March 08, 2016

Corker Presents Priorities for State Department Authorization Bill

WASHINGTON – During a hearing to discuss reauthorization of the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today presented some of his priorities for improving the oversight, accountability and effectiveness of U.S. diplomacy abroad. Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom testified on behalf of the Obama administration.

“As chairman, one of my priorities has been to revive the State Department reauthorization process,” said Corker. “I think it is a critical oversight tool and a healthy exercise to take an annual look at authorities that need updating. We passed an authorization bill out of committee unanimously last year, for the first time in five years, and we hope to build upon that progress with another bipartisan bill for Fiscal Year 2017.”

Last year in response to persistent reports of sexual abuse and exploitation being perpetrated by United Nations (U.N.) peacekeepers, Senator Corker sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging the administration to advocate for specific reforms at the United Nations. Today Corker reiterated those proposals in addition to urging for greater financial burden sharing among countries that contribute to peacekeeping missions.

“We need to use our influence at the U.N. to fight this impunity: to insist on onsite courts-martial, standing claims commissions for each peacekeeping operation, refusal to deploy peacekeepers from countries that do not take charges of abuse seriously, and whatever else it takes to root this abuse out,” said Corker. “The U.S. now pays close to 30 percent of the U.N. peacekeeping budget, which is more than the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council combined. I would not call that burden sharing, and I think there’s consensus around here that we would like to look at that.”

Turning to State Department operations, Corker called for ways to eliminate vulnerabilities in the department’s handling of classified information.

“I am also concerned by the apparent systemic issues with improper handling of classified information at the State Department that have come to light recently,” said Corker. “If some of your cleared employees are struggling with the proper handling and safeguarding of classified information, which appears to be the case, then we view it as our duty to set up the training and accountability systems necessary to fix this problem.”

Corker’s additional recommendations for a State Department Authorization bill include creating a more transparent and effective incentive payment system for diplomatic personnel who serve in less desirable posts and fixing flaws in the consular fee structure so the issuance of passports and visas operate as a self-sustaining enterprise.

For full proceedings and testimony from today’s hearing, visit: http://1.usa.gov/1U1olD8.

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