Committee on Foreign Affairs

Ed Royce

Foreign Affairs Committee Passes Legislation to Reform U.S. International Broadcasting

2015/05/21

Royce : “U.S. is confronted by an unconventional threat – the weaponization of information.”

Engel:  “Today, America’s rivals spend massive sums to spread violent messages and disseminate propaganda.”

Washington, D.C. – Today, the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed bipartisan legislation to improve the missions, objectives, and effectiveness of U.S. international broadcasters, which are overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).  H.R. 2323, the United States International Communications Reform Act of 2015 was introduced last week by Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the Committee’s Ranking Member.  [A section-by-section summary of H.R. 2323 is available HERE.]

On April 15, the Committee examined the destabilizing role that Russia is playing across Europe by its weaponizing of information and the abject failure of the U.S. to respond effectively.

Upon passage of H.R. 2323, Chairman Royce said:  “Today, the U.S. is confronted by an unconventional threat – the weaponization of information.  This new threat, employed by ISIS, Putin, and Iran, undermines stable democratic governments, uses conspiracy theories to incite violence, and stokes anti-American sentiment. BBG, the agency charged with leading the U.S. response effort, is crippled by an inefficient bureaucracy and incoherent leadership structure. We cannot allow these problems to fester any longer at an agency that is so important when the stakes are so high. The reforms proposed in the legislation the Committee passed today are justifiably far-reaching, and I will work to see this legislation enacted into law. I am proud to have Ranking Member Engel as a partner in this important effort.”

Ranking Member Engel said:  “Today, America’s rivals spend massive sums to spread violent messages and disseminate propaganda.  Unfortunately, our ability to respond has fallen behind the techniques employed by Russia, ISIS, and others. This bill creates a new management structure to oversee our international broadcasting efforts, streamlines our broadcasting organizations, and modernizes our tools for getting our message out.  I’m proud to join Chairman Royce in sponsoring this legislation that will provide a much-needed overhaul to American international broadcasting.”

The United States International Communications Reform Act of 2015:

  • Fixes well-documented Management Problems. Currently, five U.S. international broadcasting entities report to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (“BBG”), a group of 9 part-time individuals, who meet once a month to make management decisions. Important decisions can languish if the Board does not have a quorum, which is often the case. This legislation would establish a full-time, day-to-day agency head and reduce the role of the Board to a more appropriate advisory capacity. These changes have been recommended by the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General and are widely recognized as needed reforms.
  • Clarifies the Mission of the Voice of America (VOA). The VOA charter states that VOA will provide a “clear and effective presentation of the policies of the United States.” Over time, VOA has abandoned this mission and adopted a mission of the so-called “surrogates” to provide uncensored local news and information to people in closed societies. This legislation makes clear that the Voice of America mission is to present the broad foreign policy of the United States and “tell America’s story.”
  • Consolidates “the Freedom Broadcasters.” Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Radio Free Asia (RFA), and the Middle East Broadcasting Network (MBN) have the same mission – to provide uncensored local news and information to people in closed societies – with different geographic reach. Consolidating these organizations into a single, non-federal organization will achieve cost savings, allow for closer collaboration, and improve responsiveness. While the consolidation would mean shared administrative staff and other economies of scale, they would retain their distinct “brand names.”

H.R. 2323 reiterates the reforms proposed in H.R. 4490, legislation Royce and Engel introduced in April 2014.  The Committee unanimously passed H.R. 4490 in April 2014; the House passed H.R. 4490 in July 2014; the Senate never considered H.R. 4490.

Also today, the Committee considered and passed the following measures:

  • H.R. 1853, introduced by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), directs the President to develop a strategy to obtain observer status for Taiwan in the International Criminal Police Organization;
  • H.R. 2100, the Girls Count Act of 2015, introduced by Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), authorizes the Secretary of State and the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development to provide assistance to support the rights of women and girls in developing countries;
  • H. Res. 213, introduced by Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), condemns the April 2015 terrorist attack at the Garissa University College in Garissa, Kenya, and reaffirms the United States support for the people and Government of Kenya;
  • H. Res. 235, introduced by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), expresses deepest condolences to and solidarity with the people of Nepal following the devastating earthquake on April 25, 2015.

A summary of the Committee action, including adopted amendments, is available HERE.

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Chairman Royce, Ranking Member Engel Introduce Legislation to Combat International Wildlife Trafficking, Strengthen National Security

2015/05/21

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the Committee’s Ranking Member, introduced H.R. 2494, the Global Anti-Poaching Act.  This legislation will help the United States and partner countries counter the terrorist organizations, rebel groups, and international criminal syndicates that are profiting from international wildlife trafficking.

A section-by-section summary of the Global Anti-Poaching Act (H.R. 2494) is available HERE.

Upon introduction of H.R. 2494, Chairman Royce said:  “With its high profit margins, the illicit trade of wildlife has become an extremely lucrative funding source for terrorist groups and international gangs.  As rhino horn now sells for tens of thousands of dollars a pound, poaching is one of the most profitable criminal activities in the world. Tackling this growing problem conserves some of the world’s most iconic species and strengthens our national security.  This bipartisan legislation will aid the global fight against the rampant poaching that is plaguing the world.”

