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Secretary of State Testifies before House Foreign Affairs Committee

Secretary of State Testifies before House Foreign Affairs Committee

(Associated Press photo)

Secretary Rice gave her last testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week.

The hearing began with a moment of silence in memory of the recently-deceased California Democrat and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, Tom Lantos. Howard L. Berman, another California Democrat, was appointed as the Committee's Acting Chairman.

He began his chairmanship by welcoming the increase in spending for the State Department's budget: “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.”

Congressman Berman continued: “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.”

Acting Chairman Berman's full remarks can be viewed here.

The Committee's minority leader, Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, also lamented Lantos’ death and then went on to express her concerns about a long list of challenges for US foreign policy, including: nuclear proliferation, North Korea, Iran, Darfur, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and others. You may access the full text of her remarks here.

Next Secretary Rice made her opening remarks, a transcript of which can be viewed here (as delivered). (A video of Secretary Rice's testimony can be viewed by clicking here, and a video of the entire hearing can be viewed here).

Contrary to the hearing's title “International Relations Budget for Fiscal Year 2009,” the remarks of both the lawmakers and the witness focused only briefly on the budget request, and more so on a variety of hot button conflicts in the Middle East‚ Iran's nuclear program, the Israeli/Palestinian issue, US troop commitment in Iraq, the Lebanon/Syria relationship‚ the Pakistani election and relations with China. The bulk of Secretary Rice's discussion about the budget is contained in her prepared remarks, which were provided to the Committee in advance.

Congressman Ackerman used this opportunity to press Secretary Rice on whether her administration intends to establish permanent military bases in Iraq. The issue caused controversy earlier this month when President Bush left the option open–in opposition to Congress’ wishes, while members of his administration spoke otherwise. In the hearing Secretary Rice confirmed that it is “not our intention to seek permanent military bases in Iraq.”

It appears that foreign audiences were also eagerly watching Rise's testimony. The Armenian online news site Defacto reported on Congressman Brad Sherman's proposed budget for Armenia. The Russian online news outlet Kommersant reviewed the testimony with particular attention to the Secretary's and lawmaker's remarks toward Russia.



Melinda Brouwer

Melinda Brower holds a Masters degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She received her bachelor's degree in Political Science and Spanish at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received a graduate diploma in International Relations from the University of Chile during her tenure as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. She has worked on Capitol Hill, at the State Department, for Foreign Policy magazine and the American Academy of Diplomacy. She presently works for an internationally focused non-profit research organization in Washington, DC.