can you provide a list of all Department of Energy employees or contractors who have attended any lnteragency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon meetings? Can you provide a list of when those meetings were and any materials distributed at those meetings, EPSA emails associated with those meetings, or materials created by Department employees or contractors in anticipation of or as a result of those meetings?”

The Department of Energy had since responded saying,  “We will be forthcoming with all publically-available information with the transition team. We will not be providing any individual names to the transition team.”

The report was concerning given the department history with the red scare and the lavender scare; we wondered where else the Transition Teams were seeking names. On December 14, CNN reported that Donald Trump’s transition team disavowed the questionnaire sent to the Energy Department requesting the names of employees working on climate change issues. “The questionnaire was not authorized or part of our standard protocol. The person who sent it has been properly counseled,” a Trump transition official told CNN.

We are not aware that a similar request was sent to the State Department. However, the Democratic members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) have already called on Secretary Kerry “to resist any attempt by the incoming Administration to single out individual employees who have worked in support of Obama Administration priorities.”  In their letter, 18 Committee members urged Secretary Kerry to follow suit with their Energy Department counterparts and refuse any such request.

In a letter to Secretary Kerry, the Members wrote, “We believe your Department should work to ensure a smooth transition of power.  However, individual civil servants, Foreign Service Officers, and other staff should not be singled out for their work in support of policy objectives that clash with the next Administration’s goals, leaving them vulnerable to retribution by the incoming Administration. In our view, gathering names in this manner bears striking resemblance to dark chapters in our history marked by enemies lists and political witch hunts.”

The letter also informed the State Department that the HFAC website will soon have a link that State Department and USAID personnel can use securely to report unethical or illegal practices.  The new tool is provided reportedly to help ensure that “employees feel safe when reporting evidence of waste, fraud, and abuse of authority, including discrimination and other civil rights violations.”

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Congress Sends President Obama First State Department Authorization in 14 Years

Posted: 1:21 am ET

 

Last week, we blogged that S.1635 the State Department authorization bill was marching to the finish line (see S.1635 ‘Department of State Authorities Act Fiscal Year 2017’ Marches to the Finish Line). On Saturday, December 10, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved S.1635, legislation referred to the Senate earlier from the House of Representatives where lawmakers apparently incorporated provisions from State Department authorization bills for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 . This is the first State Department authorization bill sent by Congress to the President in 14 years. Below is the statement from SFRC Chairman Bob Corker:

U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today announced that for the first time in 14 years, a State Department authorization bill will be sent to the president’s desk to be signed into law. Today, the Senate unanimously approved S.1635, legislation referred to the Senate earlier this week from the House of Representatives where lawmakers incorporated provisions from State Department authorization bills for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, which were authored by Corker and Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), ranking member of the committee.

“Today, Congress ends a 14-year drought by finally sending a State Department authorization to the president,” said Corker. “Restoring Congress’ rightful role in the conduct of U.S. engagement overseas has been a top priority of mine as chairman. I thank Senator Cardin for his partnership and appreciate the bipartisan cooperation and contributions of my committee colleagues and our counterparts in the House in renewing this important oversight process on behalf of American taxpayers. Among other provisions, this legislation will enhance the security of our embassies abroad, improve personnel and organizational practices of the State Department, and demand much needed oversight and accountability of U.N. peacekeeping missions to end horrific cases of sexual abuse and exploitation. Going forward, I am hopeful we can build even further on this important progress to ensure State Department funding is used in the most responsible manner to advance American interests.”

A summary of S.1635 is available here or read it below:

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Related Posts:

 

 

Reactions to Trump’s Reported T. Rex Pick For the State Department #dazzleandwow

Posted: 12:52 am ET

 

On Sunday, the Trump Transition says that “ There will be no announcements on Secretary of State until next week at the earliest.”  Even as unnamed sources continue to tell members of the press that Tillerson is the pick, Reince Priebus who is slated to become President-elect Trump’s chief of staff cautioned that it’s a “little premature to be claiming” the secretary of state choice for the incoming Trump administration is a “done deal.”  So until the official announcement is made, which could happen tomorrow or on Friday or whenever is the season finale, it may still be open season for the secretary of state candidates.

The secretary of state nomination has to go through a confirmation hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC).  That’s a 10 GOP/9 Dems split. GOP Members include Senators Marco Rubio, Jeff Flake, and Rand Paul. If the nomination makes it out of the SFRC, it has to go through a full vote in the Senate. The 115th Congress includes 46 Democratic Senators, 2 Independents, and 52 Republican Senators.  A simple majority vote is required to get confirmation. So the Senators. Don’t forget them, particularly the Republican Senators. Makes one wonder if the leak on Tillerson as pick is a trial balloon to see what kind of reception the nomination is going to get, and what the potential confirmation fight might look like in the Senate. Also, add this to your SOS candidate trivia.  Rex Tillerson’s salary in 2015 is reportedly $27.2 million. The secretary of state’s annual salary in 2015 is $203,700.

Reactions to the potential Tillerson appointment:

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S.1635 ‘Department of State Authorities Act Fiscal Year 2017’ Marches to the Finish Line

Posted: 4:03 am ET

 

On December 5, the House passed S.1635, the authorization bill for the State Department that was previously passed by the Senate on April 28, 2016.  [On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 374-16].  The bill’s short title is now the ‘Department of State Authorities Act, Fiscal Year 2017’.  House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce said that “the House has passed an authorization bill in each of the last six Congresses, but unfortunately, it has been nearly 15 years since this legislation was signed into law.” The version of the bill passed by the House is slightly different from the version passed by the Senate this past spring. Our understanding is that the Senate will now need to approve the House changes and when that is done, the bill will go to the White House for President Obama’s signature.

Some components of DOSAA17 that the SFRC approved on April 28, 2016 for FY2017 (see SFRC Approves the Department of State Authorization Act of 2017 #DOSAA17) have made it to approved House version of S.1635, including a 3-year pilot program that provides for a lateral entry into the Foreign Service. We blogged about this previously here, herehere and here.

Section 415 which covers Security Clearance Suspension also made it to this bill with one important difference — “In order to promote the efficiency of the Service, the Secretary may suspend a member of the Service 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.” Written notice and appeals are provided for FS members but the suspension without pay language had been deleted. The bill notes that “suspend” and “suspension” means placing a member of the Foreign Service on temporary status without duties.  We blogged about this portion of the bill back in May (see @StateDept may soon get the ‘security clearance suspension without pay’ hammer, it’s a baaad idea).

Title IV—covers personnel and organizational issues including the following:

Section 401 directs the Secretary to establish and implement a prevailing wage rates goal for positions in the local compensation plan that is post-specific and “not less than the 50th percentile of the prevailing wage for comparable employment in the labor market surrounding each such post.”

Section 402 expands the Overseas Development Program from 20 positions to not fewer than 40 positions; within one year of the date of the enactment, it requires a cost/benefit analysis and allows the ODP expansion to more than 40 positions if the benefits outweigh the costs identified.

Section 403 requires that the promotion of any individual joining the Service on or after January 1, 2017, to the Senior Foreign Service shall be contingent upon such individual completing at least one tour in—‘‘(i) a global affairs bureau; or‘‘(ii) a global affairs position.

Section 405 provides for reemployment of annuitants and a waiver for annuity limitations if “there is exceptional difficulty in recruiting or retaining a qualified employee, or when a temporary emergency hiring need exists.”  That’s good news for retirees.

Section 409 provides, with exception, for non- career employees who have served for five consecutive years under a limited appointment under this section may be reappointed to a subsequent noncareer limited appointment if there is at least a one-year break in service before such new appointment. The Secretary may waive the one-year break requirement under paragraph (1) in cases of special need.’’ This is also good news for those who are on Limited Noncareer Appointments (LNAs).

Section 414 provides for Employee Assignment Restrictions. “The Secretary shall establish a right and process for employees to appeal any assignment restriction or preclusion.”

There are a couple of items that FS families would be interested in — this bill requires the Secretary, under Section 417, to submit to Congress 1) a report on workforce issues and challenges to career opportunities pertaining to tandem couples in the Foreign Service as well as couples with respect to which only one spouse is in the Foreign Service; 2) Section 714 includes an item for those with dependents who are on the autism spectrum:  “It is the sense of Congress that the Secretary should endeavor to ensure coverage and access, for dependents with ASD of overseas employees, to the therapies described in subsection (a), including through telehealth, computer software programs, or alternative means if appropriate providers are not accessible due to such employees’ placement overseas.”

Title I includes embassy security and personnel protection.

Section 103 provides for direct reporting — that the Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security report directly to the Secretary, without being required to obtain the approval or concurrence of any other official of the Department, as threats and circumstances require.

Section 104 addresses Accountability Review Board recommendations related to unsatisfactory leadership.

Section 112 address local guard contracts abroad under diplomatic security program and allows for the awarding of contracts on the basis of best value as determined by a cost-technical tradeoff analysis.

Section 117 provides that “the Secretary to the extent practicable shall station key personnel for sustained periods of time at high risk, high threat posts in order to establish institutional knowledge and situational awareness that would allow for a fuller familiarization of the local political and security environment in which such posts are located.”

Section 121 provides security training for personnel assigned to high risk, high threat posts and Section 122 states the sense of Congress regarding language requirements for diplomatic security personnel assigned to high risk, high threat post.