Ranking Member Engel said:  “We need to curb wildlife trafficking because it’s the right thing to do—and it’s also the smart thing to do to promote security and stability.  The people responsible for the slaughter of these remarkable and imperiled animals are the same people fueling criminal enterprises, funding terrorism, and sowing violence.  This legislation will help governments fight wildlife trafficking in the places where this crime is widespread, and it will also ramp up our efforts here at home to crack down on this practice.  I’m pleased to join Chairman Royce in moving forward with this important measure.”

H.R. 2494:

  • requires the Secretary of State to identify the foreign countries determined to be a major source, transit point, or consumer of wildlife trafficking products and make a special designation for those countries that have “failed demonstrably” in adhering to international agreements on endangered or threatened species (the Secretary of State is authorized to withhold certain assistance from countries that have received this special designation);
  • puts wildlife trafficking in the same category as weapons trafficking and drug trafficking, making it a liable offense for money laundering and racketeering and  requires fines, forfeitures, and restitution received to be transferred to federal conservation and anti-poaching efforts;   
  • authorizes the President to provide security assistance to African countries for counter-wildlife-trafficking efforts;
  • takes a multi-country, regionally focused approach by expanding wildlife enforcement networks (WENs) to help partner countries strengthen coordination and share information and intelligence on illegal wildlife trafficking;
  • supports increased professionalization of partner countries’ wildlife law enforcement rangers on the front lines of the fight against poachers, who are often armed with night-vision goggles, heavy weaponry, and even helicopters.

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Markup: H.R. 1853, H.R. 2100, H.R. 2323, H. Res. 213, and H. Res. 235

2015/05/21

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Chairman Royce Statement on ISIS Advances in Syria, Iraq

2015/05/21

Ancient and Strategic Palmyra Seized

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued this statement following reports that ISIS has seized control of Palmyra, Syria just days after ISIS captured Ramadi, Iraq:

“The fall of Ramadi to ISIS one day, the ancient city of Palmyra, Syria days later.  Palmyra residents now face the same terrorists who slaughtered men, women and children as they overran Ramadi.  And while nothing compares to the human suffering ISIS inflicts, the 2000 year-old Hellenistic and Roman ruins in Palmyra are imperiled.  How is it that ISIS is seizing territory on two fronts, ten months after U.S. air strikes began?  It’s dreadfully obvious that we aren’t working well enough to defeat ISIS and protect the people of Palmyra and its precious relics of our shared history.” 

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Chairman Royce Statement on Aspen Institute Report “Reforming American Public Diplomacy”

2015/05/20

Expert Group Backs Royce Reform Legislation

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued this statement welcoming The Aspen Institute’s release of its report “Reforming American Public Diplomacy” which presents the conclusions of the Aspen Institute Dialogue on Diplomacy and Technology:

“The Aspen Institute report reflects the consensus of the group that met last August to discuss reform to America’s public diplomacy including the Broadcasting Board of Governors.  The report reaffirms the need for sweeping BBG reforms and endorses the legislation that the House passed unanimously last Congress and was reintroduced last week.  We cannot continue to allow our public diplomacy efforts to flounder, endangering our national security.”

The Aspen Institute report states:

“The Dialogue participants, including two former chairs of the BBG and its current chair, the current Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, a former Secretary of State, current and former members and staff of Congress from both sides of the aisle, various industry experts, and former government officials from State, the NSA, the FCC, and Commerce, on a bi-partisan basis strongly recommended that the Senate support the House passed United States International Communications Reform Act…”

H.R. 2323 – the United States International Communications Reform Act of 2015 will be marked-up by the Committee tomorrow.

More information regarding reform of the Broadcasting Board of Governors can be found here.

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Foreign Affairs Committee to Consider Bill to Reform U.S. International Broadcasting and Other Measures – Tomorrow 10 a.m.

2015/05/20

Washington, D.C. – Tomorrow at 10:00 a.m., the House Foreign Affairs Committee will meet to consider the United States International Communications Reform Act of 2015 (H.R. 2323), bipartisan legislation introduced by Chairman Royce to  improve the missions, objectives, and effectiveness of U.S. international broadcasters.  To learn more about the Chairman’s efforts to reform U.S. international broadcasting, click here.

The Committee will also consider the following measures:

  • H.R. 1853, (Mr. Salmon) To direct the President to develop a strategy to obtain observer status for Taiwan in the International Criminal Police Organization, and for other purposes
  • H.R. 2100, (Mr. Chabot) the Girls Count Act of 2015
  • H. Res. 213, (Ms. Bass) Condemning the April 2015 terrorist attack at the Garissa University College in Garissa, Kenya, and reaffirming the United States support for the people and Government of Kenya, and for other purposes
  • H. Res. 235, (Mr. Salmon) Expressing deepest condolences to and solidarity with the people of Nepal following the devastating earthquake on April 25, 2015

What:Markup: H.R. 1853, H.R. 2100, H.R. 2323, H. Res. 213, and H. Res. 235

When: 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, May 21

Where: 2172 Rayburn House Office Building

***See www.foreignaffairs.house.gov for updates.

***Coverage note:  All Foreign Affairs Committee proceedings are webcast live at www.foreignaffairs.house.gov/live-video-feed.

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Subcommittee Hearing: Developments in Rwanda

2015/05/20

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Subcommittee Markup: H.R. 1853 and H. Res. 235

2015/05/20

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Subcommittee Hearing: Everest Trembled: Lessons Learned from the Nepal Earthquake Response

2015/05/20

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Subcommittee Hearing: Egypt Two Years After Morsi: Part I

2015/05/20

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