Washington, D.C. – Tonight the House of Representatives passed the State Department Authorities Act (S. 1635), legislation initiated by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA).  The bipartisan bill strengthens embassy security, bolsters oversight, and advances much-needed reforms at the State Department.

On the House floor prior to the vote, Chairman Royce delivered the following remarks (as prepared for delivery):

“To begin, I’d like to recognize Ranking Member Engel – and indeed, all the Members of the Committee – for their work on this important piece of legislation to protect U.S. personnel overseas, improve oversight of the Department of State and modernize its workforce.

The world isn’t getting any easier for the men and women we send overseas.  State Department personnel, working with many other agencies – including the Defense Department – have a wide range of very important responsibilities. They try to broker peace agreements, fight human trafficking and help fellow Americans in distress – to name a few.  They work hard, often in very challenging, even life-threatening circumstances.  They deserve our support, which includes reforming a Department that badly needs modernizing.

Mr. Speaker – the annual authorization of the Department of State is critical to maintaining Congressional oversight and making these needed agency reforms.  The House has passed an authorization bill in each of the last six Congresses, but unfortunately, it has been nearly 15 years since this legislation was signed into law.  This year, we have an opportunity to break that unfortunate streak, which makes this legislation all the more important.

First and foremost, this bill includes a number of critical embassy security reforms and improvements.

  • For example, the Department will be authorized to use so-called “best value” criteria when contracting for local guards at U.S. facilities overseas. This authority has consistently been requested by the professionals overseeing the security at our Embassies, and has been a particular focus of two members of the Committee: Ms. Frankel and Mr. Weber.
  • The bill requires the State Department to designate a list of high-risk, high-threat posts, effectively prioritizing resources and security for these posts.
  • The State Department and Defense Department are directed to jointly develop enhanced contingency plans for emergency situations, including planning for the rapid deployment of military resources to keep our personnel safe in times of crisis.
  • It includes important provisions that improve security for the children and families of U.S. diplomats abroad.
  • And it makes sure that security failures due to misconduct and unsatisfactory performance are identified and those responsible are held accountable – something that did not happen when it came to the Islamist terrorist attack in Benghazi.

The bill also contains important provisions to increase accountability for sexual exploitation and abuse by U.N. peacekeepers, which the Foreign Affairs Committee has helped expose through hearings by Chairman Chris Smith.

It also increases transparency for how U.S. funds are spent at the United Nations, and mandates that the Department work to increase the number of American citizens employed by the United Nations – a focus of Mr. Brooks.

We’ve also included important provisions to bolster the State Department’s Inspector General – an office that the Foreign Affairs Committee successfully fought to have filled after sitting vacant for five years.

Lastly, the bill increases flexibility in the Department’s workforce, allowing civil servants more opportunities to serve overseas, and authorizing a pilot program to acquire skilled workers from the private sector.

S.1635 is a strengthened and important product; a bipartisan bill that improves Congressional oversight of the Department.  It deserves unanimous support.”