Department of State news

The Department of State’s global database for issuing travel documents and visas has experienced technical problems, causing an “extensive backlog” of applications for U.S. passports and visas worldwide and major delays for potentially millions of people, the Associated Press reports.

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Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Private Sector Exchange Robin Lerner and staff of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) are traveling across the U.S. this July and August to visit international exchange participants, particularly of the Summer Work Travel (SWT) program, at their placement sites.

The full House Appropriations Committee marked-up its FY15 State-Foreign Operations (SFOPS) bill this morning, reflecting what was included in the bill text marked up by the SFOPS subcommittee last week: a flat overall funding level for exchanges, and funding levels for the Fulbright Program, the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), and Citizen Exchanges that are increases over FY14 levels, as opposed to President Oba

Both the House and the Senate proposed strong FY15 funding levels for Department of State international exchange programs this week.

Yesterday, the Senate proposed $590.77 million for State exchange programs in FY15. This funding number is a $22 million (or 3.9 per cent) increase over the current FY14 level and $12.87 million over the President’s FY15 request of $577.9 million.

On Tuesday, the House proposed $568.628 million for State exchange programs in FY15. This funding number is the same as the current FY14 level and $9.27 million below the President’s FY15 request. 

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The Senate State-Foreign Operations (SFOPS) Appropriations Subcommittee has proposed $590.77 million for Department of State international exchange programs in FY15. This funding number is a $22 million (or 3.9 per cent) increase over both the current FY14 level and the House FY15 proposed level (released on Tuesday), and $12.87 million over the President’s FY15 request.

The U.S. Department of State is commemorating this week the 30th anniversary of the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program (CBYX) with Germany (see the Department’s press release). The Department is holding a commemorative event today that includes current American and German participants, as well as officials and program alumni who have made significant impacts in their communities.

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Safety concerns, such as the threat of crime and drug violence, are deterring American students from studying in Mexico, prompting them to choose Costa Rica, Argentina, and Brazil as their study destinations in Latin America instead, the Washington Post reports.

The Obama administration is planning to double the number of people-to-people exchanges between the U.S. and Japan by 2020. President Obama announced this effort in a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Abe in Tokyo yesterday.

Said President Obama:

“I’m pleased that we continue to deepen the extraordinary ties between our people, especially our young people...”

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Rick Stengel, former managing editor of Time magazine, was sworn-in as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs yesterday. Stengel had been nominated for the post by President Obama last fall and was confirmed by the Senate in mid-February.

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The Fulbright Program is “a fundamental piece of America’s higher education infrastructure,” writes Jarrod Hayes in the Washington Post, providing “a critical opportunity for our collective braintrust to build the intellectual capital upon which our society relies”:

“The Fulbright scholars program is…central to everything colleges and universities do for our society. It supports faculty from all over the U.S.—red states, blue states, and states in between—to travel abroad in an effort to build connections with other societies and bring those connections and experiences home to their students and communities. It also brings the world into the classrooms of our children by funding the research and teaching of scholars from other societies visiting American colleges and universities.”

“In very many ways, the Fulbright program embodies the United States: an ambitious, diverse, globally connected program aimed at moving forward and at the forefront of taking on the difficult challenges that our societies and the world faces. And so preserving the Fulbright program is in a sense preserving who we are as Americans in the 21st century.”

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