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House Chairman: 'Crucial' State Department Vacancies Need to be Filled ASAP

WASHINGTON – House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said the Trump administration and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson should accelerate their efforts to fill critical vacancies in the State Department including undersecretaries and assistant secretaries.

“I would now like to see the administration move quickly to fill the many vacant senior positions left at State, and I know that this is something that Secretary Tillerson has spoken to in terms of the nominations that the administration has set up and the request that they be confirmed,” Royce said at the Atlantic Council during a recent event on reforming the State Department. “The men and women in the department need an effective chain of command in order to implement administration policies and in order to carry out their crucial national security duties.”

“Undersecretaries and assistant secretaries are crucial to that chain of command but beyond Washington,” he added. “I am committed to supporting our Foreign Service officers in the field and to recognizing their sacrifice and the important work that they do every day on our behalf.”

More than two dozen undersecretary and assistant secretary positions currently lack a nominee.

Royce emphasized that America needs an effective Department of State and effective USAID to “confront the national security threats” and to promote our interests. He said the appropriations bill being considered in the House would reduce State Department spending “in the neighborhood of 10 percent” rather than the 28 percent cut proposed by President Trump.

“We’re one of the few nations on earth with a truly global diplomatic presence. America’s diplomats and development professionals serve in virtually every nation defending our national security, protecting our citizens and promoting our values. They spot brewing political crises. They respond to disasters. They open doors for U.S. businesses and they assist American citizens in distress,” Royce said.

“Their work abroad benefits Americans at home. Consider that an emergency investment in West Africa’s health stopped cold what would have been an emerging Ebola pandemic a few years ago. Elsewhere, Foreign Service officers work alongside the military to keep weapons of mass destruction and to keep those manpads that can shoot down an airliner out the hands of terrorists and to open doors for U.S. businesses. These important missions make us safer and more prosperous,” he added.

Royce called for better communication between the Trump administration and Congress.

“Too often administrations go it alone. The administration’s Iran policy is an example of that, in my opinion, and I want to see us break that pattern – and Congress has the responsibility not to hamstring the State Department with mandates and with restrictions. These have accumulated over years compounding its management challenges at State,” he said.

“We’ll do our part to improve this and I look forward to working with the administration on making policy and on how that policy is executed. But above all else, the most important national security aspect of all is our people,” the chairman noted. “Any effort to reform the State Department and USAID must focus on ensuring our Foreign Service officers have the leadership, training and security that they need to get this job done for the United States.”