WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the second-ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, praised committee approval Thursday of the Department of State Authorization Act of 2024. Favorably reported to the full Senate for consideration, the package provides robust authorities for the management and operation of the State Department that included key amendments brought forward by Senator Cardin. Senator Cardin serves as Chair of the Subcommittee on State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Management, International Operations, and Bilateral International Development.
“Robust diplomacy and international development programs are crucial for America’s national security and for maintaining our global leadership. The authorization bill the committee passed today strengthens and modernizes our diplomatic infrastructure. I am particularly gratified to have my Combatting Global Corruption Act included in the text along with provisions that strengthen our nation’s response to trafficking, address passport backlog, and contingency plans for evacuations. These provisions will give our diplomats the right tools to address challenges the department faces and strengthens how we respond to it. I look forward to ensuring that this bill becomes law so we can continue to strengthen our nation’s diplomatic capabilities.”
- Combatting Corruption around the world: the bill includes the Combatting Global Corruption Act (S. 53) led by Senators Cardin and Young that would require the State Department to rank the countries of the world in a public, three-tiered system according to how robustly they are working to combat corruption, similar to the Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which also uses a tiered ranking system. The bill would ask the State Department to evaluate foreign persons engaged in significant corruption in the lowest tiered countries for consideration under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act; and designate an anti-corruption policy point of contact at U.S. diplomatic posts in the two lower tiers of countries.
- Strengthen our nation’s ability to combat trafficking: the bill authorizes Diplomatic Security Services, who are posted in 275 US posts around the world, to investigate violations of human trafficking. They are currently only allowed to do so if there is apparent fraud in applications for visas or passports. This would strengthen the annual TIP reports as Diplomatic Security personnel would be more involved with local law enforcement agencies in their handling of trafficking cases. Additionally, Senator Cardin proposal ed slightly amending the Victims’ Resource Advocacy Program to include victims and their dependents. Currently the fund provides basic care and resources for victims who are involved in matters under Diplomatic Security Service investigation.
- Addressing Passport Backlog: Requiring the State Department to place in new passports a notice alerting U.S. passport holders that some countries require passports to be valid for six months after their visit and recommending that travelers review countries’ policies prior to their travel.
- Updating Contingency Plans for Evacuation of U.S. Posts around the World: the bill includes an amendment offered by Senators Cardin and Hagerty to require the State Department to report semi-annually that it has reviewed and updated contingency plans at U.S. diplomatic posts, including for possible civilian evacuation, and to oblige embassies to pro-actively keep abreast of U.S. persons in country.
- Strengthens Training and Professional Development: Requires State Department promotion boards to take into account whether a candidate for a promotion has demonstrated a willingness to participate in relevant professional development opportunities, including through the Foreign Service Institute and other educational opportunities, and a willingness to enable subordinates to do the same.