This bill — the Department of State Authorization Act of 2019 — contains various provisions to strengthen management and operations at the State Dept. They include: 1) measures to recruit and retain a diverse workforce, 2) bolster embassy and information security and 3) improve State’s ability to carry out public diplomacy, anti-corruption activities and security assistance. This bill also authorizes activities and positions in a number of key State Dept. bureaus and offices; authorizes funding for embassy security, construction and maintenance; and addresses public diplomacy programs. This bill’s key provisions are detailed below:
This bill would state Congress's sense that U.S. global engagement, as carried out by the State Dept, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and related agencies, is key to a stable and prosperous world. It would also state Congress's sense that the State Dept. and USAID make the U.S. and the world safer by alleviating global poverty and hunger, fighting HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, strengthening alliances, expanding educational opportunities for women and girls, promoting good governance and democracy, supporting anti-corruption efforts, driving economic development and trade, preventing armed conflicts and humanitarian crises and creating American jobs and export opportunities.
New Assistant Secretaries at the State Dept.: This bill would create three new Assistant Secretaries at the State Dept. including an Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; an Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the State Dept; and an Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources.
New Bureaus: This bill would create a Bureau of Consular Affairs, to be headed by the Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs. It would also create a Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration to be headed by the Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration.
New Offices: This bill would create two new offices at the State Dept.: an Office of International Disability Rights and an Office of Global Women’s Issues.
The Office of International Disability Rights would be responsible for: 1) ensuring that all U.S. foreign operations and accessible to and inclusive of persons with disabilities; 2) promoting all persons with disabilities’ human rights and full participation in international development activities; and 3) promoting disability-inclusive practices and State Dept. staff on soliciting quality programs that are fully inclusive of people with disabilities.
The Office of Global Women’s Issues would coordinate the U.S. government’s efforts regarding gender equality and advancing the status of women and girls in U.S. foreign policy. The Office would be responsible for:
- Serving as the principal advisor to the Secretary of State regarding gender equality, women’s and girls’ empowerment, and violence against women and girls as a priority in U.S. foreign policy;
- Representing the U.S. in diplomatic and multilateral events on matters relevant to the status of women and girls;
- Advising the Secretary of State and providing input on activities, policies, programs and funding relating to gender equality and the advancement of women and girls internationally for all bureaus and offices at the State Dept. and other federal agencies’ international programs;
- Working to ensure that efforts to advance gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment are fully integrated into State Dept. bureaus and offices and other federal agencies’ international programs; and
- Conducting regular consultations with civil society organizations working to advance gender equality and empower women and girls internationally.
Special Appointments: This bill would require the Secretary of State to submit a report to Congress on special envoys, special representatives, special coordinators, special negotiators, envoys, representatives, coordinators, special advisors and other similar positions at the State Dept. within 30 days of this bill’s enactment. The report would also include recommendations on whether to maintain each such position.
Embassy Security, Construction and Maintenance: This bill would authorize just shy of $2 billion for embassy security, construction and maintenance in FY 2020. It would also express Congress's sense that the State Dept.’s Bureau of Overseas Building Operations (OBO) or successor office should give appropriate consideration to Standard Embassy Design, in which each new U.S. embassy and consulate starts with a standard design and minimizes customization.
To ensure overseas capital construction projects’ costs are transparent, this bill would amend a current annual report on embassy construction costs to a quarterly report. As a further transparency measure, it would also require the Secretary of State to complete all contractor performance evaluations by October 1, 2021.
For new embassies and new consulate compound projects, the Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing, and Innovation at the State Dept. would be required to project growth over the estimated life of the facility using all available and relevant data. Additionally, the head of each federal agency represented at a U.S. embassy or consulate would be required to provide the Secretary of State with growth projections for their agency’s personnel over the estimated life of each embassy or consulate.
To help ensure embassies’ security, the Secretary of State would be required to provide information on 1) requests for security upgrades made by U.S. diplomatic posts and 2) significant security declines at U.S. diplomatic posts not operating out of a new embassy compound or new consulate compound upon Congressional requests.
Within a year after this bill’s implementation, the Secretary of State would be required to revise the Foreign Affairs Manual to stipulate that information on the current threat environment shall be provided to all U.S. government employees under chief of mission authority traveling to a foreign country on official business. To the extent practicable, this information shall be provided to employees before arrival at a U.S. diplomatic post, or as soon as possible thereafter.
Defense Base Act Insurance Waiver: No more than 30 days after this bill’s enactment, the Secretary of State would be required to apply to the Dept. of Labor (DOL) for a waiver from insurance requirements under the Defense Base Act for all countries with respect to which the waiver wasn’t waived prior to January 2017, and for which there isn’t currently a waiver.
