The Foreign Service Journal, December 2022

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | DECEMBER 2022 69 AFSA ON THE HILL | BY KIM GREENPLATE For the first time in nearly two decades, Congress suc- cessfully drafted and passed a comprehensive State Department Authorization Act in 2021. In that authoriza- tion, which became law last December, AFSA supported crucial personnel provisions that both boosted morale and improved the lives of members of the Foreign Service. One such provision, included in the bill, mandated that assignment restriction appeals be resolved within 60 days. Among other things, authorization bills for U.S. government agencies provide a legislative vehicle for smaller provisions, which have a much lower chance of becoming law as stand- alone bills. For example, the Department of State Student Internship Program Act continues to be included in State Department authoriza- tion bills. Rarely do we see short, small bills like this one considered in the full Senate by themselves. However, last year’s State Department authorization bill was also attached to a larger initiative for final passage. The behemoth bill known as the National Defense Autho- rization Act (NDAA) served as a legislative vehicle for the State Department Authoriza- tion Act, a pattern expected to continue if the authoriza- tion is to become law. The hope is that with The Need to Reauthorize Foreign Affairs Agencies more frequent authoriza- tions signed into law, these bills can be considered by Congress individually and not need larger legislative vehicles like the NDAA to keep them alive. Rather than wait another 20 years, Congress has demonstrated its desire to pass another State Depart- ment Authorization Act this year. Both House and Senate have introduced their own versions of a 2022 State Department Authorization Act. There are some overlap- ping provisions, but the bills do differ. It is a good sign to see each chamber produce its own bill with the hope that they will strive to reconcile the differences between the two versions. Congressional jurisdiction remains a challenge—the State Department, USAID, and the U.S. Agency for Global Media all fall under the State, Foreign Opera- tions, and Related Programs Subcommittee (SFOPS) for their appropriations, while the remaining foreign affairs agencies fall under other subcommittees. With authorizers and appropriators coordinating often, implementation of authorized provisions that require funding and affect the agencies not under the jurisdiction of SFOPS appro- priations can be a source of confusion. Thus, provisions affecting the entire Foreign Service need to ensure there is enough funding from other appropriations—Commerce and Agriculture—for imple- mentation. Further, recent State Department Authorization Acts do not yet incorporate some of the key features of true authorization bills, such as providing a topline spend- ing number for agencies, as the NDAA does for the vari- ous agencies of the Defense Department. One of AFSA’s advocacy priorities is to achieve For- eign Service parity with other federal government employ- ees, especially the military, and seeing our authorization bills treated as equally impor- tant by Congress would be a step in the right direction. Most of the provisions contained in the proposed State Department Autho- rization Acts do not have large price tags. Addressing specific spending amounts with congressional directives is the next step authoriz- ers should take to create meaningful reform at foreign affairs agencies. Authorizers should also consider regular authoriza- tions for the other foreign affairs agencies, not just the State Department. Although AFSA always advocates for provisions in the present State Department Autho- rization Act to include all members of the Foreign Service when appropriate, the smaller agencies are often initially overlooked. AFSA continues to educate Congress on the nuances of the various foreign affairs agencies that fall under the Foreign Service Act to prevent such oversights in the future. Congress has frequently discussed the need to reform the Foreign Service Act of 1980, but only recently has it tackled reauthorizing the largest agency for Foreign Service employees. More regular authorizations could eventually lead to legislation on institutional reform. AFSA hopes that Congress considers more frequent authorization bills for foreign affairs agencies, as this pres- ents the opportunity to pass meaningful legislation for the Foreign Service. n One of AFSA’s advocacy priorities is to achieve Foreign Service parity with other federal government employees, especially the military, and seeing our authorization bills treated as equally important by Congress would be a step in the right direction.