Congress Sends President Obama First State Department Authorization in 14 Years

Posted: 1:21 am ET
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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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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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Congress to require @StateDept to report on diversity recruitment, employment, retention, and promotion

Posted: 12:12  am ET
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About time, too!

For years we’re been looking at the State Department to make available publicly its diversity statistics, most particularly the gender and race component of its promotion statistics (see related posts below). Somebody from Secretary Kerry’s office once told us he would look into it and then we never heard anything back despite periodic reminders.  For whatever reason, the State Department has no interest to make its gender and race promotion statistics available publicly. Data is available annually, but it remains behind the firewall. Which is rather curious.

Congress has now included a reporting requirement for the State Department’s diversity recruitment, employment, retention, and promotion.  The requirement is included in S.1635 Department of State Operations Authorization and Embassy Security Act, Fiscal Year 2016 which was passed by the Senate by unanimous consent on April 28, 2016. (See Whoa! Senate Passes @StateDept Operations Authorization and Embassy Security Act, FY2016). Since this reporting requirement is mandated by Congress, if this becomes law, the promotion stats, can no longer be shielded behind the firewall.  The report has to be submitted no later than 180 days after the Act is enacted, and the information required includes the 3 fiscal years immediately preceding the fiscal year in which the report is submitted.

Sec. 218. Report on diversity recruitment, employment, retention, and promotion.

(a) In General.–Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and quadrennially thereafter, the Secretary of State shall submit a comprehensive report to Congress that–

(1) describes the efforts, consistent with existing law, including procedures, effects, and results of the Department since the period covered by the prior such report, to promote equal opportunity and inclusion for all American employees in direct hire and personal service contractors status, particularly employees of the Foreign Service, to include equal opportunity for all races, ethnicities, ages, genders, and service-disabled veterans, with a focus on traditionally underrepresented minority groups;

(2) includes a section on–

(A) the diversity of selection boards;

(B) the employment of minority and service-disabled veterans during the most recent 10-year period, including–

(i) the number hired through direct hires, internships, and fellowship programs;

(ii) the number promoted to senior positions, including FS-01, GS-15, Senior Executive Service, and Senior Foreign Service; and

(iii) attrition rates by grade, civil and foreign services, and the senior level ranks listed in clause (ii);

(C) mentorship and retention programs; and

(3) is organized in terms of real numbers and percentages at all levels.

(b) Contents.–Each report submitted under subsection (a) shall describe the efforts of the Department–

[[Page S2590]]

(1) to propagate fairness, impartiality, and inclusion in the work environment domestically and abroad;

(2) to eradicate harassment, intolerance, and discrimination;

(3) to refrain from engaging in unlawful discrimination in any phase of the employment process, including recruitment, hiring, evaluation, assignments, promotion, retention, and training;

(4) to eliminate illegal retaliation against employees for participating in a protected equal employment opportunity activity;

(5) to provide reasonable accommodation for qualified employees and applicants with disabilities;

(6) to resolve workplace conflicts, confrontations, and complaints in a prompt, impartial, constructive, and timely manner;

(7) to improve demographic data availability and analysis regarding recruitment, hiring, promotion, training, length in service, assignment restrictions, and pass-through programs;

(8) to recruit a diverse staff by–

(A) recruiting women, minorities, veterans, and undergraduate and graduate students;

(B) recruiting at historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic serving institutions, women’s colleges, and colleges that typically serve majority minority populations;

(C) sponsoring and recruiting at job fairs in urban communities;

(D) placing job advertisements in newspapers, magazines, and job sites oriented toward women and people of color;

(E) providing opportunities through the Foreign Service Internship Program and other hiring initiatives; and

(F) recruiting mid- and senior-level professionals through programs such as–

(i) the International Career Advancement Program;

(ii) the Public Policy and International Affairs Fellowship Program;

(iii) the Institute for International Public Policy Fellowship Program;

(iv) Seminar XXI at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for International Studies; and

(v) other similar, highly respected, international leadership programs; and

(9) to provide opportunities through–

(A) the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship Program;

(B) the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship Program; and

(C) the Donald M. Payne International Development Fellowship Program.

(c) Scope of Initial Report.–The first report submitted to Congress under this section shall include the information described in subsection (b) for the 3 fiscal years immediately preceding the fiscal year in which the report is submitted.

