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Opening Remarks Before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State, The Judiciary and Related Agencies

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
March 3, 2004

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. It's, as always, a pleasure to be before the committee and I look forward to the question period that will follow my prepared statement.

On the two points you made, Mr. Chairman, let me assure you that we are looking for the kind of person you just described, somebody who understands the military aspects of our situation in Iraq, but also will have a firm grasp of the diplomatic, international, political considerations that have to go into his work, or her work, for that matter. But we are looking for a warrior-diplomat.

With respect to the Sudan, my Acting Assistant Secretary for Africa just returned last night. We spent a little time talking about it this morning. The hang-up still remains Abiye and the two sides are exchanging some positions with respect to Abiye and how to get through that. And we have some ideas of our own that we are prepared to put into the process at the appropriate moment.

We've come a very long way over the last several years, Mr. Chairman. I remember our early conversations about the Sudan when I first became Secretary of State, and I told you that the President had made it clear to me that we wanted to make progress, if not solve this issue; and we're very close. And we will work very hard in the days ahead to try to bring this to a successful conclusion. The power-sharing part is pretty much complete; the wealth-sharing part is complete; two of the three -- two of the three disputed areas are pretty much taken care of. Abiye is the hard one.

The background that one has to also consider is what's happening in Darfur, which is not good. And we are in touch with our international partners to see if we cannot bring that situation under control. And I'll probably be talking to Sudanese authorities within the next 24 hours about the catastrophe that's unfolding in Darfur.

Would you like me to pause for Mr. Serrano, sir?

(Secretary Powell’s opening remarks are temporarily suspended for remarks by Representative Jose E. Serrano)

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. If I may respond to a few of Mr. Serrano's points before getting into my prepared statement.

On Iraq, sir, I'm well aware that you opposed our efforts last year and we still do have a difficult time ahead of us in Iraq, as we saw yesterday, with the vicious acts of terrorists trying to keep the Iraqi people from having a democracy and keeping them from moving forward.

But the fact of the matter is, a horrible regime that filled mass graves; that did have weapons of mass destruction programs; that was a despotic regime that was not worthy of the people of Iraq is gone. It is gone, and now the Iraqi people have put in place a basic administrative law as a result of a very full and interesting democratic process over the last few weeks. And they will now -- they're going to be hard at work to put in place a transitional government that will take responsibility for their own sovereignty on the 1st of July. And I think we have much to be proud of.

Electricity and oil production and the beginning of civil society is all well underway and we should be proud of what we have done, and we should be proud of what our coalition partners have done, and we should be proud of what our men and women on the ground have

done. And I know you're proud of them, Mr. Serrano. There's no dispute about that between us.

We did have some strained relations as a result of this with some of our partners, but we're making amends to those strained relations. We're fixing them.

Chancellor Schroeder was here last week. He and the President had good meetings. He will be trying to help us as we move forward, not only in Afghanistan, as the Germans already are, but to see what they might be able to do, even though it won't include troop contributions, in Iraq.

We have worked very closely with the French in recent weeks on a number of issues, to include Haiti, and the President had a good talk with President Chirac on yesterday or the day before yesterday.

So we're moving forward with respect to those allies that we had some strained relations with about a year ago.

You've also noticed, I'm sure, that the United Nations has been asked to come in and play a vital role. The President has always said he wanted them to play a vital role. Ambassador Brahimi has gone in, and I hope that circumstances will permit Kofi Annan to send back in Ambassador Brahimi and others in the near future to keep the process moving along.

I cannot accept the characterization that we don't care about Latin America. We just concluded a Central American Free Trade Agreement. We have concluded other free trade agreements with our Latin American friends. The President had a very good set of meetings with our Latin American partners at the summit in Monterrey in January.

With respect to Haiti, we worked very hard to try to find a political solution. I worked not all by myself, unilaterally, just the United States; we worked with the United Nations; we worked with the OAS; we worked with CARICOM; we worked with France; we worked with other nations to see if we could not find a political way forward to save this democratically-elected government, a government that was democratically elected by 5 percent of the population participating, and no opposition parties participating because of the flawed nature of the previous election for parliament, and because of the actions of President Aristide over a long period of time that undercut the democracy that he was elected to lead.

It's one thing to be elected in a democratic manner, but then you have to govern democratically. And President Aristide, over time, lost that ability and was taking actions that were not consistent with his obligations.