The bill also requires the Department of State to submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report, in classified form, that contains a list of diplomatic and consular posts designated as high risk, high threat posts. Further, it mandates monthly security briefings on embassy security including security tripwires; in coordination with the Secretary of Defense, an evaluation of available United States military assets and operational plans to respond to such posts in extremis; and personnel staffing and rotation cycles at high risk, high threat posts, among other things.

Title II is a stand alone section that covers State/ OIG and USAID/OIG. It looks like Inspector General Steve Linick got almost all the congressional requests he made back in 2015 (see OIG Steve Linick Seeks Legislative Support For Kill Switch on State Dept “Investigating Itself”).

Sec. 201. provides for competitive hiring status for former employees of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGAR).

Sec. 202. Annually for four year, the Secretary is required to submit a certification of independence of information technology systems of the Office of Inspector General of the Department of State and Broadcasting Board of Governors on files/systems managed by the State Department.

Sec. 203 provides for the protection of the integrity of internal investigations. It amends  Subsection (c) of section 209 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 (22 U.S.C. 3929) by adding at the end the following new paragraph: ‘‘(6) REQUIRED REPORTING OF ALLEGATIONS AND INVESTIGATIONS AND INSPECTOR GENERAL AUTHORITY.— “(A) IN GENERAL.—The head of a bureau, post, or other office of the Department of State (in this paragraph referred to as a ‘Department entity’) shall submit to the Inspector General a report of any allegation of—“(i) Waste, fraud, or abuse in a Department program or operation; “(ii) criminal or serious misconduct on the part of a Department employee at the FS-1, GS-15, or GM-15 level or higher; “(iii) criminal misconduct on the part of a Department employee; and “(iV) serious, noncriminal misconduct on the part of any Department employee who is authorized to carry a Weapon, make arrests, or conduct searches, such as conduct that, if proved, would constitute perjury or material dishonesty, Warrant suspension as discipline for a first offense, or result in loss of law enforcement authority. “(B) DEADLINE.—The head of a Department entity shall submit to the Inspector General a report of an allegation described in subparagraph (A) not later than five business days after the date on which the head of such Department entity is made aware of such allegation.”

Section 206 imposes restrictions on USAID/OIG salaries to limit the payment of special differentials to USAID Foreign Service criminal investigators to levels at which the aggregate of basic pay and special differential for any pay period would equal, for such criminal investigators, the bi-weekly pay limitations on premium pay regularly placed on other criminal investigators within the Federal law enforcement community. “This provision shall be retroactive to January 1, 2013.”

Title III covers international organizations. Section 301 provides for oversight of and accountability for peacekeeper abuses. Section 307. provides for whistleblower protections for United Nations personnel.

Under Title V for Consular Authorities, the bill includes Section 502 which signifies Congressional interest on U.S. passports made in the United States.

Title VI calls for the establishment of the Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission including membership, powers, and staffing.

Title VII contains miscellaneous provisions including Section 713 that directs “The Secretary shall make every effort to recruit and retain individuals that have lived, worked, or studied in predominantly Muslim countries or communities, including individuals who have studied at an Islamic institution of higher learning.” Section 707 calls for a GAO report on Department critical telecommunications equipment or services obtained from suppliers closely linked to a leading cyber-threat actor.  Section 710 address the strategy requirement to combat terrorist use of social media. And Section 712 calls for the public availability of reports on nominees to be chiefs of mission. State/HR already posts publicly the nominees’ Certificates of Competency but this provision makes clear that the posting of these certificates on a public website is a requirement “Not later than seven days after submitting the report required under section 304(a)(4) of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 (22 U.S.C. 3944(a)(4)) to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, the President shall make the report available to the public, including by posting the  report on the website of the Department in a conspicuous manner and location.” 

List of contents (this version does not appear to be available at congress.gov at this time:

TITLE I—EMBASSY SECURITY AND PERSONNEL PROTECTION

Subtitle A—Review and Planning Requirements

Sec. 101. Designation of high risk, high threat posts.
Sec. 102. Contingency plans for high risk, high threat posts.
Sec. 103. Direct reporting.
Sec. 104. Accountability Review Board recommendations related to unsatisfactory leadership.

Subtitle B—Physical Security and Personnel Requirements

Sec. 111. Capital security cost sharing program.
Sec. 112. Local guard contracts abroad under diplomatic security program.
Sec. 113. Transfer authority.
Sec. 114. Security enhancements for soft targets.
Sec. 115. Exemption from certain procurement protest procedures for non-competitive contracting in emergency circumstances.
Sec. 116. Sense of Congress regarding minimum security standards for temporary United States diplomatic and consular posts.
Sec. 117. Assignment of personnel at high risk, high threat posts.
Sec. 118. Annual report on embassy construction costs. Sec. 119. Embassy security, construction, and maintenance.

