Washington, D.C. – Today, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, chaired by Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), passed, as amended, the Department of State Operations Authorization and Embassy Security Act (S. 1635).  The legislation authorizes critical embassy security enhancements to protect U.S. personnel overseas, improves Committee and Inspector General oversight of the State Department, and streamlines and modernizes key aspects of the Department’s bureaucracy.

[A summary of today’s Committee action, including adopted amendments, will be available HERE.]

In remarks prior to passage of S. 1635, as amended, Chairman Royce said:  “The annual authorization of the Department of State is the signature legislative action of this Committee.  It is our responsibility. The House has passed an authorization bill in each of the last six Congresses – but unfortunately it’s been 15 years since this legislation was signed into law.  We have an opportunity to break this unfortunate streak.

“From improving oversight capacity of the Inspector General – an office this Committee successfully fought to have filled after sitting vacant for five years – to strengthening embassy security, today’s legislation improves the Committee’s ability to influence the agenda and activities of the Department of State.

“As a result of contributions from many members, this is a strengthened and important product; a bipartisan bill that bolsters this Committee’s role as overseer of State Department operations.  I look forward to seeing this measure advance.”

This legislation improves embassy and personnel security by:

  • Requiring the State Department to designate a list of high-risk, high-threat posts, thereby prioritizing resources and security for these posts;
  • Directing the State Department and Defense Department to jointly develop enhanced contingency plans for emergency situations, including planning for rapid deployment of military resources;
  • Improving security for the children and families of U.S. diplomats abroad;
  • Increasing the Department’s ability to hold personnel accountable for misconduct and unsatisfactory conduct related to embassy security;
  • Enhancing security training requirements for personnel assigned to high-risk, high-threat posts;
  • Expanding the Department’s ability to transfer funds from other accounts for immediate embassy security needs;
  • Authorizing the Department to use “best value” contracting globally, ensuring the highest standards of local guards providing security at embassies abroad; and
  • Improving the integrity of U.S. passports, ensuring that all security components are made in the U.S. by personnel with appropriate security clearances.

This legislation improves congressional and Inspector General oversight by:

  • Ensuring that the files and emails of the Inspector General (OIG) are not accessible by unauthorized Department employees;
  • Increasing the OIG’s access to reported instances of waste, fraud, and abuse;
  • Mandating monthly briefings to Congress on embassy security, especially at high risk, high threat posts; and

Increases UN transparency and holds the UN accountable for sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers:

  • Requires the Department to develop a comprehensive strategy and implementation plan for using U.S. influence at the UN to reduce sexual exploitation, peacekeeper misconduct, and abuse by peacekeeping forces;
  • Requires an annual report from OMB on all U.S. contributions to the UN and a directive to seek a commitment from the UN to make peacekeeping credits available;
  • Requires the Comptroller General to conduct a study of the UN assessment formula for peacekeeping missions; and
  • Requires the Secretary to develop and maintain a publicly available list which identifies peacekeeping abuses and “countries of particular concern.”

The bill text and a section-by-section summary for S. 1635 (as amended) are available HERE.