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(S.1635) Sec. 604. Protecting the Integrity of Internal Investigations #DOSAA16

Posted: 12:44 am PT
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S.1635 Department of State Operations Authorization and Embassy Security Act, Fiscal Year 2016 passed the Senate by unanimous consent on April 28, 2016. (See Whoa! Senate Passes @StateDept Operations Authorization and Embassy Security Act, FY2016).  The House needs to pass it as well, and we haven’t been able to find the House bill.  However, on April 29, the Senate did send a message to the House requesting its concurrence to the FY16 authorization bill.  The bill is currently held at the desk for floor action; it doesn’t look like the House will be back in session until May 10.

Read the bill via congressional record in PDF or as TEXT here. Below is the section on protecting the integrity of internal investigations and reporting requirements from State Department bureaus, posts and offices to the Office of Inspector General. Note the provisions on investigations as they relate to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security:

 

SEC. 604. PROTECTING THE INTEGRITY OF INTERNAL INVESTIGATIONS.

Section 209(c)(5) of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 (22 U.S.C. 3929(c)(5)) is amended by inserting at the end the following new subparagraph:

“(C) Required reporting of allegations and investigations and inspector general authority.–

“(i) In general.–Each bureau, post or other office (in this subparagraph, an `entity’) of the Department of State shall, within five business days, report to the Inspector General any allegations 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, GM-15 level or higher;

“(III) criminal misconduct on the part of any Department employee; and

“(IV) serious, noncriminal misconduct on the part of any individual 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.

“(ii) Inspector general authority.–The Inspector General may, pursuant to existing authority, investigate matters covered by clause (i).

“(iii) Limitation on investigations outside of office of inspector general.–No entity in the Department of State with concurrent jurisdiction over matters covered by clause (i), including the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, may initiate an investigation of such matter unless it has first reported the allegations to the Inspector General as required by clause (i), except as provided in clause (v) and (vi).

“(iv) Cooperation.–If an entity in the Department of State initiates an investigation of a matter covered in clause (i) the entity must, except as provided in clause (v), fully cooperate with the Inspector General, including–

“(I) by providing to the Inspector General all data and records obtained in connection with its investigation upon request of the Inspector General;

“(II) by coordinating, at the request of the Inspector General, such entity’s investigation with the Inspector General; and

“(III) by providing to the Inspector General requested support in aid of the Inspector General’s oversight and investigative responsibilities.

“(v) Exceptions.–The Inspector General may prescribe general rules under which any requirement of clause (iii) or clause (iv) may be dispensed with.

“(vi) Exigent circumstances.–Compliance with clauses (i), (iii), and (iv) of this subparagraph may be dispensed with by an entity of the Department of State if complying with them in an exigent circumstance would pose an imminent threat to human life, health or safety, or result in the irretrievable loss or destruction of critical evidence or witness testimony, in which case a report of the allegation shall be made not later than 48 hours after an entity begins an investigation under the authority of this clause and cooperation required under clause (iv) shall commence not later than 48 hours after the relevant exigent circumstance has ended.

“(vii) Rule of construction.–Nothing in this subparagraph may be interpreted to affect any duty or authority of the Inspector General under any provision of law, including the Inspector General’s duties or authorities under the Inspector General Act.”.

The bill’s other provisions related to the OIG and SIGAR are below:

Sec. 602. Competitive hiring status for former employees of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.
Sec. 603. Assurance of independence of IT systems.

Sec. 604. Protecting the integrity of internal investigations.

Sec. 605. Report on Inspector General inspection and auditing of Foreign Service posts and bureaus and operating units Department of State.

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Whoa! Senate Passes @StateDept Operations Authorization and Embassy Security Act, FY2016

Posted: 5:06 pm PT
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Our source on the Hill says a lot of folks missed in the excitement of Roberta Jacobson’s confirmation that the Senate also voted on the FY2016 State Department authorization bill.  We were told that a lot of folks were surprised to see the FY16 bill revived this late (yours truly included) in the fiscal year but that it was wrapped up in the deal that resulted in Rubio lifting his hold on Jacobson.

We actually did look up the FY2016 bill last night on congress.gov but it did not show the latest action when we blogged about the authorization bills. In any case, yes, S.1635 – Department of State Operations Authorization and Embassy Security Act, Fiscal Year 2016 also passed the Senate with amendments by unanimous consent on April 28, 2016.  The topics under the related posts below remain in the FY2016 authorization bill. The FY2017 authorization bill that the SFRC passed yesterday is currently pending in the Senate.

Read below (please scroll) or click here from the Congressional Record.

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