The Honorable Howard L. Berman
Acting Chairman
Committee on Foreign Affairs

Hearing with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

February 13, 2008

 

 

The Committee will come to order.

 

It is with real sadness and profound regret that I open this committee’s review of the Administration’s international affairs budget request for Fiscal Year 2009.  I had hoped that our departed friend and colleague, Chairman Tom Lantos, would take the gavel in hand to guide us.

 

Before we engage in this process, I’d like to ask everyone here today to stop … and reflect on the man who, for the last year, has led our efforts to hold the Executive Branch to account, while also holding together this Committee’s respected tradition of bipartisan cooperation – even when we disagree.

 

The last three days have brought a cascade of tributes to our late friend, Tom Lantos – so many fine words, coming from every quarter and corner of the world. They are the heartfelt outpourings of the mighty and the small … heads of state and the humble, too … along with legions of Tom and Annette Lantos’ fellow laborers in the vineyard of human rights.

 

Tom would have appreciated the eloquence of these countless accolades; he was so very well-spoken himself.  He would have reveled in the recognition of his hard work and that of his loving wife to build and to maintain the Congressional Human Rights Caucus over the last 24 years.  And he would have been gratified, yet humbled, by the sweeping accounts of his legislative achievements in fields as diverse as nuclear nonproliferation, environmental protection and international scholarly exchange.

 

And of course, history will remember Tom for his unwavering support of Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship.  His life experience instilled in him a deep and abiding commitment to that tiny state, an island of democracy and a true partner of our country.  In so many different ways, Tom worked to strengthen Israel’s security, to ensure its survival and to solidify U.S. support for its people.  These are clearly priorities and commitments that many of us on the Committee share, but none with greater eloquence and passion than Tom.

 

So please join me in a moment of silence to remember our friend and cherished colleague, the late and much-loved chairman of this committee and a moral force whose voice will be terribly missed, Congressman Tom Lantos of California.

 

Thank you. 

 

Finally, Chairman Lantos attracted a wonderful staff, both in his personal office and on this committee.  Their long service and outstanding work bear testament to his leadership.  I want to express my condolences to them as well as his family.

 

And now on to the business at hand, in the bipartisan spirit of rigorous and responsible oversight befitting the memory of Chairman Lantos.

 

Madame Secretary, I strongly support the Administration’s overall international affairs budget request for Fiscal Year 2009.  It surpasses current spending by nearly three billion dollars, a welcome turn of events.

 

In his 2002 National Security Strategy, President Bush elevated the importance of diplomacy and development to be on par with defense.  Nobody believes they will be funded equally, but we should strike a better balance than we now have.  The budget that funds the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development absolutely pales in comparison to what is requested for the Department of Defense.

 

The irony in this imbalance is that the international affairs budget contributes directly to U.S. national security.  The programs it funds help fight terrorism, prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and enhance the safety of our embassies around the world. 

 

This budget also funds an array of vital programs to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law; to assist U.S. business abroad; and to provide critical assistance for those suffering from extreme poverty in the poorest places in the world.  And yet this budget typically comprises just over one percent of total federal spending. 

 

The new budget request starts to address the reality that we have been far too slow to face: Our civilian agencies are woefully unprepared to handle the unprecedented global security challenges confronting the United States today.

 

Here’s just one example of that: A study just released by the RAND Corporation shows that despite the common notion that civil capabilities and military power are equally important to counterinsurgency operations overseas, the meager and infrequent bump-ups in the State Department’s budget have been "dwarfed" by massive increases in Pentagon spending.  The report goes on to note, and I’m quoting here: "If Islamic insurgency is the gravest threat to the United States and its interests in the near to middle term, and if countering this insurgency requires a broad and balanced array of capabilities, the grim implication is that the United States is ill equipped to counter the gravest threat it faces."  It goes on to say that we “must invest to correct (these) deficiencies and imbalances."

 

With increasing frequency, our men and women in uniform have been filling the gap in civilian capacity in our reconstruction and stabilization projects overseas.  Combatant commanders and field artillerymen are building schools and mentoring city councils – usually without the needed language skills or long-term training for this ambitious work.  However, as Secretary of Defense Gates has aptly observed, “It is no replacement for the real thing – civilian involvement and expertise.” The need for this expertise will only become more pronounced as many experts agree that the United States will be engaged in more, not fewer, operations that affect our national security. 

 

 

Madame Secretary, I’m also concerned that the increased funding for what has come to be known as “transformational diplomacy” has been taken out of the hide of another significant area of the international affairs budget -- peacekeeping.

 

The request for the peacekeeping account is based on overly optimistic assumptions, and is absurdly low.  At one-point-five billion dollars, the fiscal year 2009 request is eight hundred million dollars below what the Administration is spending on U.N. peacekeeping this year.  With the ramp-up of the U.N. mission in Darfur, the situation in Chad, and the anticipated need to sustain robust forces in Lebanon, Congo, Liberia, southern Sudan, Ivory Coast, and Haiti, we can anticipate a sharp increase in the overall U.N. peacekeeping budget and the operations that support so many U.S. interests.

 

Madame Secretary, we look forward to hearing from you about how the Department of State intends to meet all of our country’s foreign policy responsibilities, from stabilization to peacekeeping to increasing the diplomatic ranks.