WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Wednesday introduced legislation to ensure we have sufficient diplomatic and political expertise on the ground in fragile states and conflict zones. The Expeditionary Diplomacy Act supports an expeditionary approach to diplomacy by transforming the blame-focused Accountability Review Board into a learning-centric Security Review Committee, requiring the Department of State to consider the cost of a lack of presence, and reducing the State Department’s reporting burden to enable it to focus on keeping people safe, not producing reports. U.S. Representative Sara Jacobs (CA-53) will introduce companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Complicated conflicts abroad, like in Syria and Yemen and Iraq, have political and economic roots, but today U.S. foreign policy is unable to deploy resources into these conflict zones that will actually address the underlying causes of the unrest,” said Murphy. “America has capable, courageous troops, but they are trained to be fighters not diplomats. We need to get the State Department out of its bunker mentality and make sure that experienced political operatives can be on the ground in places where conflicts cannot end through the use of military force alone. After Benghazi, the State Department imposed much greater mobility restrictions on diplomats than those facing the military and CIA personnel. This was a huge mistake, and the Expeditionary Diplomacy Act helps reverse course by providing more incentive for the Department to put diplomats on the ground in the places where we need them most."
“Successful diplomacy and development require direct engagement. This bill promotes an approach to risk management that empowers our teams in the field to find the right approach to advance American interests securely, given local conditions,” said Ambassador Eric Rubin, President, American Foreign Service Association.
"This legislation is a necessary step toward balancing the promotion of America’s interests and protection of America’s diplomats. Direct, personal engagement is one of the best tools U.S. Foreign Service Officers have to advance American interests, and they fully accept the risks associated with that work. While Department of Defense personnel are often given the autonomy to assess and take risks, State Department personnel aren't given that same latitude and that can make the work of diplomacy more difficult. This legislation will enable State Department leadership, as well as diplomats in our embassies overseas, to do their job more effectively while also reducing the danger to U.S. personnel. We thank Senator Murphy for his leadership on this issue,” said Andrew Albertson, Executive Director, Foreign Policy for America.
Last week, Murphy asked Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Brian McKeon about the need to ensure diplomats are on the front lines in fragile states and conflict zones. In 2019, Murphy proposed the idea of sending diplomats into fragile states and conflict zones in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. Murphy also wrote about it in his piece for The Atlantic that described a new foreign policy toolkit for the next democratic administration.
Full text of the bill can be found here.