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Committee Oversight Plan

Committee on Foreign Affairs

Authorization and Oversight Plan

115th Congress

 

Adopted January 24, 2017

1.INTRODUCTION

Pursuant to the requirements of clause 2(d) of House Rule X, the Committee on Foreign Affairs (“the Committee”) has adopted this authorization and oversight plan for the 115th Congress, which will be shared with the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the Committee on House Administration, and the Committee on Appropriations.  This plan summarizes the Committee’s authorization and oversight priorities for the next two years, subject to the understanding that new developments will undoubtedly affect priorities and work assignments in the months ahead.

Budget authorization and agency oversight remain key responsibilities of the legislative branch.  Committee Rule 15 requires each Subcommittee to hold regular oversight hearings that, according to usual practice, include an annual hearing on the portions of the Administration’s budget request within that Subcommittee’s jurisdiction.  Oversight activities will thus be coordinated between the Committee and the Subcommittees, in order to facilitate comprehensive and strategic review of the programs and agencies within the Committee’s jurisdiction.

These Committee activities may include hearings, briefings, investigations, Member or staff-level meetings, correspondence, fact-finding travel, reports, and public statements. They may also include effective use and review of reports by the Government Accountability Office and by statutory Inspectors General, as well as Congressional Notifications submitted by executive branch agencies.  The Committee also will consult, as appropriate, with other committees of the House that may share jurisdiction over relevant issues and activities. 

The Committee’s authorization and oversight activities will emphasize:

  • effectiveness of U.S. foreign policy;
  • effective implementation of U.S. law;
  • the review of agencies and programs operating under permanent statutory authority;
  • the elimination of programs and expenditures that are inefficient, duplicative, or outdated; and
  • institutional reform, efficiency, and fiscal discipline.

2.FUNDING AUTHORIZATION

a.Legislative Context: The agencies and programs within the jurisdiction of the Foreign Affairs Committee are funded by discretionary appropriations.[1]   Notwithstanding the Committee’s extensive authorization work, almost all of the funding authorities within its legislative jurisdiction have been lapsed for more than 13 years.  The last enacted Foreign Relations Authorization Act (P.L. 107-228) was passed in 2002, and provided funding authority through fiscal year 2003.

This lapse is not due to a lack of action by the Committee or the House of Representatives: The Committee produced and the House passed Foreign Relations Authorization bills in five of the six Congresses that followed, under both Republican and Democratic control, usually with overwhelming bipartisan support.[2]   Unfortunately, the Senate did not act on any of those bills.

Notwithstanding these challenges, during the 114th Congress the Committee succeeded in authorizing, modernizing, and reforming the $2.8 billion International Disaster Assistance account for the first time since 1987 (P.L. 114-195), reauthorizing and reforming the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (P.L. 114-71), fundamentally restructuring and reforming the Broadcasting Board of Governors (sec. 1288 of P.L. 114-328), and working with the Senate to successfully enact a fiscal year 2017 Department of State Authorities Act that provided authority for important embassy security enhancements and personnel reforms (P.L. 114-323).

b.Funding Without Current Authorization: As mentioned, nearly all of the agencies and entities within the Committee’s legislative jurisdiction are operating without current funding authorizations, including:

  • The Department of State
  • United States Agency for International Development
  • The Millennium Challenge Corporation
  • Broadcasting Board of Governors
  • International Border, Water, and Fisheries Commissions
  • National Endowment for Democracy
  • United States Trade and Development Agency
  • Peace Corps
  • Inter-American Foundation
  • United States African Development Foundation
  • Overseas Private Investment Corporation
  • United States Institute of Peace
  • East-West Center
  • The Asia Foundation
  • International Center for Middle Eastern-Western Dialogue

c.Authorization Plans:  During the 115th Congress, the Committee plans to build on the reforms of the FY17 Department of State Authorities Act and again attempt to remedy the 14-year authorization lapse by enacting a Foreign Relations Authorization Act.  That Act provides funding authorization for the operating expenses, programs, and assessed treaty contributions of the Department of State and related agencies, which traditionally also include the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the Budget Function 300 international commissions (International Boundary and Water Commission; International Joint Commission; Border Environment Cooperation Commission; and the International Fisheries Commissions), and related programs and agencies (National Endowment for Democracy, U.S. Institute of Peace, Asia Foundation, and the East-West Center).  This Act will not only address authorization levels, but also will include important reforms and modifications of authorities, based on the oversight activities conducted pursuant to the plan outlined below, and in prior congresses.

