WASHINGTON, D.C. — Creating foreign policy and helping other nations come up with their own policies is one of the most essential functions of the State Department. Although the department does not need the authorization to get money every year, officials are supposed to update international priorities and their plan for execution every two years. Without the authorization, Congress has more power over the State Department in terms of agenda-setting and appropriations, which is why the State Department Authorization Act of 2019 was created.
The State Department Authorization Act of 2019
The State Department needs to be reauthorized occasionally to lay out the specifics of its programs and activities. The last time it was authorized was 2002. The new State Department Authorization Act of 2019 seeks to amend the original authorization to improve the efficacy of its activities. The new bill authorizes appropriations for things such as Embassy security, construction and maintenance as well as appropriations for “peace-keeping and counter-terrorism operations.” It also addresses security assistance and public diplomacy.
The State Department Authorization Act of 2019 was passed unanimously by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. There is currently no Senate version of the bill. Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-NY) says of the bill: “Today’s bipartisan legislation gets us back on the right track to strengthen and support the important work that America’s diplomats carry out every day on behalf of our country.”
The State Department Authorization Act sets the agenda for diplomats and ensures the proper functioning of the departments in charge of international relations. These relations are foundational for foreign aid. Since the State Department works closely with USAID, the authorization of the State Department affects the operations of USAID. For instance, the Department of State funds many of USAID’s operations. In 2017, the Department of State invested in democracy in Ukraine through USAID’s support for the successful elections in almost 600 communities in Ukraine for the first time ever. This was achieved through supporting local movements, surveys and data analysis.
New Offices Introduced
An interesting addition to the new bill is the establishment of the Office of International Disability Rights. This Office will ensure the accessibility to and inclusivity of people with disabilities in U.S. operations. It would also promote an agenda for human rights centered around people with disabilities. Finally, it would promote disability inclusion in the practices and training of staff. Another Office that was added with the State Department Authorization Act of 2019 is the Office of Global Women’s Issues. The purpose of this office is to coordinate efforts to promote the rights of women and girls in U.S. Foreign Policy.
These new offices, along with the subsection that lays out a plan for a more diverse workforce, demonstrate the State Department’s commitment to addressing more diverse needs. This is why an update on the State Department Authorization Act was needed in order to be improved as times change and as different perspectives gain voices The State Department Authorization Act of 2019 keeps most of the content of the original act but adds these key changes that ultimately improve it..
The State Department Authorization Act of 2019 is important for the future of U.S. aid. The addition of new offices adds diversity and new perspectives to the State Department while the bill streamlines and improves on policies for diplomats, which is essential to U.S. aid. The act keeps most of the content of the original act but adds these key changes that ultimately improve it for a better future of diplomacy and development.
– Sarah Faure