WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, today released the following statement after Congress passed a State Department Authorization bill for the first time in nearly two decades. Championed by Chairman Menendez, the legislation to provide authorities for State Department operations was included as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022, which the Senate passed today. As it heads to President Biden’s desk, this will be the first State Department authorization bill to be signed into law since 2002.
“Passage of the first State Authorization bill in nearly two decades marks a historic turning point in our effort to return diplomacy and values to the center of U.S. foreign policy and national security. This legislation represents the resounding bipartisan support for the State Department’s critical diplomatic and development work, which was relentlessly undermined in the last administration.
“This bill provides the necessary authorities to help strengthen and rebuild the State Department so it can more effectively carry out America’s foreign policy. It includes crucial provisions to strengthen authorities for Department bureaus; reaffirms the Senate’s constitutional role in providing advice and consent for key positions; provides additional training and assignment opportunities for State personnel; improves embassy security and construction; enhances information security capacity; augments public diplomacy efforts; and bolsters Congressional oversight on critical issues like international child abductions and COVID-19 repatriation efforts.
“Critically, the bill also includes important language that I authored to ensure that diversity and inclusion issues are integrated into the agency’s personnel practices so that the State Department can better draw on the unique strength that our nation’s diversity provides. As there is more work to be done, I will also be introducing a more comprehensive State Department diversity bill this week to build on the provisions in this package.
“Particularly after the challenges in recent years, it is important that the hardworking career professionals of the State Department, who put their lives on the line to carry out the important work of protecting our nation and advocating for our values, know that there is bipartisan support in Congress for their work and sacrifices. To that end, I deeply appreciate the partnership of the Ranking Member, Senator Risch, in helping get this bill passed.”
Earlier this year, Chairman Menendez convened a full Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the state of the State Department and State Department authorization with testimony from the Honorable Brian McKeon, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources.
Click HERE for a of the Department of State Authorization Act of 2021. Key provision of the legislation include:
Organization and Operation of the Department of State
- Codifies the roles and functions of the Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs; Bureau of Consular Affairs; and the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.
- Enhances the constitutional role of the Senate in providing advice and consent over certain key positions, including special envoys
- Improves the Department’s anti-piracy information sharing.
- Requires the State Department to report on and justify unimplemented GAO recommendations.
- Authorizes $20,000,000 to help enhance the State Department’s ability to construct, operate, and participate in international fairs and expositions abroad.
- Authorizes $1,983,149,000 for Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance for Fiscal Year 2022.
- Requires improved competition in embassy construction, contractor performance evaluation, capital construction transparency and long-term planning process for building and maintaining new diplomatic posts and reexamining America’s overseas diplomatic footprint.
- Ensures that information on the current threat environment is provided to U.S. Government personnel traveling overseas on official business—prior to their arrival, to the extent practicable.
- Requires a strategic staffing plan for the State Department.
- Requires study on Foreign Service allowances.
- Authorizes the State Department to make grants or enter into cooperative agreements related to Department science and technology fellowship programs.
- Streamlines possible recall and reemployment of tenured Foreign Service officers.
- Makes the permissive authority for incentive payments to hardship posts permanent.
- Requires the Department of State to make explicit in writing to all employees that any personnel who fail to comply with requests for interview or access to documents from the Office of the Inspector General may be subject to administrative discipline.
Recruitment, Retention, and Promotion of a Diverse Workforce
- Encourages the Department to recruit a diverse workforce by preparing a diversity recruitment plan, recruiting at minority-serving institutions and job fairs in urban and rural communities, and providing opportunities through leadership programs and international affairs organizations dedicated to shared diversity goals.
- Requires the Department to offer departing employees exit interviews and analyze the results for the impact on diversity.
- Expands anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training and makes such expanded training mandatory for senior/supervisory officials and officials with personnel-related responsibilities.
- Requires the Secretary to implement performance and advancement requirements that reward and recognize senior management efforts to promote diversity and inclusion.
- Authorizes the Secretary to approve additional external career advancement and professional development opportunities.
- Requires the Department to develop and maintain a list in coordination with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence of contractors that have knowingly participated in a cyberattack or surveillance against the U.S. on behalf of a cyber threat actor, or against for individuals for the purposes of suppressing dissent on behalf of a country included in the annual country reports on human rights practices for systematic acts of political repression.
- Establishes a Director of Research and Evaluation with budget authority and responsibility for directing and coordinating all State Department public diplomacy research and evaluation activities.
- Requires collecting, analyzing, and disseminating information on the impact on public diplomacy activities in the construction of new embassy compounds that will result in the closure of an American Space.