3.PRIORITY OVERSIGHT MATTERS

a.ISIS, Iraq and Syria: The Committee will scrutinize U.S. efforts to combat the terrorist group known as ISIS, as well as the larger crisis unfolding in Iraq and Syria, including the latter country’s ongoing civil war, the war crimes associated with it and the role of Iran and Russia. Particular attention will be paid to U.S. military and diplomatic efforts to fight ISIS and other terrorist groups, including their funding and recruitment, international efforts to eliminate the presence and use of chemical weapons in Syria, and efforts to document potential war crimes by parties to the conflict. The Committee will continue to review economic and diplomatic means by which to influence events in Syria.

b.International Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime:  The Committee will examine the current status of al-Qaeda and its affiliates, with a specific focus on recruitment efforts, evolving save havens, and efforts to obtain WMDs.  The Committee will conduct oversight of the State Department’s various counterterrorism programs, including those designed to counter violent extremism (CVE), as well as agreements with foreign governments relating to the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay.  The Committee will also examine the links between organized crime, illicit drugs, and global terrorism. Other transnational criminal issues of interest include maritime piracy, human, arms and wildlife trafficking, money laundering and intellectual property piracy issues. 

c.Iran: The Committee will continue to closely review U.S. policy toward Iran, with special focus on the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action between the prior Administration and Iran and subsequent developments.  The Committee will also review and work to address the threat posed by Iran’s ballistic missile development, state sponsorship of terrorism and growing influence in Iraq and the region, as well as the regime’s ongoing human rights abuses.

d.Middle East and North Africa:  In addition to the conflict in Iraq and Syria and its impact on regional states including Jordan and Lebanon, the Committee will carefully review U.S. policy toward the Middle East and North Africa, to include: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the overall status of the Middle East peace process; the democratic transition in Tunisia; the collapse and conversion of the Libyan state into a terrorist haven and principal route for human trafficking; the continuation of the civil war in Yemen; the impact of Iranian aggression on regional stability; the consequences of low oil prices for various oil-producing states; human rights and challenges to the rule of law throughout the region; and United States policies, programs, authorities and funding to address these challenges. 

e.Russia:  The Committee will address the impact of Russia’s foreign policy on U.S. security, political, and economic interests, especially as a result of its aggression and related hostile actions regarding NATO, Ukraine, Georgia, and other countries.   It will also examine Kremlin-driven efforts to undermine the government, democratic and other institutions of the U.S. and other countries through cyber intrusions, propaganda and other tools.   The Committee will examine the range of options available to the U.S. to respond to these actions, including legislation to impose additional sanctions on Russia and provide assistance to vulnerable countries.  In addition, the Committee will assess the impact of Russia’s global propaganda campaign, with special attention to Russian-speaking communities along the Russian frontier and European countries with upcoming elections.  The Committee will also review the deteriorating domestic situation in Russia regarding democracy, civil society, the rule of law, and human rights.  In addition, it will examine ways to reduce Russia’s ability to use its energy exports for political and economic coercion The Committee will consult widely on the appropriate response by the U.S. government and other partners. 

f. Ukraine:  The Committee will closely monitor Russian-supported separatist activity and other aggressive actions aimed at undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty, including the forcible and illegal annexation of Crimea. The Committee will continue to examine the U.S. response in light of the long-standing U.S. foreign policy doctrine of non-recognition of territorial changes effected by force alone.  In addition, it will actively oversee efforts to work with Ukraine to strengthen its military and security services, promote economic growth, combat corruption, and promote an effective and democratic government.

