Smith's Department of State Bill to Become Law
December 16, 2005
Establishes US participation in REDI Center to respond to and prevent bio-terror attacks and diseases
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A bill authored Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) that provides authorities for the Department of State was passed last night by the Senate and will be sent to President Bush to be signed into law. The bill, HR 4436, was passed by the House of Representatives on Wednesday night after Smith led floor debate on the legislation.
Smith's bill provides for US participation in the Regional Emerging Diseases Intervention Center, (REDI Center) in Singapore. The United States and Singapore established the REDI Center in order to promote regional health security.
Through its programs, the REDI Center will extend the perimeter of defense for emerging infectious diseases and other health security threats such as bio-terror, widen the international network for research, and translate these findings into improved public health. Under the provision of the bill, the US government can detail HHS infectious disease experts to the Center to work with their Asian counterparts, by providing training and research to prevent and respond to disease outbreaks, avian flu and bio-terror attacks. Its immediate focus will be to combat avian flu, which another person was diagnosed with in China just yesterday.
"The REDI Center will help to prevent the spread of pandemic flu and other epidemics at home and abroad," said Smith. "It will play a vital role in protecting American citizens from the threats of bio-terror attacks, avian flu and other deadly viruses."
Smith's bill also addresses key personnel issues which will strengthen the Department of State's ability to manage its people and resources. HR 4436 increases the maximum post-differential and danger pay allowance that may be given to Foreign Service Officers of the Department of State to 35% of base pay, bringing it in line with allowances offered to USAID personnel.
"We rely on the foreign service and diplomatic corps to be the face of America to people from other cultures who may never set foot on American soil," said Smith. "Providing them with adequate resources to perform their duties in a secure environment strengthens our overall diplomatic efforts."
"Secretary Rice has expressed the many challenges that the State Department faces in getting experienced staff to go to conflict areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan," said Smith. "My bill enables the State Department to increase and adequately compensate foreign service officers who must operate in dangerous and difficult environments."