Late last night, the House of Representatives sent legislation originally authored by Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) to the President’s desk to bolster the State Department’s rewards program, currently focused mainly on terrorists and drug traffickers. With the President’s signature, the rewards program will expand to also target transnational organized criminals and those wanted for the most serious human rights abuses.

"This bill responds to the need to develop more tools to pursue the world’s worst. Target one is Joseph Kony, the murderous head of the LRA. U.S. military advisors working in Central Africa consider a reward offer on Kony as critical to their effort. This action bolsters the hunt," said Royce, who will Chair the Foreign Affairs Committee in the next Congress.

After introducing H.R. 4077 on February 17, 2012, Royce’s legislation garnered significant bipartisan support, and was included in comprehensive State Department legislation (H.R.6018), which passed the House in July. Royce’s Subcommittee held a hearing on the legislation in March. The Senate companion legislation (S. 2318), introduced in April by Senators Kerry and Isakson, passed the Senate on December 20th and was taken up by the House this week. The legislation has been supported by the Departments of State and Defense. The President is expected to sign the legislation.

"Critically, this legislation also responds to the growing links between terrorists and transnational criminals. Targeting those who assist terrorists and drug cartels by providing weapons, sophisticated forgeries, and money laundering is just as important as targeting the organizations themselves. A rewards program in this area can help disrupt these transnational organized crime networks," said Royce, who currently chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade.

Earlier this year, in testimony in front of Royce’s Subcommittee, the senior State Department official dealing with war crimes called this legislation "critical" to the effort to locate Kony. In a letter to Congressman Royce in support of H.R. 4077, the Department of Defense noted that these rewards programs "provide the Combatant Commander and Chief of Mission with relatively low-cost and effective tools to achieve national security objectives."

Background: Since the program’s inception in 1984 under President Reagan, the U.S. government has given rewards to over 70 people who provided actionable intelligence, that according to the State Department, prevented international terrorist attacks or helped convict individuals involved in terrorist acts. Royce led Congressional efforts to see that international arms dealer Viktor Bout, arrested in Thailand in 2008, was extradited to the U.S. to stand trial. In 2010, Royce – a former chair of the Africa Subcommittee – was an original sponsor of the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. The successful legislation made it the policy of the U.S. to "apprehend or remove Joseph Kony and his top commanders from the battlefield."