g.Europe/Eurasia:  The Committee will review U.S. relations with European countries, with an emphasis on the European Union and NATO.  Key issues include the potential for trade agreements with the EU and the UK; continued support for our NATO allies, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe; rule of law, border security, and European integration issues in the Balkans; U.S.-European cooperative efforts to combat terrorism and extremism; and diversification of energy sources to reduce reliance on Russian energy.  The Committee will also examine, Turkey’s evolving foreign policy orientation and domestic political trends, including efforts to combat ISIS and the spread of extremism, the impact of the refugee crisis on European and Turkish foreign policy priorities, as well as reviewing their general support for U.S. priorities.  The Committee will also continue oversight of U.S. political, security and economic policy in Central Asia, with a particular focus on strengthening partnerships to advance mutual security interests, including countering violent extremism, as well as efforts to promote economic development, human rights, and good governance.

h.Afghanistan: The Committee will comprehensively review U.S. policy toward Afghanistan. Particular focus will be paid to efforts to support the national unity government, tackle corruption, improve governance, and strengthen security.  This review will assess the effectiveness of international aid and U.S. assistance programs, the broader political-military and associated counterterrorism strategies, and the full range of policies related to the post-2014 transition, including programs and budgeting processes.

i.Pakistan: The Committee will review all elements of U.S. policy toward Pakistan, including efforts to eliminate safe havens for violent extremists and establish a stable, democratic country.  This review will encompass both U.S. civilian and security assistance to Pakistan, in order to assess the extent to which such programs effectively advance U.S. national interests.  The Committee will also conduct ongoing oversight of matters relating to Pakistan’s nuclear program, including issues relating to nonproliferation, such as the legacy of the A.Q. Khan network. 

j.North Korea: The Committee will review and work to address the threat posed by North Korea. Particular focus will be paid to North Korea’s nuclear and missile proliferation, weapon sales, illicit activities, cyber-attacks, human rights violations, and U.S. efforts to assist North Korean refugees. The Committee will review U.S. diplomatic efforts, the implementation of U.S. and international sanctions, and consider next steps in U.S. policy to address the North Korean threat.

k.State Department Oversight, Authorization, and Reform:  The Committee will seek to advance far-reaching reforms, building on the 2016 enactment of the first State Authorization bill in more than 14 years.  In particular, the Committee will focus on reforming how the Department uses foreign and security sector assistance, ensuring that projects and programs are strategically planned and coordinated. Emphasis will also be placed on reforming the Department’s personnel systems, increasing workforce flexibility and modernizing recruitment and retention processes.  The Committee will continue to monitor and examine the operations, budget, programs, planning, human resources, building, and security policies of the Department of State, with an eye toward authorization and reform legislation for Fiscal Year 2018. In addition to hearings with the Secretary of State and other Administration officials regarding their budget proposals for the upcoming year, such efforts may include: revisions to the Foreign Service Act; the introduction of merit based pay and promotion; consideration of reforms to Executive Branch reporting requirements; and a reduction or consolidation of offices with duplicative mandates and overlapping responsibilities. In the wake of increasing threats to U.S. personnel serving overseas, the Committee will continue to evaluate the security of our embassies and consulates, along with proposed reforms to the State Department’s diplomatic security service.

