ENHANCED STUDY AND EXCHANGE ACTIVITIES
Mr. COLEMAN. Mr. President, I want to bring the attention of my colleague from Kentucky to a provision Senator Bingaman and I offered to the Labor-HHS appropriations bill regarding a strategic plan for enhancing access of legitimate foreign students, scholars, scientists, and exchange visitors in the United States for study and exchange activates. Since September 11, restrictive visa policies and negative perceptions of the United States have led to a drastic decline in the number of foreign students studying in the United States, a development which has a negative consequences for both American foreign policy and economic competitiveness. A strategy is needed to pro-actively counter negative perceptions about America as unwelcoming to foreign students, and to enable us to successfully compete with places like the EU, the UK, and Australia, which have developed strategies to recruit the world's best and brightest. In my amendment to the Labor-HHS bill, I initially requested the Secretary of Education, in consultation with the Secretaries of State, Commerce, Homeland Security and Energy and others, to prepare this plan.
Mr. MCCONNELL. I am aware of this provision and have been alerted by the State Department that they would prefer that the Secretary of State take the lead in coordinating this strategic plan, given Secretary Rice's jurisdiction over this matter. Had this provision been offered to the fiscal year 2006 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act, I can assure my friend that it would have been included as a requirement for the State Department to fulfill.
Mr. COLEMAN. I, too, have been informed of the State Department's jurisdictional concern. Given that this issue is more appropriate to the Foreign Operations bill, I wonder if my friend from Kentucky will work with me and the State Department to ensure that this provision is fulfilled, specifically that within 180 days of enactment of the foreign aid bill the Department provide the relevant congressional committees with a report detailing this strategic plan, in consultation with the Departments of Education, Commerce, Homeland Security, and Energy, as well as institutions and organizations involved in international education. The strategy should seek to use innovative media like the Internet to develop a marketing strategy. It should also include policy recommendations for streamlining the procedures related to international student access.
Mr. MCCONNELL. My staff has already discussed this matter with the State Department and they have committed to providing such a plan within that timeframe.