Study on Foreign Service Allowances: The Secretary of State would be required to submit a report to the appropriate Congressional committees on the effect of overseas allowances on the foreign assignment of Foreign Service officers (FSOs). This study, which is to be conducted by a federally-funded research and development center with appropriate expertise in labor economics and military compensation, would:
- Identify all allowances paid to FSOs assigned permanently or on temporary duty to foreign areas;
- Examine the efficiency of the Foreign Service bidding system in determining foreign assignments;
- Examine the factors that incentivize FSOs to bid on particular assignments, including danger levels and hardship conditions;
- Examine the Department’s strategy and process for incentivizing FSOs to bid on assignments that are historically in lower demand, including with monetary compensation, and whether monetary compensation is necessary for assignments in higher demand;
- Make any relevant comparisons to military compensation and allowances, noting which allowances are shared or based on the same regulations;
- Recommend options for restructuring allowances to improve the efficiency of the assignments system and better align FSO incentives with the needs of the Foreign Service, including any cost savings associated with such restructuring;
- Recommend any statutory changes necessary to restructuring allowances, such as consolidating existing legal authorities for the provision of hardship and danger pay; and
- Detail any effects of recommendations made pursuant to the previous points on other U.S. government departments and agencies with civilian employees permanently assigned or on temporary duty in foreign areas, following consultation with such departments and agencies.
Science and Technology Fellowships: This bill would amend the Foreign Relations Act to allow the Secretary of State to make grants or enter into cooperative agreements related to Dept. of State science and technology fellowship programs. The total amount of grants made pursuant to this subsection may not exceed $500,000 in any fiscal year.
Congressional Support for Certain Fellowship Programs: This bill would express the sense of Congress that State Dept. fellowships promoting the employment of candidates in certain under-represented groups, including the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Graduate Fellowship Program, the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship Program, and the Donald M. Payne International Development Fellowship Program, are smart investments vital for building a strong, capable, and representative national security workforce.
Specific to the Payne Program, this bill would also authorize undergraduate and graduate components of the program to conduct outreach to attract outstanding students with an interest in pursuing a Foreign Service career who represent diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Employee Recruitment Through Diplomatic Programs and From Veterans: This bill would express Congress's sense that the Secretary of State should continue holding entry-level classes for Foreign Service officers and specialists and continue recruiting civil servants through programs such as the Presidential Management Fellows Program and Pathways Internship programs.
Similarly, this bill would express Congress's sense that the State Dept. should continue promoting veterans’ employment at the Department.
Employee Assignment Restrictions and Preclusions: This bill expresses Congress's sense that the State Dept. should expand the appeals process for employees related to assignment preclusions and restrictions.
Efforts to Promote a Diverse Workforce: To promote a diverse workforce at the State Dept., this bill would require the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Direct of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to submit a report to the appropriate Congressional committees with the disaggregated demographic data and other information regarding the diversity of the workforce at the Department.
The report would include data on:
- Demographic data on each element of the State Dept.’s workforce, disaggregated by rank and grade or grade-equivalent, with respect to: applicants to the State Dept.; hires; individuals promoted during the two-year period ending on the date of this bill’s enactment; individuals serving on applicable selection boards; members of any external advisory committee or board who are subject to appointment at senior positions at State; participation in the department’s professional development programs; participation in mentorship or retention programs; and individuals who are separated from the agency during the two-year period ending on the date of this bill’s enactment;
- An assessment of agency compliance with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Management Directive 715; and
- The overall number of individuals who are part of the workforce, the percentages of such workforce corresponding to each element listed in the first bullet point of this list and the percentages corresponding to each rank, grade, or grade-equivalent.
The report would also describe the State Dept.’s efforts to:
- Propagate fairness, impartiality, and inclusion in the work environment, both domestically and abroad;
- Enforce anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies;
- Refrain from engaging in unlawful discrimination in any phase of the employment process, including recruitment, hiring, evaluation, assignments, promotion, retention, and training;
- Prevent illegal retaliation against employees for participating in a protected equal employment opportunity activity;
- Provide reasonable accommodation for qualified employees and applicants with disabilities; and
- Recruit a representative workforce through recruitment outreach and agency-wide policy initiatives.
Interviews With Workforce: To better understand the State Dept.’s workforce, this bill would require the Director General of the Foreign Service and the Director of Human Resources at the State Dept. to conduct periodic interviews with a representative and diverse cross-section of the Dept.’s retained workforce in order to 1) understand interviewees’ reasons for staying at the State Dept. and 2) receive feedback on workplace policies, professional development opportunities, and other issues affecting individuals’ decisions to remain at the State Dept.
To understand why people leave the State Dept., this bill would require the Director General of the Foreign Service and the Director of Human Resources at the State Dept. to provide an opportunity for an exit interview to each individual in the State Dept. workforce who leaves the department.
