GOP lawmaker offers bill to improve hostage recovery

GOP lawmaker offers bill to improve hostage recovery

Rep. Duncan HunterDuncan Duane HunterCan Carl DeMaio save the California GOP? The Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats clash over future of party in heated debate Issa says he will run for Congress if not confirmed to trade post by Nov. 3 MORE (D-Calif.) introduced a bill on Thursday that would direct the president to put one official in charge of coordinating hostage release efforts.

The official would coordinate and direct all U.S. government activities related to hostage recovery. It would not be a new position, but designate an existing official to have the responsibility.

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“There’s a real problem with the way we recover hostages and even though the White House hostage policy review is making some proper determinations, some things aren’t expected to change," Hunter said in a statement to The Hill. 

"So my hope is that they mirror this approach — because I have no doubt it will work. And it was developed with the help of various planners across several government agencies, all of them recognizing a new approach is needed," said Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. 

The White House is undergoing a review of its hostage policy but says it will focus on coordination with hostages' family members, rather than changing the way it seeks to recover hostages. 

Hunter has repeatedly raised concerns with the administration over its efforts to recover hostages held by the Taliban and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Hunter said during those efforts, government agencies did not coordinate efforts with each other and sometimes worked at cross-purposes, which undermined the success of recoveries. 

For example, the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl involved about two-dozen officials at the State and Defense departments, Central Command, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Special Operations Command, the CIA, and the FBI, according to Hunter. 

Bergdahl was eventually returned last May in exchange for five Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, even though Hunter said there were other options being pursued.

The bill's release follows several unsuccessful rescue efforts for hostages held by ISIS. The terrorist group has killed three American hostages and another U.S. hostage died earlier this year in ISIS captivity.  

Hunter's bill also calls for a task force to work on each hostage's case. The official in charge, known as the Interagency Hostage Recovery Coordinator, would provide Congress with a quarterly report on each hostage situation. 

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter expressed support for the idea after Hunter brought it up during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday. 

"You're right," Carter told Hunter. "We do need a choreographer when that time comes to bring all those pieces together. ... This hostage rescue is an example of something that can only be done with a whole-of-government approach."