House Passes Bill to Protect State Department Personnel Abroad
YORK, PA – The U.S. House of Representatives recently adopted legislation to improve security at U.S. embassies and diplomatic facilities around the world, implement critical management reforms and save taxpayer dollars. The legislation, the Department of State Operations and Embassy Security Authorization Act (H.R. 2848), includes a bi-partisan amendment by U.S. Representative Scott Perry (PA-04) that reforms State Department bureaucracy to better protect the lives of American diplomats serving overseas. H.R. 2848 was approved without objection.
Rep. Perry’s amendment, which was incorporated from stand-alone legislation he introduced with U.S. Representative Grace Meng (D-NY-6) in February (H.R. 925), aims to increase accountability of State Department employees by providing the Secretary of State with more power to discipline personnel who put diplomats in danger. Congressman Perry noted that there has been no meaningful accountability within the Department of State for the terrorist attack at our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya in September of 2012.
“Our diplomatic personnel serve our country on the front lines of democracy,” said Congressman Perry, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “This amendment implements common-sense reforms that will better protect our citizens overseas and help ensure that security lapses like those that occurred at our embassy in Benghazi will never happen again.”
While funding critical embassy security enhancements to protect U.S. personnel overseas, H.R. 2848 saves taxpayer dollars by reducing spending by 9% from FY 2012 levels. H.R. 2848 also:
- authorizes $4.83 billion for embassy security, including $1.38 billion in capital cost sharing for new facilities where current facilities do not meet security needs; and $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;
- improves security for the children and families of U.S. diplomats abroad;
- enhances security training requirements for personnel assigned to high-risk, high-threat posts;
History of Perry Amendment
After the attack in Benghazi, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appointed an independent Accountability Review Board (ARB) to examine the facts and circumstances related to the attack. The ARB found that in the months preceding the incident, senior employees at the State Department were not performing their jobs sufficiently and demonstrated a serious lack of management and leadership ability. The ARB found that this poor performance contributed to inadequate security at Special Mission Benghazi.
But despite these conclusions, the ARB could not recommend disciplinary action against a single employee because the panel was not legally allowed to do so since it could not find that there was a breach of duty, a standard which is extremely high and very unclear. Appearing before Congress in January, Secretary Clinton testified that a legislative remedy would be required to allow future ARBs to make disciplinary recommendations, and she requested that Congress make the fix. Perry’s amendment would allow an ARB to recommend disciplinary proceedings if it finds that a State Department employee’s unsatisfactory performance left a diplomatic facility vulnerable to a security incident.
Residents of the 4th District are welcome to contact Congressman Perry and his staff at any of his offices or via Perry.House.Gov, where they can sign up for e-mail updates and for his Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages.