July 01, 2021

Reps. Castro and Fitzpatrick Introduce Legislation to Support American Diplomats and their Families

WASHINGTON — Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) introduced the Foreign Service Families Act to better support American diplomats and their families. 97 years ago today, the United States Congress enacted the Rogers Act of 1924 that created the modern-day Foreign Service.

For many U.S. diplomats and their families, frequent moves, language barriers, and limited employment and educational opportunities pose significant challenges. This legislation helps the State Department recruit and maintain a world-class diplomatic corps by expanding career options, services, and educational opportunities to eligible Foreign Service family members. The Foreign Service Families Act also provides authority to the State Department to offer the same services to Foreign Service family members overseas that the Defense Department is permitted to provide to military families.

“For nearly 100 years, members of the Foreign Service have honorably served the American people and represented our nation’s interests.  When the global pandemic hit, our Foreign Service personnel worked tirelessly to bring home thousands of Americans from all over the globe,” said Congressman Castro.  “We need to take care of those who take care of us, and that includes their family members who face employment and educational challenges as part of their service overseas.  I’m proud to introduce the Foreign Services Families Act in the House with Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick.  Our colleagues in the Senate have also introduced this bill and I’ll continue to work with them to support the women and men of the Foreign Service.”

“The women and men of our Foreign Service work tirelessly to promote American interests and our democratic values across the globe, and their families sacrifice so much,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “I am proud to partner with Rep. Castro on the Foreign Service Families Act of 2021, and remain fully dedicated to supporting our Foreign Service officers and expanding the educational and employment opportunities made available to their families.” 

“Initiatives like the Foreign Service Families Act help attract and retain our nation’s top talent in the Foreign Service ranks,” said Ambassador Eric Rubin, president of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA). “AFSA strongly supports this effort to ensure that our diplomats and their families are afforded all possible consideration, much like our military counterparts.”

“AAFSW (Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide) whole-heartedly supports this bill,” said AAFSW President Lara Center. “As an organization which has advocated for spouses since our creation in 1960, we believe this bill will contribute greatly to Foreign Service morale and effectiveness.” 

“The American Academy of Diplomacy supports the bill, noting that the legislation will help the State Department attract and retain the best personnel overseas where family well-being is critically important to the employees,” said the American Academy of Diplomacy.

Mark Hanis, co-founder of Inclusive America said “having family friendly policies ensures that a workplace can attract and retain the best talent.  The Foreign Service Families Act helps ensure that the State Department will benefit both our Foreign Service Officers and our country.”

This bill provides authorities to the State Department to:

  • Expand hiring authority and preference for qualified spouses;
  • Ensure that Foreign Service spouses receive notification of State Department vacancies and consideration for jobs they apply for;
  • Make space available in overseas State Department facilities for outside entities to provide career services;
  • develop partnerships with the private sector to enhance employment opportunities for Foreign Service spouses; and
  • Incorporate hiring preferences for qualified Foreign Service spouses into contracts between the State Department and private-sector entities.

Additionally, the bill:

  • Directs the State Department to expand telecommuting opportunities to Foreign Service family members, so they can continue to work federal civilian and private sector jobs while serving overseas;
  • Ensure family members in the Expanded Professional Associates Program (a career program for family members with advanced education and professional experience) are not held to unfair hiring standards; 
  • Makes sure the State Department has fully implemented the Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (a program intended to improve security clearance portability for Foreign Service family members as they relocate); and
  • Requires states to offer in-state tuition rates to Foreign Service employees, their spouses, and dependent children in their state of domicile when serving overseas or after 30 days of being domiciled or posted in a state and disallows revocation due to a future relocation while the recipient is continuously enrolled.

Full text of the legislation is available here.