Washington, D.C. Today, the House of Representatives passed by a vote of 384 to 37 a bipartisan State Department authorization bill to improve security at U.S. embassies and diplomatic facilities around the world, H.R. 2848, the “Department of State Operations and Embassy Security Authorization Act for FY 2014.” The legislation, introduced by Chairman Royce and Ranking Member Eliot Engel in July, was passed by the Committee by voice vote in August.  This fiscally responsible bill reflects the Administration’s lower funding request and represents an approximately nine-percent overall cut in State Department spending from last year while fully funding the Administration’s request for embassy security.

More than a decade has passed since the last State Department authorization was enacted into law in 2002.

On passage by the House, Chairman Royce said:  “This legislation provides our diplomats with the tools they need to do their job effectively, and as safely as possible.  Following last year’s Benghazi attacks and the recent emergency closure of more than 20 U.S. embassies due to a terrorist threat, this legislation helps better protect our embassies and personnel stationed abroad.  This legislation also contains important embassy security reforms.   These include requiring the identification of high-risk, high-threat  posts, enhanced planning for rapid deployment of military resources in response to a crisis, and funding for more Marine guards at embassy sites.   

“We are long overdue for a State Department authorization bill, given that it’s been a decade since the last one was enacted into law.  This legislation is an important means to restore effective oversight of the State Department.  I appreciate the collaboration I have had with Ranking Member Engel on getting this legislation passed by the House.  Now that the House has acted, I am very hopeful that this important legislation to enhance security and authorize State Department operations will likewise be considered and passed in the Senate and signed into law.” 

Ranking Member Engel said:  “Passage of this bill shows that there is bipartisan space to work together to oversee and strengthen the activities of the Department of State.  I’m pleased that Chairman Royce and I were able to work closely in drafting this legislation that will better protect the men and women who serve the United States and that it was adopted by near unanimous support in the House.  I’m hopeful that my colleagues in the Senate will be able to act in a bipartisan and expeditious manner to pass similar legislation in that chamber.  Enactment of a State Authorization bill has long been over due.”

In order to improve security, H.R. 2848 in part:

·      authorizes $4.83 billion for embassy security.  This includes $2.65 billion for Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance and $2.18 billion for the Worldwide Security Program.  This embassy security authorization identifies $1.383 billion in capital cost sharing for new facilities where current facilities do not meet security needs; $101 million for facility security upgrades such as blast resistant doors/windows and retrofitting for protection against chemical and biological attacks;

·      requires the State Department to designate a list of high-risk, high-threat posts and mandates working groups to ensure these posts have necessary security measures and funding;

·      directs the State Department and Defense Department to jointly develop enhanced contingency plans for emergency situations, including planning for rapid deployment of military resources;

·       requires a strategic review of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security to ensure that its mission and activities are meeting current and projected needs;

·       encourages the Capital Security Cost Sharing Program to prioritize the construction of enhanced facilities and improvement of facilities at high-risk, high-threat posts;

·      allows the State Department to award security contracts for high-risk, high-threat facilities on a “best value” basis rather than on a “lowest cost” basis;

·      improves security for the children and families of U.S. diplomats abroad;

·      requires the State Department to make efforts to reduce the turnover of key personnel, including security providers, at high-risk, high-threat posts;

·      enhances security training requirements for personnel assigned to high-risk, high-threat posts;

·      authorizes funding for 156 additional Marine Corps Security Guards (MSG) at overseas posts and construction of 26 new Marine-operated access and egress points at high-risk, high-threat posts; and

·      strengthens the ability for future Accountability Review Boards to recommend disciplinary action against State Department employees for unsatisfactory performance.

The bill text and a section-by-section summary for H.R. 2848 are available HERE.

Video of Chairman Royce speaking on the House floor in support of H.R. 2848 is available HERE.