May 07, 2021

Van Hollen, Sullivan Celebrate U.S. Foreign Service Day

Senators introduce resolution, legislation supporting Foreign Service officers and families

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), co-founders of the bipartisan Senate Foreign Service Caucus, announced the introduction of a resolution recognizing “Foreign Service Day,” which takes place today, and that they will soon reintroduce the Foreign Service Families Act. The legislation will help ensure that the Foreign Service is able to attract and retain a world-class diplomatic corps by providing expanded career options and services to eligible family members. For many of these family members, the process of finding employment isn’t easy—frequent moves, language barriers, and limited options pose significant challenges. This legislation will address those issues in order for the Foreign Service to continue to serve the best interests of Americans at home and abroad. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) are also original cosponsors of the Foreign Service Families Act.

"Across the globe, members of the Foreign Service work tirelessly to protect and promote America’s interests, often at great personal risk and sacrifice. During this pandemic, these public servants have been on the front lines, working overtime to help Americans abroad return home or weather the storm. As we celebrate Foreign Service Day and introduce this resolution marking the occasion, it's vital that we support our Foreign Service Officers not just in words but through our actions. That's why I'm proud to reintroduce the Foreign Service Families Act with Senator Sullivan to provide more overseas employment opportunities and important benefits to Foreign Service family members, and ensure that we can continue to attract and retain the best and the brightest to serve in our diplomatic corps. I’ll continue working to support our Foreign Service members and their families, and I'll be working to pass this common-sense bill,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“Today, 97 years since the founding of the U.S. Foreign Service, we offer our sincere gratitude to the courageous, hard-working men and women of this crucial diplomatic corps,” said Senator Sullivan. “Our country relies on Foreign Service officers to engage with governments, businesses and individuals around the world, all with the aim of promoting America’s interests, strengthening our national security, and assisting U.S. citizens. Two ways we can better support our Foreign Service officers is to prioritize their access to State Department opportunities at the conclusion of their service, and also expand private sector employment opportunities for the family members of officers where they serve. I’m glad to reintroduce legislation with Senator Van Hollen to accomplish those goals, and also to salute the men and women of the Foreign Service—and their families—today for their exemplary service to our country.”

“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.

The Foreign Service Families Act would provide authority to the State Department to offer the same services to Foreign Service family members that the Defense Department is permitted to provide to military families. This includes:

  • Expanded hiring authority for qualified family members;
  • Ensuring that Foreign Services family members receive notice of State Department vacancies and that those who apply receive consideration;
  • Making space available in State Department facilities for outside entities to provide career services;
  • Developing partnerships with the private sector to enhance employment opportunities for Foreign Service family members;
  • Incorporating hiring preferences for qualified Foreign Service family members into contracts between the Department of State and private-sector entities; and
  • Facilitating interstate compacts to alleviate occupational relicensing burdens associated with relocation.

Additionally, the legislation:

  • Provides in-state tuition rates to members of the Foreign Service, their spouses, and dependent children;
  • Extends provisions of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to the Foreign Service, allowing members of the Foreign Service who are posted overseas to terminate residential and motor leases and telephone service contracts;
  • Supports the expansion of telecommuting opportunities for Foreign Service family members, so that family members can continue to work federal civilian jobs while overseas;
  • Ensures that family members in the Expanded Professional Associates Program, which offers career opportunities for family members with advanced education and professional experience, are not held to unfair hiring standards; and
  • Ensures that the State Department has fully implemented the Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps, a program intended to speed hiring and improve clearance portability for Foreign Service family members.