WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), announced the introduction of the State Department Integrity and Transparency Act, legislation to strengthen the State Department workforce and ensure senior State Department leaders are selected based on merit—not money or politics. The bill would ensure these positions are staffed by nonpartisan, experienced, and thoroughly vetted foreign policy professionals. The legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), who serve alongside Kaine on the SFRC.

“Last month marked the 100-year anniversary of the Foreign Service, and there is no better time to highlight the critical role the State Department plays in protecting our national security and advancing U.S. interests abroad,” said Kaine. “As China and Russia expand their global footprints and professionalize their diplomatic corps, this bill would help ensure our career diplomats and political appointees remain highly skilled and empowered to confront the growing number of complex challenges around the globe.”

“As the stewards of American diplomacy around the world, the people who power our State Department must be well-qualified, competent, and above the political fray. This legislation will help guard our diplomatic corps against politicization and preserve its integrity as a merit-based institution focused on advancing American values across the globe,” said Van Hollen.

 “A strong, experienced workforce is essential to the success of our federal agencies. This bill ensures the State Department—the face of American diplomacy—will have the best possible foreign policy professionals working to protect our national security and interests overseas. As the United States tackles growing global threats, we need to be able to confront these challenges wherever they appear with our best and brightest people,” said Merkley

Specifically, the State Department Integrity and Transparency Act would:

  • Require that no fewer than 75% of the Department’s assistant secretaries come from the Department’s Senior Foreign Service or Senior Executive Service. This would bring the Department closer in line with the number of career professional appointees in the senior ranks at the Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency.
  • Extend the existing requirement that the Department submit a report to Congress on the qualifications of ambassadorial nominees to nominees for assistant secretary positions.
  • Strengthen existing requirement that political campaigns not be a factor in the appointment of a chief of mission and require a presidential certification of compliance that competence, rather than contributions to political campaigns, is the primary qualification for the appointment of an individual as a chief of mission.
  • Ensure that unvetted and non-Senate confirmed sub-ambassadorial political appointees do not serve in extended and cushy overseas assignments at significant taxpayer expense.

Kaine has championed legislation to strengthen the federal workforce. He introduced the Ambassador Oversight and Transparency Act to boost oversight and transparency of ambassadorship nominations. Provisions from his bill passed as part of the 2022 State Department reauthorization bill and were signed into law. Kaine also led his colleagues, including Van Hollen, in introducing the Saving the Civil Service Act to protect the merit-based federal workforce system. The Biden Administration recently issued a new rule—similar to the Saving the Civil Service Act—that would protect career civil servants from politically-motivated firings.

Full text of the bill is available here.