  • Asia-Pacific Region: The Committee will review the U.S.’s significant political, economic, and security interests in the Asia-Pacific, including East and Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Pacific Islands.  The Committee will conduct oversight of U.S. relations with the Asia-Pacific, including foreign policy, foreign assistance, security cooperation, territorial disputes, and trade relations.  The Committee will examine the State Department’s participation in multilateral organizations such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum and the East Asia Summit, and closely monitor any discussion of future trade agreements in Asia.  The Committee will monitor the needs of Taiwan for defensive weapons systems as provided for in the Taiwan Relations Act.

m.India: The Committee will review U.S. policy towards India and the continued expansion of bilateral cooperation. Particular attention will be paid to the U.S.-India security relationship, including cooperation on counterterrorism efforts and developments since the 2015 defense framework agreement and India’s designation as a “Major Defense Partner.”  The Committee will also focus on efforts to enhance U.S.-India economic relations, including discussions surrounding a possible bilateral investment treaty.  Stalled efforts to initiate civil nuclear cooperation and the implications of India’s rapidly growing energy demands will also be subject to review.

n. U.S. International Broadcasting: The Committee will continue to actively monitor and review the operations and organization of U.S. government-supported, civilian international broadcasting to respond more effectively to the challenges presented by state and non-state actors using modern communication platforms.  The Committee will closely oversee the implementation of the reforms enacted in the 114th Congress, and seek further improvements in this critical area. 

o.China: The Committee will examine China’s role in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.  Particular focus will be placed on China’s assertiveness in territorial disputes, rapid military modernization, and human rights abuses, including treatment of Tibetans, Uyghurs and other religious and ethnic minorities. The Committee will also consider China’s adherence to agreements made with Hong Kong under the “one country, two systems” principle enshrined in the Basic Law.  In addition, the Committee will examine China’s role in the global economy, including trade, technology, its strong growth in energy demand, and currency issues that affect the American workforce.  The Committee will review China’s cooperation on international nonproliferation efforts against North Korea. The Committee will investigate China’s increasing use of cyber and economic espionage to affect foreign trade, and other policy outcomes. 

p.Economic Policy and Trade: The Committee will play a vigorous role in overseeing international economic policy, including U.S. leadership in trade, finance, energy, technology, and development policy to promote economic prosperity and national security. 

q.Export Control Reform: The Committee will oversee the implementation of Executive Branch reforms to U.S. strategic export controls.  In particular, the Committee will assess the extent to which recent and any proposed new changes to the U.S. Munitions List and the Commerce Control List effectively safeguard critical technologies and national security, while supporting the defense industrial base and advancing U.S. commercial interests. 

r.U.S. Nonproliferation Policy.  The Committee will examine the effectiveness of U.S. nonproliferation policy and the international nonproliferation regime in preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction.  The Committee will address opportunities to strengthen existing nonproliferation organizations, especially the International Atomic Energy Agency, increase cooperation with other countries, and enhance international nonproliferation agreements and mechanisms.  Prominent issues will include the global expansion of civil nuclear power and the potential spread of technology, equipment and material useful in the development of nuclear weapons capabilities.  The Committee will closely examine proposed and existing bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements with other countries, including their potential to promote U.S. nonproliferation objectives and commercial interests. 

s.Africa. The Committee will review political, economic and security developments on the African continent.  Key issues will include efforts to eliminate safe havens for violent extremists, economic development – including implementation of the African Growth and Opportunity Act and the Electrify Africa Act - effective use of aid, human rights and democracy promotion. Particular attention is to be paid to the developments in Mali, Nigeria, Sudan and South Sudan, the Central African Republic, the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa. 

t.Western Hemisphere: The Committee will conduct oversight regarding the content and effectiveness of U.S. political, security and economic policy toward the countries of the Western Hemisphere.  The Committee will address continuing threats from drug trafficking organizations, transnational criminal organizations, gangs, and terrorist organizations.  Threats to democracy and press freedom throughout the Americas also will be examined.  Attention will also be paid to new and important supplies of energy coming online from places like Brazil, Canada, and Mexico, and the implications of Iran, Russia and China’s increasing presence and influence in the region.  The Committee will continue to closely monitor the stability of, and cooperation between, the governments in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador and Cuba.  The Committee will also closely monitor the significant developments in U.S.-Cuba relations, as well as the ongoing political and economic crisis in Venezuela and the implementation of sanctions against human rights violators in that country.  The Committee will continue its oversight of State Department and USAID assistance for reconstruction efforts in Haiti, as well as U.S. energy, security and diplomatic cooperation with the countries of the Caribbean. The Committee also will continue to assess the impact of U.S. assistance to Central America to address the increase in unaccompanied minors from the subregion.  Special emphasis will be placed on any developments in political, security and economic cooperation with our partners in Canada and Mexico. 

