April 27, 2010

For First Time in Five Years, Foreign Relations Committee Passes Authorization Bill

Washington, D.C.---For the first time since 2005, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today passed bipartisan legislation approving an overall budget and policy framework for the U.S. State Department, Peace Corps, and Broadcasting Board of Governors. Under the leadership of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) and Ranking Member Dick Lugar (R-IN), the Committee approved by a voice vote the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2010-11, S.2971. This legislation will increase the size of the U.S. diplomatic corps, provide vital funds and resources to international organizations, address critical pay equity issues for Foreign Service officers, and enhance our public diplomacy and consular efforts.

“This is a milestone for our Committee,” said Chairman Kerry. “This is the first time since 2005 that we have passed a State Department authorization bill. It provides our diplomats and development experts the tools and guidance needed to advance our interests and national security priorities both now and in the future. The Committee has taken an important step in fulfilling its responsibility to oversee and guide the policies of the State Department and related agencies. I hope the full Senate will take this legislation up quickly to enact these measures into law.”

In praising the Committee for passing this bill, Chairman Kerry repeated his concerns that the Administration’s request for the international affairs budget be fully funded by Congress.

This bill will:

Modernize the State Department and Builds the Capacity of U.S. Diplomacy:

  • Authorize vital programs and increases for the State Department and USAID Foreign Service corps to support key priorities around the world.
  • Address critical deficiencies in conflict prevention, mitigation and resolution training for diplomats deployed to conflict areas such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Sudan.
  • Establish an Office for Global Women’s Issues, headed by an Ambassador-at-Large, to strengthen efforts to promote gender integration and women’s and girls’ economic, social and legal development, and to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls.

Increase Accountability of Our Diplomatic and Development Programs:

  • Strengthen the Office of the Inspector General for the State Department and USAID by providing critical hiring flexibility that greatly improves their ability to compete for, recruit and retain qualified personnel, especially for difficult to fill critical priority posts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Haiti.

Strengthen U.S. Public Diplomacy:

  • Promote a reexamination of the public diplomacy strategy for the United States to include publicly accessible American Centers, clarifies authorities relating to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and enhances the contribution of scientific and technical knowledge to the pursuit of U.S. foreign policy objectives.

Renew Commitment to International Organizations and U.S. Foreign Aid Agencies:

  • Authorize funds and contributions to the United Nations, including support to peacekeeping operations in countries ranging from Haiti to Sudan.
  • Authorize U.S. reengagement with the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the oldest parliamentary association in the world.
  • Provide important policy fixes for the Millennium Challenge Corporation, including clarifying the eligibility criteria for qualifying countries, so it can better fulfill its mission of fighting poverty and fostering sustainable economic growth in the poorest countries around the world.
  • Provide authorities to ensure USAID can support community policing efforts, combat trafficking in persons, reduce corruption, prevent conflict, and respond to disasters in countries around the world.