The Director General of the Foreign Service and the Director of Human Resources at the State Dept. would analyze demographic data and other information obtained through their interviews to determine 1) to what extent, if any, the diversity of those participating in such interviews impacts the results and 2) whether to implement any policy changes or include any recommendations in a report.
The State Dept. would be required to track its employees’ demographic data and annually evaluate the data to 1) identify ways to improve program outreach and recruitment; 2) understand the extent to which participation in any professional development program offered or sponsored by the Department differs among the demographic categories of the workforce; and 3) actively encourage participation from a range of demographic categories, especially from categories with consistently low participation, in such professional development programs.
Recruitment and Retention: The Secretary of State would be required to 1) continue seeking a diverse and talented pool of applicants and 2) instruct the Director General of the Foreign Service and the Director of the Bureau of Human Resources at the State Dept. to create a recruitment plan for recruiting people from traditionally under-represented groups.
Through the Foreign Service Institute, the Secretary of State shall also expand training and educational opportunities to focus on anti-harassment and anti-discrimination information and policies.
Anti-Piracy Information Sharing: This bill would authorize the Secretary of State to provide for the United States’ participation in the Information Sharing Centre in Singapore, as established by the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP)
Expression of Foreign Affairs Training’s Importance to International Security: This bill would express Congress's sense that the State Dept. is a crucial national security agency whose employees require the best possible training at every stage of their careers to prepare them to promote the United States’ national interests and U.S. citizens’ health and safety abroad. It would also express Congress's sense that 1) the Secretary of State should explore establishing a “training float” requiring a certain percentage of the Foreign Service should be in long-term training at any given time; 2) the Foreign Service Institute should seek to substantially increase its educational and training offerings to State Dept. personnel; and 3) the State Dept. and Foreign Service Institute should seek and accept funds and other resources from foundations, not-for-profit corporations and other appropriate sources (including private funding, which is explicitly authorized), to help the State Dept. and the Institute accomplish their goals.
Security Assistance Reform: This bill would direct the Secretary of State to establish a Working Group on matters relating to security assistance. This group would be composed of the Deputy Secretary of State and each Under Secretary of State responsible for matters relating to security assistance, and would meet on a quarterly basis.
Its duties within the State Dept. and across U.S. diplomatic posts would be to 1) provide strategic policy guidance on objectives and priorities for security assistance; 2) ensure strategic integration of budgets and planning for security assistance; and 3) advise the Secretary on all budgets, programs, and activities for security assistance. Additionally, it would oversee State Dept. coordination with the Secretary of Defense, USAID Administrator and heads of other relevant federal departments and agencies on all matters relating to security assistance.
Additionally, no more than a year after this bill’s enactment, the Secretary of State would designated an existing office or establish a new office to be the Office of Security Assistance, which would report to an Under Secretary who is a member of the Working Group and be headed by a Coordinator for Security Assistance. This office would be responsible for coordinating security assistance within the State Dept., between federal agencies and within U.S. diplomatic posts.
No more than two years after this bill’s enactment, the Secretary of State, in coordination with the Secretary of Defense and other appropriate federal departments and agencies, would begin maintaining a common database of information to permit the identification of security assistance programs, funding and transfers by recipient country.
Foreign Military Assistance: This bill would increase funds to the State Dept. for foreign military assistance and increase the maximum allowable monetary value of such transfers. It would also amend the Arms Control Export Act to allow military sales for the internal anti-terrorism purposes.
This bill would extend the War Reserve Stockpile’s authority through 2021.
This bill would amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to withhold assistance to foreign security forces that engaged in sexual exploitation or abuse while carrying out peacekeeping operations or governments supporting international terrorism.
United States Diplomacy Center: This bill would authorize the Secretary of State to provide contracts, grants or other agreements for museum exhibits, educational outreach services and related events for U.S. diplomacy purposes. The Secretary would be authorized to recover revenues generated through these events and offerings through fees for use of facilities at a center for U.S. diplomacy.
Extension of Reimbursement Period for Fishermen for Costs Incurred by Illegal Seizure and Detention of U.S.-Flag Fishing Vessels by Foreign Governments: This bill would extend the reimbursement period for fishermen whose U.S.-flag-bearing fishing vessels were illegally seized and detained by foreign governments to seek reimbursement from the U.S. government.
Art in Embassies: This bill would prohibit the purchase of art priced at over $50,000 for installation of display in a U.S. embassy, consulate or other foreign mission. This includes paintings, sculptures, photographs, industrial design and craft art. It would also require a report from the Secretary of State to Congress on the Art in Embassies Program’s costs in fiscal years 2012, 2013 and 2014 within 90 days of this bill’s enactment.
