Opening Statement by Congressman Howard Berman Before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Hearing: New Beginnings: Foreign Policy Priorities in the Obama Administration

April 22, 2009
It's a great pleasure to welcome Secretary Clinton to the Committee this morning for her first appearance before Congress as Secretary of State. We know you have an extremely busy schedule, Madam Secretary, and we very much appreciate your taking the time to be here.

Normally, the Secretary's first appearance before the Committee would be to present the Administration's budget for the next fiscal year. But given the transition and the understandable delay in preparing the fiscal year 2010 budget, I've asked her to testify today on the Administration's overall foreign policy agenda and to discuss the broad outlines of the budget request. In a few weeks, the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources, Jack Lew, will appear before the Committee to discuss the Department's detailed budget proposal.

Madam Secretary, I want to commend you and your excellent team for taking immediate steps to address the dangerous lack of capacity at the State Department and USAID.

From her first days in office, she directed a comprehensive review of our chronically under-funded diplomacy and development capabilities. She then developed a plan to restore these critical components of our national security infrastructure. And finally, she fought to ensure that the Administration's Function 150 budget request provided adequate resources to implement that plan.

Madam Secretary, I couldn't agree with you more that we desperately need to reinvigorate our civilian foreign affairs agencies. To the extent diplomacy and development can help avoid conflicts before they start, it will save us billions in the long run. It will also help prevent the continuing migration of development-related programs to the military, thus relieving the burden on our brave men and women in uniform.

I am committed - and I know many of my colleagues on the Committee are as well -- to doing everything that we can to ensure that the budget request is fully funded. We will also do our part by marking up and passing a State Department authorization bill - hopefully on a bipartisan basis -- very soon after we receive the detailed budget. And later this year, we hope to pass foreign assistance reform legislation to rationalize our various foreign aid programs and provide the Administration additional flexibility to ensure that the most urgent needs are being met.

I want to make sure my colleagues have plenty of time to ask questions, so I'm not going to run through the entire laundry list of foreign policy challenges we now face. But I do want to touch on a couple of issues.

Madam Secretary, several of my colleagues and I returned just yesterday from a trip to India and Pakistan. I think I can speak for all of them in saying that we were encouraged by the dramatically improved U.S. ties with India, but deeply concerned about the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Pakistan.

In recent weeks, extremists based in the western border regions have turned their guns on the Pakistani state, launching dramatic suicide attacks in the population centers of Islamabad and Lahore. Equally troubling, the Pakistani government has cut a deal with the extremists that overran the Swat Valley - the latest in a string of failed agreements that has only emboldened the radicals.

To make matters worse, the Pakistani supreme court just ordered the release of Mauluna Abdul Aziz, the radical Red Mosque cleric, who has renewed his call to kill westerners and place all of Pakistan under a rigid and intolerant form of Islamic law.

The United States has an enormous stake in the stability and security of Pakistan. We cannot allow al Qaeda or any other terrorist group that threatens our national security to operate with impunity in the tribal regions. Nor can we permit the Pakistani state - and its nuclear arsenal -- to be taken over by the Taliban or any other radical groups, or otherwise be destabilized in a manner that could lead to renewed conflict with India. So it is very alarming that we are now hearing predictions from a number of leading experts that Pakistan could collapse in as little as six months.

Madam Secretary, I know you take these issues seriously, and I want to commend you and your team for developing a comprehensive Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy. I completely agree with your assessment that the security of those two countries and their neighbors is inextricably linked. And I strongly support your conclusion that strengthening the civilian democratic government of Pakistan should be a central part of our overall efforts.

In the next few weeks, our Committee will consider legislation to massively expand assistance to Pakistan, including funds to strengthen the capacity of parliament, the judiciary and the public education system. The bill also calls for the Administration to make a series of reasonable determinations to ensure that military assistance is used to meet both U.S. and Pakistani national security needs. Ambassador Holbrooke will testify next Wednesday to provide the Administration's views of the legislation, and to discuss the larger Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy.

I also would like to say a few words about Iran's continuing efforts to develop a nuclear weapons capability.

As you are well aware, a nuclear-capable Iran would pose a dire threat to the United States and our allies in the region, act as a hegemonic power in the Middle East, and cause a cascade of proliferation. In short, we can't allow Iran to acquire this capability.

Regrettably, the previous administration's policy failed to impact the Iranian regime's destabilizing behavior. And there is no reason to believe that doing more of the same will result in a different outcome.

We need a new approach to dealing with Iran - one that offers direct engagement in a bilateral or multilateral format. I believe this is reflected in the Administration's recently completed Iran policy review. But such engagement should not be open-ended. Indeed, Tehran continues to enrich uranium, and every day moves closer to the nuclear threshold. I would urge you to seek support in advance from key members of the international community to impose crippling sanctions - the kind that would compel, or at least maximize the chances of compelling, a change in the regime's current course - if engagement does not yield positive results.

Finally, after 25 years of grappling with the enormous economic losses caused by intellectual property piracy and counterfeiting, I would urge you to put this issue high on the list of the State Department's economic agenda.

Madam Secretary, I am excited about the prospect of working with you on the many challenges facing our nation. And I am now pleased to recognize my friend and the Ranking Member of our committee, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for her statement.