Representative Houlahan Legislation to Strengthen State Department Passes House
Washington, July 25, 2019
WASHINGTON – Today, Representative Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) announced that two of her bills to improve recruitment and retention at the State Department have passed the House of Representatives. The State Department Authorization Act of 2019 is a bipartisan bill that includes Houlahan-authored legislation to encourage the hiring of STEM professionals and improve parental leave policies. The Supporting Technical Experts in Managing (STEM) Diplomacy Act breaks down barriers that prevents the State Department from hiring STEM experts, who are uniquely qualified to advance policies on technical issues like nuclear nonproliferation or climate change. The Standardizing State Department Parental Leave Act will improve State Department retention of working families by implementing a standardized parental leave policy across all bureaus and offices within the Department and missions abroad. The legislation passed the House by a voice vote.
“For our national security and standing on the world stage, we must work to ensure that our State Department is attracting and retaining the best and brightest our country has to offer,” said Houlahan. “When we see policies that hinder this, we must work in a bipartisan way to fix them.
I’ve recently learned that unless you have a degree in the humanities, you cannot apply to fill many of the civil service jobs at the State Department. In other words, this outdated policy is excluding STEM experts with professional and academic training from filling roles that examine complex technical issues like nuclear nonproliferation and environmental policy. This is short-sighted. That’s why I wrote and passed the Supporting Technical Experts in Managing (STEM) Diplomacy Act, so that STEM professionals can serve their country in these mission-critical roles.
As a new member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and working mom, I was troubled to learn that the State Department does not have a standardized parental leave policy, and some employees have to borrow paid leave days from co-workers in order to welcome a child into their family. This is unacceptable and it needs to change today. In failing to execute a standardized parental leave policy across all offices and bureaus, the State Department is failing its employees, people who are serving our country and protecting our interests here and abroad. My Standardizing State Department Parental Leave Act requires the Secretary of State of implement a standardized parental leave policy for all State Department workers.”
“As Congress seeks to address paid parental leave across the U.S. federal government, AFSA is grateful for Rep. Houlahan’s efforts to require a uniform paid parental leave policy across the entire Department of State, including for our diplomats at overseas posts,” said Kim Greenplate, Director of Advocacy at the American Foreign Service Association.
About the bills:
-H.R. 3769, the Supporting Technical Experts in Managing (STEM) Diplomacy Act, authorizes the Secretary of State to waive Office of Personnel Management (OPM) hiring requirements for certain civil service positions at the Department if the candidate displays significant expertise in STEM fields relevant to the position for which they are applying. It is crucial that technical experts are involved in the development of complex foreign policy, especially on issues like nonproliferation and environmental policy, and that Congress should be promoting the hiring of STEM professionals at all levels of government.
-H.R. 3639, the Standardizing State Department Parental Leave Act, requires the Secretary of State to standardize parental leave policy across all bureaus and offices within the Department and missions abroad. Currently, policies regarding how paid leave time could be used to cover parental leave differed between bureaus, where some could use paid sick time and others could not.”
Houlahan is an Air Force veteran, an engineer, a serial entrepreneur, an educator, and a nonprofit leader. She’s in her first term representing Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District, which encompasses Chester County and southern Berks County. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and the House Small Business Committee.