Information Security: This bill would require the Secretary of State to establish for conducting semiannual information security consultations with the Secretary of Defense, Director of National Intelligence, Secretary of Homeland Security and any other relevant department of agency. In coordination with these consultations, the Secretary would also commission independent semiannual penetration tests, to be carried out by an appropriate federal department or agency (such as the Dept. of Homeland Security or the National Security Agency) to ensure that adequate policies and protections are implemented to detect and prevent penetrations or compromises of State Dept. information systems, including malicious intrusions by any unauthorized individual, state actor, or other entity.
As a further protection for State Dept. IT, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, would be responsible for developing, maintaining and updating a list of covered contractors whom they may not enter into contracts with.
Preserving Electronic Communications Records: This bill expresses Congress's sense that all officers and employees of the State Dept. and USAID must preserve all records of communications conducted in their official capacities or related to their official duties with entities outside of the U.S. government.
Public Diplomacy Modernization: This bill would direct the Secretary of State to 1) identify opportunities for greater operational efficiency, including through improved coordination of efforts, across public diplomacy bureaus and offices of the State Dept. and 2) maximize shared resource use between and within public diplomacy bureaus and offices when their programs, facilities or administrative functions are duplicative or substantially overlapping.
Additionally, the Secretary of State would be directed to conduct regular research on and evaluation of public diplomacy programs and activities at the State Dept. This research would include the routine use of audience research, digital analytics, and impact evaluations.
To help in evaluating public diplomacy programs, the Secretary of State would be directed to appoint a Director or Research and Evaluation in the Office of Policy, Planning, and Resources for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs of the Department. This person would be responsible for:
- Coordinating and overseeing the research and evaluation of public diplomacy programs and State Dept. activities;
- Routinely organizing and overseeing audience research, digital analytics and impact evaluations across all public diplomacy bureaus and State Dept. offices;
- Supporting U.S. diplomatic posts’ public affairs sections; sharing appropriate public diplomacy research and evaluation information within the State Dept. and with other appropriate federal departments and agencies;
- Regularly designing and coordinating standardized research questions, methodologies, and procedures to ensure that public diplomacy programs and activities across all public diplomacy bureaus and offices are designed to meet appropriate foreign policy objectives; and
- Reporting biannually to the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, through the Subcommittee on Research and Evaluation, regarding the research and evaluation of all public diplomacy bureaus and offices.
This bill would also permanently reauthorize the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.
Finally, this bill would direct the Secretary of State to adopt and include in the Foreign Affairs Manual guidelines for collecting and utilizing information from each diplomatic post at which the construction of a new embassy compound or new consulate compound would result in the closure or co-location of an American Space, American Center, American Corner, or any other public diplomacy facility under the Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act of 1999.
Combating Public Corruption: This bill would express Congress's sense that it’s in the United States’ foreign policy interest to help foreign countries promote good governance and combat public corruption. Therefore, it would direct the Secretary of State to assess foreign governments’ capacity and commitment to combat public corruption in each of the fiscal years 2020 through 2026. Such assessment would:
- Utilize independent, third-party indicators that measure transparency, accountability, and corruption in the public sector in such countries, including the extent to which public power is exercised for private gain, to identify those countries that are most vulnerable to public corruption;
- Consider, to the extent reliable information is available, whether the government in each country assessed its anti-corruption laws and enforcement efforts.
Further, the report would consider:
- Verifiable measures taken by each assessed country’s government to prohibit government officials from participating in, facilitating, or condoning public corruption;
- The extent to which each government provides access to or makes adequate resources available to civil society organizations and other institutions to combat public corruption, including reporting, investigating, and monitoring;
- The extent to which an independent judiciary or judicial body in each country is responsible for, and effectively capable of, deciding public corruption cases impartially, without any improper restrictions, influences, inducements, pressures, threats, or interferences; and
- The extent to which each government is assisting in international probes of transnational public corruption networks and protecting victims of public corruption and whistleblowers who’ve helped expose corruption.
After conducting their assessment, the Secretary of State would identify the countries that are:
- Meeting minimum standards to combat public corruption;
- Not meeting such minimum standards but making significant efforts to do so; and
- Neither meeting such minimum standards nor making significant efforts to do so.
For each country identified in their report, the Secretary of State would work with the USAID Administrator to 1) ensure that a corruption risk assessment and mitigation strategy is included in the integrated country strategy for such country and 2) utilize appropriate mechanisms to combat corruption in such countries. Additionally, the Secretary would annually designated an anti-corruption point of contact at the U.S. diplomatic post in each country. This person would be responsible for coordinating and overseeing implementation of a whole-of-government approach among relevant parties to promote good governance and enhance each country’s ability to combat public corruption.