June 30, 2010
Thank you, Madam Chair.
It has been a pleasure working with you and all of the Members of the subcommittee again on this important bill that funds the operations of the State Department and our foreign assistance programs around the world.
Everyone who serves on this subcommittee is aware of the critical decisions we make in this bill. We’re often able to come together to help solve some of the world’s most difficult problems.
But we also face the continued concern in our own country about our economy and the devastating effects of skyrocketing deficits and debt.
And the State-Foreign Operations bill before us could very well represent the largest increase of all the appropriations bills that we consider for fiscal year 2011. At $52.6 billion, this bill is $4 billion -- 8 percent -- above last year.
This comes on top of a significant increase in the bill for fiscal year 2010, which was justified by a pledge to move away from supplemental appropriations. however, we now see another $4.5 billion in war-related spending and $1.7 billion to respond to the Haiti disaster – in this Subcommittee’s jurisdiction alone now before the Congress.
Another unfortunate reality is that Members enter this room today with no certainty about the top-line level of discretionary spending and no idea how that funding will be distributed among each of the subcommittees. Because this year’s process is so far off-track, we don’t even have this basic information.
I also sit on the Defense Subcommittee, and it is difficult to support the bill today without knowing the plan for funding the Defense Department. These two bills are complementary, and we are expected to strike the right balance. I want to be sure that we aren’t increasing foreign aid at the expense of our troops.
Many of the concerns I just described are not in Mrs. Lowey’s control, and I appreciate that she has tried to address issues raised by Members on this side of the aisle.
In terms of policy decisions, the Chair and I share a commitment to listen to Members and try to find bipartisan solutions.
The Chair has already described the highlights of the bill, so I will simply reiterate four very important items that I believe demonstrate our shared commitment on matters of national security and foreign policy.
• This bill fully funds the security assistance requests for strategic allies like Israel, Egypt and Jordan.
• It continues the fight against illegal drug trafficking in Mexico, Central America, and Colombia.
• It allows the Millennium Challenge Corporation to begin new compacts, and
• It supports vital maternal and child health programs.
With regard to Afghanistan, the chair and I have agreed to schedule a hearing to pursue the renewed allegations of corruption and misuse of U.S. taxpayer dollars. We are in agreement on how critically important this issue is to our Subcommittee.
The Administration’s policy of providing direct assistance to the Government of Afghanistan assumes a great deal of risk and with ongoing corruption inside the afghan government, it is difficult to justify.
We need to examine how this policy relates to the recent corruption scandals. We also need to determine whether the current system that is in place to assess the capacity of the Ministries is sufficient.
that is why the chair and i are requesting a thorough investigation be performed by the government accountability office to examine credible allegations of abuse, and also to look at our efforts to build anti-corruption and rule of law within the afghan ministries.
We also have to look at how those changes in funding would impact the overall strategy for Afghanistan while we have our troops on the ground. When General Petraeus helped craft the current afghan strategy last year, it was not exclusively a military strategy – the state department and USAID were intended to be key partners in the overall effort.
We must get all the facts and weigh them to ensure we don’t negatively affect ongoing U.S. military operations.
I have joined the chair in calling for an oversight hearing on these issues, but with respect to the overall strategy I strongly encourage the chair to invite the top leadership from the state department and USAID who are responsible for executing the civilian side of the strategy. I urge you, madam chair, to have the secretary of state, the USAID administrator, and ambassador Eikenberry testify at this hearing.
I have expressed concerns about a few other items in this bill that I just want to briefly mention. One item I’ve raised with the Chair is that the Subcommittee mark funds voluntary family planning programs at a significantly higher level than last year. There are legitimate concerns about family planning funds that are spent abroad, and Mrs. Lowey again deserves credit for not altering longstanding provisions in this bill that address some of these concerns.
Another concern is the astounding multi-year costs necessary to fulfill the many international commitments made by the Administration over the last 18 months. Many of them are funded in this bill. I want to continue to work with the Chair to be sure we have proper oversight of these funds.
I’d also like to thank the staff on both sides who have worked together to craft the bill. I’d like to thank the majority staff: Nisha Desai-Biswal, Craig Higgins, Steve Marchese, Michele Sumilas, Celia Alvarado, and Dennis Vega.
On the minority staff: Anne Marie Chotvacs, Alice Hogans, Mike Ringler, and Susan Adams. I know Mrs. Lowey and I both appreciate the work of our personal office staff who work on the bill, Ann Vaughan and Rachel Carter.
We all benefit from these highly professional staff and they, too, have worked together to bring forth this product.
Again, I want to express appreciation to the Chair for her willingness to work together. We both agree that Members on both sides of the aisle deserve to have their voices heard on the very important matters contained in this bill.
We all hope this bill will move to full committee and floor consideration, but because there is such uncertainty, my colleagues and I will be offering amendments today to try to improve the product before us.