u.Security Assistance and Arms Transfer Policy:  The Committee will assess the effectiveness of security assistance programs authorized under the Foreign Assistance Act and the Arms Export Control Act in advancing U.S. national interests.  In addition, the Committee will review those security cooperation programs funded by the Department of Defense but which require concurrence of the Secretary of State, or otherwise give rise to the Committee’s jurisdiction.  The Committee will also review law and policy relating to U.S. arms transfers and related end-use monitoring, as well as various counterterrorism tools that impact foreign policy. The Committee will also continue to carefully review proposed arms sales to ensure they comport with U.S. foreign and national security policy and benefit the legitimate defense needs of the recipient countries, as well as the process by which the Administration consults with the Committee and the Congress on such sales to ensure proper oversight.

v. Foreign Assistance:  The Committee will review the underlying authorities for U.S. foreign assistance with an eye towards reducing duplication, increasing transparency and effectiveness, and modernizing the foreign assistance workforce. It will also review issues related to the implementation of U.S. foreign assistance programs and projects, including the role of U.S. missions and embassies in overseeing grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements. In addition, the Committee will review issues related to coordination between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), other U.S. Government agencies and departments involved in carrying out U.S. foreign assistance, and the private sector to ensure programs and projects are strategically planned and coordinated. Among a broad range of issues, the Committee will review U.S. foreign assistance initiatives aimed at catalyzing economic growth, reducing aid dependence, and addressing food security and global health challenges, including food aid reform, maternal health and child survival, infectious disease surveillance and control, and the implementation of the PEPFAR Stewardship and Oversight Act of 2013.  Assistance provided through the Millennium Challenge Corporation will also receive close scrutiny.

w.Human Rights and Democracy:  The Committee will examine U.S. activities to promote democracy and protect human rights around the world, including in post-transition environments.  The Committee will critically assess U.S. involvement with multilateral human rights organizations, to ensure that U.S. diplomacy serves to promote fundamental human rights and freedoms.

x.United Nations and International Organizations:  The Committee will closely review all aspects of U.S. funding of, and participation in, international organizations.  Close attention will be paid to the extent to which such funding and participation advances U.S. interests and values, protects the integrity of U.S. taxpayer dollars, counters unwarranted bias against Israel, and leads to increased transparency, accountability, and reform of those organizations. The Committee will closely monitor the work of the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations and Department of Field Support, and particularly efforts to improve performance, enhance accountability, and combat waste, fraud and abuse in United Nations Peacekeeping Missions.

  1. GENERAL REVIEW OF U.S. FOREIGN POLICY

The Committee intends to exercise its oversight jurisdiction concerning the relations of the United States with foreign nations to the fullest extent allowed by House Rule X(1)(i). This means taking cognizance of events and circumstances in every region of the world outside of U.S. national borders, as well as U.S. foreign policy responses thereto, as developments warrant.

According to Committee Rules, those responsibilities are divided among the Full Committee, its one functional subcommittee, and its five regional subcommittees, as follows:

