By: Anna Nelson

What is the kernel of the issue?

The State Department needs rebuilding, something the Biden administration has pledged to do. Congress reliably updates DoD authorities on an annual basis in the National Defense Authorization Act, but State has not received comprehensive reauthorization since 2003. Its primary foreign assistance authorities have been left largely untouched since the Cold War. As a result, it is operating in an outdated framework.

Why is the issue important?

Putting “diplomacy back at the center of our foreign policy,” is a priority for this President. He will rely on the State Department to achieve many of his foremost priorities, including repairing alliances, countering Russia, managing the relationship with China, and addressing the global pandemic. Best practices on foreign assistance, hiring, organizational management, and dozens of other areas have changed significantly since 2003, let alone since the sixties and seventies when many of State’s authorities were originally enacted.

What is the recommendation?

The Biden administration should review the State Department’s existing foreign relations and foreign assistance authorizations and the President should propose a comprehensive reauthorization to Congress. Doing so will give the Department the tools it needs to achieve the foreign policy goals the President has set out for it.