May 03, 2019

Van Hollen, Sullivan Introduce Bill to Support Foreign Service Families

Introduction of Legislation Corresponds with Foreign Service Day – May 3rd

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), cofounders of the bipartisan Foreign Service Caucus, have introduced the Foreign Service Families Act. This legislation will help ensure that the State Department 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 that issue so our Foreign Service can continue to serve the best interests of Americans at home and abroad. To watch a video of Senators Van Hollen and Sullivan discussing the bill, click here.

“Growing up in a Foreign Service family allowed me to see firsthand the immense impact our diplomats have on furthering American security, interests, and values abroad. But these families often face unique challenges. This legislation will help provide more employment opportunities to Foreign Service spouses, and ensure that we can continue to attract and retain the best and the brightest to serve in our diplomatic corps. I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation with Senator Sullivan, and I urge the Congress to take up this common-sense measure immediately,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“Foreign service professionals are every bit as patriotic and service-oriented as members of our military, and often face similar challenges in far corners of the globe,” said Senator Sullivan. “We can’t forget that their family members serve our country too and, as a result, find it difficult to secure employment opportunities of their own. On this Foreign Service Day, I’m glad to join my colleague, Senator Van Hollen, in introducing legislation that will give foreign service families prioritized access to opportunities within the State Department, and expand partnerships with private sector employers wherever these families are called.”

The American Foreign Service Association said, “AFSA welcomes a high-level conversation about the authority and resources needed to honor the sacrifices of our dedicated Foreign Service families, who, like military families, face frequent deployment abroad, often in difficult and even dangerous conditions.”

The Foreign Service Families Act would provide 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. This includes:

  • Expanded hiring authority and preference for qualified spouses
  • Ensuring that Foreign Services spouses 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 spouses, and
  • Incorporating hiring preferences for qualified Foreign Service spouses into contracts between the Department of State and private-sector entities.

Additionally the legislation:

  • Directs the State Department to expand telecommuting opportunities for Foreign Service family members, so that family members can continue to work federal civilian and private sector 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
  • Makes sure 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.