WASHINGTON -- Sen. Rod Grams has dropped his hold on seven ambassadorial nominees who had piled up about 100 security violations, after the State Department agreed to tighten its disciplinary procedures.
"I applaud them for it," said Grams, R-Minn., the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's international operations subcommittee. "The concerns that I've raised have been addressed."
The nominees, who have not been identified, will be considered in a closed hearing of the full committee next Wednesday.
Grams said the committee would probably approve all seven career foreign service officers, although he said there was one nominee he still had reservations about. One of the nominees had accumulated more than 20 security violations.
Among the changes to be adopted by the State Department, effective next month:
-- All "security incidents" will be reported immediately to Washington, and will stay on the employee's record after switching posts.
-- Two infractions will trigger a warning letter, down from four; and three infractions will trigger a disciplinary process, down from five.
-- The State Department's nominations committee will take security records into account when it selects ambassadorial nominees.
-- Security records will be included in an employee's performance evaluation.
When he held up the nominees last spring, Grams said the department wasn't living up to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's statement, "I don't care how skilled you are as a diplomat, how brilliant you may be at meetings, or how creative you are as an administrator, if you are not professional about security, you are a failure."
The security violations reportedly include leaving safes open and taking classified documents from embassies.
The State Department confirmed the changes were made in response to Grams' holds.
"The administration should never put us in this position of sending up people that had these types of violations on their records," Grams said Thursday. "But now we have them before our committee. If we don't act on them now, it could mean that these posts would remain vacant, and they really need somebody there."
Marc Thiessen, a spokesman for committee chairman Jesse Helms, R-N.C., said the most important change is making security a factor in promotions.
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