In late July, Congressmen Andy Barr (R-Kentucky) and Ami Bera (D-California) introduced the Expand eXpertise in China Education and Language (EXCEL) Act, bipartisan legislation to strengthen relevant linguistic, cultural, and regional expertise. Congressman Bera is the chairman and Congressman Barr a member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia, and Nonproliferation.
The EXCEL Act would:
- Direct the secretary of state to appoint no fewer than 31 candidates with linguistic, cultural, or regional expertise relevant for strengthening US understanding of and ability to compete with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) directly to positions in the competitive service;
- Direct the secretary of state to train foreign service and civil service employees who hold positions relevant to advancing US policies toward competition on:
- the domestic and foreign policy objectives of the PRC and Chinese Communist Party (CCP);
- the tools the PRC and the CCP use to achieve those objectives; and
- the role of ideology in shaping CCP policies and outlook;
- Establish a China Strategic Advisory Board comprising experts appointed by the president, secretary of state, and leaders from the Democratic and Republican parties. The China Strategy Advisory Board would:
- Provide advice, expertise, and continuity in US foreign policy matters pertaining to strategic competition with the PRC;
- Review recruitment, training, and retention of civil service and foreign service members with the expertise and experience necessary to support US policy toward the PRC; and
- Review programs across regional and functional bureaus intended to respond to strategic competition with the PRC, including the Counter PRC Malign Influence Fund.
- Identify long-term solutions through the Government Accountability Office, including directing the comptroller general of the US to conduct a study on the personnel capacity and capability at the Department of State and USAID to support US strategic competition with the People’s Republic of China and on available mechanisms to address any identified gaps; identify the percentage of vacant foreign service positions and civil service positions in the Indo-Pacific vis-`a-vis other regions globally; and identify actions Congress, the White House, and the Department of State can take to address current gaps.
“Part of deterring the Chinese Communist Party is knowing the Chinese Communist Party. America did this well during the Cold War, and that effort was critical in freedom prevailing over Communism. It’s time to double down on this strategy, and our bill does so by enabling USAID to recruit, hire, and train Americans steeped in the culture, history, and inter-workings of the People’s Republic of China. Through this effort, we will better position the US to preserve freedom in the face of a new Communist threat to the world,” said Congressman Barr.
“The government of the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Community Party are the most significant geostrategic challenges facing the United States and our allies and partners in the 21st century,” said Congressman Bera. “If we are to outcompete China and win the geostrategic competition of the 21st century, we need a much better understanding of the country’s language, history, and institutions, as well as the objectives they seek to advance in the Indo-Pacific region.
The bipartisan EXCEL Act will strengthen our knowledge of the People’s Republic of China and empower the United States government to recruit, hire, and retain the next generation of American experts on China. It is a national security and economic imperative that we prioritize Chinese linguistic and cultural competencies on a long-term basis.”