Full Committee.  The full Committee is responsible for oversight and legislation relating to: foreign assistance (including development assistance, Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Millennium Challenge Account, HIV/AIDS in foreign countries, security assistance, and Public Law 480 programs abroad); national security developments affecting foreign policy; strategic planning and agreements; war powers, treaties, executive agreements, and the deployment and use of United States Armed Forces; peacekeeping, peace enforcement, and enforcement of United Nations or other international sanctions; arms control and disarmament issues; the United States Agency for International Development; activities and policies of the State, Commerce, and Defense Departments and other agencies related to the Arms Export Control Act and the Foreign Assistance Act, including export and licensing policy for munitions items and technology and dual-use equipment and technology; international law; promotion of democracy; international law enforcement issues, including narcotics control programs and activities; Broadcasting Board of Governors; embassy security; international broadcasting; public diplomacy, including international communication and information policy, and international education and exchange programs; and all other matters not specifically assigned to a subcommittee.  The full Committee will have jurisdiction over legislation with respect to the administration of the Export Administration Act, including the export and licensing of dual-use equipment and technology and other matters related to international economic policy and trade not otherwise assigned to a subcommittee, and with respect to the United Nations, its affiliated agencies, and other international organizations, including assessed and voluntary contributions to such organizations. The full Committee may conduct oversight and investigations with respect to any matter within the jurisdiction of the Committee as defined in the Rules of the House of Representatives.

Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade.  This subcommittee has oversight and legislative responsibilities over the United States’ efforts to manage and coordinate international programs to combat terrorism as coordinated by the Department of State and other agencies, and efforts to bring international terrorists to justice. With the concurrence of the Chairman of the full Committee, it has oversight of, and legislation pertaining to, nonproliferation matters involving nuclear, chemical, biological and other weapons of mass destruction, except for legislation involving the Foreign Assistance Act, the Arms Export Control Act, the Export Administration Act, and sanctions laws pertaining to individual countries and the provision of foreign assistance (which is reserved to the full Committee). It has oversight of matters relating to international economic and trade policy; commerce with foreign countries; international investment policy; the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Trade and Development Agency; commodity agreements; and special oversight of international financial and monetary institutions; the Export-Import Bank, and customs. With the concurrence of the Chairman of the full Committee, it also has legislative jurisdiction over measures related to export promotion and measures related to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Trade and Development Agency.

Regional Subcommittees.  The five subcommittees with regional jurisdiction are:

  • The Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations
  • The Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific
  • The Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats
  • The Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa
  • The Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere

As detailed below, two of the regional subcommittees also have functional jurisdiction.

Each of the regional subcommittees has jurisdiction over the following within their respective regions:

(1)Matters affecting the political relations between the United States and other countries and regions, including resolutions or other legislative measures directed to such relations.

(2)Legislation with respect to disaster assistance outside the Foreign Assistance Act, boundary issues, and international claims.

(3)Legislation with respect to region- or country-specific loans or other financial relations outside the Foreign Assistance Act.

(4)Legislation and oversight regarding human rights practices in particular countries.

(5)Oversight of regional lending institutions.

(6) Oversight of matters related to the regional activities of the United Nations, of its affiliated agencies, and of other multilateral institutions.

(7) Identification and development of options for meeting future problems and issues relating to U.S. interests in the region.

(8) Oversight of base rights and other facilities access agreements and regional security pacts.

(9) Concurrent oversight jurisdiction with respect to matters assigned to the functional subcommittees insofar as they may affect the region.

(10) Oversight of foreign assistance activities affecting the region, with the concurrence of the Chairman of the full Committee.

(11) Such other matters as the Chairman of the full Committee may determine.

The Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations.  In addition to its regional jurisdiction, this subcommittee has oversight of: international health issues, including transboundary infectious diseases, maternal health and child survival, and programs related to the global ability to address health issues; population issues; the United Nations and its affiliated agencies (excluding peacekeeping and enforcement of United Nations or other international sanctions); international cultural and educational programs and exchanges; the American Red Cross; and the Peace Corps.  In addition, it has legislative and oversight jurisdiction pertaining to: implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; other matters relating to internationally-recognized human rights, including legislation aimed at the promotion of human rights and democracy generally; and the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, and related issues.

The Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats.  In addition to its regional jurisdiction, with the concurrence of the Chairman of the full Committee, this subcommittee has oversight jurisdiction related to emerging foreign threats to the national security and interests of the United States.