Subtitle C—Security Training

Sec. 121. Security training for personnel assigned to high risk, high threat posts.
Sec. 122. Sense of Congress regarding language requirements for diplomatic se- curity personnel assigned to high risk, high threat post.

Subtitle D—Expansion of the Marine Corps Security Guard Detachment Program

Sec. 131. Marine Corps Security Guard Program.

TITLE II—OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL OF THE DEPART- MENT OF STATE AND BROADCASTING BOARD OF GOVERNORS

Sec. 201. Competitive hiring status for former employees of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.
Sec. 202. Certification of independence of information technology systems of the Office of Inspector General of the Department of State and Broadcasting Board of Governors.
Sec. 203. Protecting the integrity of internal investigations.
Sec. 204. Report on Inspector General inspection and auditing of Foreign Service posts and bureaus and other offices of the Department. Sec. 205. Implementing GAO and OIG recommendations.
Sec. 206. Inspector General salary limitations.

TITLE III—INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

Sec. 301. Oversight of and accountability for peacekeeper abuses.
Sec. 302. Reimbursement of contributing countries.
Sec. 303. Withholding of assistance.
Sec. 304. United Nations peacekeeping assessment formula.
Sec. 305. Reimbursement or application of credits.
Sec. 306. Report on United States contributions to the United Nations relating to peacekeeping operations.
Sec. 307. Whistleblower protections for United Nations personnel.
Sec. 308. Encouraging employment of United States citizens at the United Nations.
Sec. 309. Statement of policy on Member State’s voting practices at the United Nations.
Sec. 310. Qualifications of the United Nations Secretary General.
Sec. 311. Policy regarding the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Sec. 312. Additional report on other United States contributions to the United Nations.
Sec. 313. Comparative report on peacekeeping operations.

TITLE IV—PERSONNEL AND ORGANIZATIONAL ISSUES

Sec. 401. Locally—employed staff Wages.
Sec. 402. Expansion of civil service opportunities.
Sec. 403. Promotion to the Senior Foreign Service.
Sec. 404. Lateral entry into the Foreign Service.
Sec. 405. Reemployrnent of annuitants and Workforce rightsizing.
Sec. 406. Integration of foreign economic policy.
Sec. 407. Training support services.
Sec. 408. Special agents.
Sec. 409. Limited appointments in the Foreign Service.
Sec. 410. Report on diversity recruitment, employment, retention, and promotion.
Sec. 411. Market data for cost-of-living adjustments.
Sec. 412. Technical amendment to Federal Workforce Flexibility Act.
Sec. 413. Retention of mid- and senior-level professionals from traditionally under-represented minority groups.
Sec. 414. Employee assignment restrictions.
Sec. 415. Security clearance suspensions.
Sec. 416. Sense of Congress on the integration of policies related to the participation of Women in preventing and resolving conflicts.
Sec. 417. Foreign Service families workforce study.
Sec. 418. Special envoys, representatives, advisors, and coordinators of the Department.
Sec. 419. Combating anti-Semitism.

TITLE V—CONSULAR AUTHORITIES

Sec. 501. Codification of enhanced consular immunities.
Sec. 502. Passports made in the United States.

TITLE VI—WESTERN HEMISPHERE DRUG POLICY COMMISSION

Sec. 601. Establishment.
Sec. 602. Duties.
Sec. 603. Membership.
Sec. 604. Powers.
Sec. 605. Staff.
Sec. 606. Sunset.

TITLE VII—MISCELLANE OUS PROVISIONS

Sec. 701. Foreign relations exchange programs.
Sec. 702. United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.
Sec. 703. Broadcasting Board of Governors.
Sec. 704. Rewards for Justice.
Sec. 705. Extension of period for reimbursement of seized commercial fishermen.
Sec. 706. Expansion of the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Program, the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship Program, and the Donald M. Payne International Development Fellowship Program.
Sec. 707. GAO report on Department critical telecommunications equipment or services obtained from suppliers closely linked to a leading cyber-threat actor.
Sec. 708. Implementation plan for information technology and knowledge management.
Sec. 709. Ransoms to foreign terrorist organizations.
Sec. 710. Strategy to combat terrorist use of social media.
Sec. 711. Report on Department information technology acquisition practices.
Sec. 712. Public availability of reports on nominees to be chiefs of mission.
Sec. 713. Recruitment and retention of individuals who have lived, worked, or studied in predominantly Muslim countries or communities.
Sec. 714. Sense of Congress regarding coverage of appropriate therapies for dependents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Sec. 715. Repeal of obsolete reports.
Sec. 716. Prohibition on additional funding.

(Roll no. 603). (text: CR H7160-7172)