Washington, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Eliot L. Engel, the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the below remarks as prepared for delivery at today’s full committee markup of H.R. 2848 & H.R. 419.
The statements follow:
Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this markup on the State Department operations and embassy security authorization for fiscal year 2014.
I believe that passing this legislation is one of the most important responsibilities of our Committee, and I’m pleased that we were able to work out most of our differences and move forward with a bill that enjoys support from both sides of the aisle.
This bill provides basic authorities for the State Department to advance United States interests around the world, and authorizes the resources necessary to protect our brave and dedicated diplomats.
The funds authorized in this bill support all of the State Department’s operations around the world for less than three percent of the Defense Department’s total budget. To me, that’s a very wise investment in U.S. national security.
In light of the dangers facing our diplomats in high risk posts in the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and other volatile regions, the bill fully funds the President’s request for diplomatic security. This will allow the Department to construct six new secure embassies, support 151 new diplomatic security personnel, and build facilities for 26 additional Marine Security Guard Detachments.
The legislation also includes a number of other provisions to better protect our men and women serving abroad. This includes the text of a bipartisan bill introduced by Representatives Radel and Frankel that gives the State Department flexibility to award local guard contracts at high-threat posts on the basis of best value rather than on who had the lowest bid. In the past, having to accept the lowest bids sometimes resulted in poorly trained local security forces that endangered the safety of our diplomats and development experts.
In the same spirit of bipartisanship, I’d like to commend Representatives Perry and Meng for their hard work in drafting a provision -- which has been included in the manager’s amendment -- that provides additional accountability for State Department officials when their job performance is unsatisfactory.
In addition, I’d like to thank Chairman Royce for including some elements of an embassy security bill I recently introduced. Among other things, these provisions would enhance the coordination between the State and Defense Departments in times of crisis, and require security and language training for State Department employees before they deploy to dangerous locations.
Mr. Chairman, it’s been too long since a State Department authorization bill has been signed into law. We need to resume the practice of passing our authorization bill on a regular basis, and encourage our Senate colleagues to do the same. When we fail to fulfill our legislative responsibility, the foreign affairs vacuum is filled by the Armed Services and Appropriations Committees. And once we lose our jurisdiction to others, it’s hard to get it back. The bill before us today, while relatively modest in scope, is an important step in the right direction.
I urge my colleagues to support this legislation, and look forward to working with Chairman Royce to see that it eventually reaches the President’s desk.
Mr. Chairman, the Taiwan Policy Act of 2013, introduced by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, is intended to update and strengthen certain aspects of the U.S.-Taiwan relationship.
The bill includes a provision that would allow senior leaders of Taiwan to visit the United States – and not just on “transit stops” on the way to other countries. It’s time that every Taiwanese official is afforded the respect they deserve.
The legislation also maintains strong U.S. support for Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international organizations like the World Health Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization.
Finally, the bill authorizes the President to make available to Taiwan a wide-range of defense items and services, in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act. By strengthening Taiwan’s self-defense capability, the United States can help it to deter and defend against any possible attack.
Mr. Chairman, this bipartisan legislation reinforces America’s strong support for Taiwan and the Taiwanese people, and I urge my colleagues to support it.