Barr releases draft legislation designed to bolster government’s knowledge on China

In an effort to outcompete the People’s Republic of China (PRC), U.S. Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) on July 29 released a bipartisan draft bill that would require the U.S. State Department to hire more experts on China.

“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,” Rep. Barr said. “It’s time to double down on this strategy.” 

Rep. Barr and U.S. Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA) are cosponsoring the Expand eXpertise in China Education and Language (EXCEL) Act, which calls on the U.S. government to “further invest in relevant linguistic, cultural, and regional expertise to effectively engage in strategic competition with the People’s Republic of China,” according to the text.  

The draft bill also states that existing hiring authorities across the Executive Branch are not being adequately utilized to bring in necessary expertise “to win the strategic competition against the [PRC],” and that agencies may benefit from additional flexibility to recruit, hire and retain talent. 

Under the bill, the U.S. Secretary of State would be directed to appoint at least 31 candidates with Chinese language skills and areas of expertise to positions in the competitive service, and would create a bipartisan China Strategic Advisory Board, with members appointed by Democrats, Republicans and the Secretary of State, to oversee the training and recruitment of staff with expertise related to U.S. strategy in the Indo-Pacific, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers.

The bill also directs the Comptroller General to conduct a study of personnel at the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and to identify personnel gaps in the Indo-Pacific region, the summary says.

The bill would enable “USAID to recruit, hire and train Americans steeped in the culture, history and inter-workings of the [PRC],” said Rep. Barr. “Through this effort, we will better position the U.S. to preserve freedom in the face of a new Communist threat to the world.”

Rep. Bera pointed out that the PRC government and the Chinese Communist Party are the most significant geostrategic challenges facing the United States and its allies and partners in the 21st century. “It is a national security and economic imperative that we prioritize Chinese linguistic and cultural competencies on a long-term basis,” he said.