But having said that, we tried to help him. We tried to get him into a process with the opposition. But by the time this thing came to a crisis, the opposition had been so disappointed and so resentful and untrusting of President Aristide's efforts over the years that we couldn't get that together.

And finally, it became clear to us when the situation was deteriorating so badly that it was not clear that President Aristide would be able to remain on. It was a decision he made. The suggestion that somehow he was kidnapped by the armed forces of the United States is absurd, it's wrong, didn't happen. It's not the way it happened. We have made it clear what happened on Saturday evening. I was intimately involved in it from 9 o'clock in the evening until 6 o'clock the next morning, when he finally departed the country.

He departed the country with his own bodyguards. The people who guard him have now made a statement. The head of the company that provides security to him made a statement that he was with his own people. They escorted him to the plane and he did it voluntarily, notwithstanding what he has said upon arrival in the Central African Republic. His letter of resignation was written by him, not dictated by us. And so this suggestion that somehow the United States kidnapped him and spirited him away against his will is simply incorrect.

At 9 o'clock on Saturday night, when this situation started to unfold, I was minding my business at home, getting ready for speeches this week and hearings this week, and not plotting a kidnapping, nor was anybody else in the United States Government. It was a situation that arose because the security was deteriorating and President Aristide's security people conveyed that to him, and in consultation with us asked for our assistance for his departure; and we were able to do that in a short period of time.

As of today, the situation is slowly getting under control but that will happen more rapidly in the days ahead as more troops arrive from the United States, from France, from Canada, from Chile and from other countries who want to try to help the Haitian people get another start in life.

We're in touch with some of these opposition leaders who want to be a part of the political process. We're also in touch with some of the rebel leaders today, who are proclaiming themselves into various offices. And that will not sustain over time. That will not be the case. And we're working with the United Nations. We got a unanimous resolution on Sunday evening to support the effort that is now underway and that will become, in due course, a UN peacekeeping operation.

We do support UN peacekeeping operations to the fullest extent possible. We've just committed to supporting additional peacekeeping efforts in Cote d'Ivoire. What we did in Liberia last year is a credit to American diplomacy and the diplomacy of our African friends in ECOWAS that we're able to come together, work together -- not unilaterally, not throwing our weight around -- but working with a regional organization, ECOWAS, and the UN, to get Charles Taylor out of Liberia so that we can get a better start. And we are spending a lot of money now with the Liberian transitional government to put it in place on a solid footing and get ready for elections.

We're working hard in Africa. The HIV/AIDS account that the Congress has funded and the Millennium Challenge Account, this all suggests that we are interested in Africa. We are interested in Latin America. We are interested in countries that are in need. The President would not have gone forward with these two positive initiatives if he wasn't committed to helping the people of Africa.

We don't go around sticking our nose into democracies and trying to tell people what to do. In the case of Haiti, it was a rapidly deteriorating situation and frankly, it had to be resolved, unfortunately, in the way that it was by President Aristide's departure.

With respect to Venezuela, there is a process underway now, and we will see how that works itself out, as citizens of Venezuela are able to go and verify their signatures, if that's the way the election commission decides it will be done in the final analysis, and let the people of Venezuela speak with respect to who they want to have as their leader.

Now, President Chavez is the democratically elected President of Venezuela and the United States accepts that outcome. There was some talk last year that we had something to do with a coup attempt but we did not. There was no such -- nothing happened like that. Although it is something that was passed around, it was nothing that came out of the Department of State.

With respect to your support for our funding request, Mr. Serrano, let me say how much I appreciate that and I'm glad that you do have confidence in the Department to that extent. And I want you to know that we will be supporting international organizations. We are very supportive of the United Nations. We have reengaged in other and new UN activities that we hadn't been engaged in for a long time.

We now have an ambassador, a new ambassador, to UNESCO. The United States is participating in UNESCO; we're going to fund UNESCO. We are committed to the expansion of NATO, the expansion of the European Union. We are working to solve the problems in Cyprus. We are working to get weapons of mass destruction out of Libya. We are working hard with our friends in the region to do something about North Korea's nuclear weapons. This isn't the -- this isn't the action of an Administration that's just going off on its own and not paying attention to the aspirations, needs and points of view of our friends and allies around the world. And that will continue to be the policy of President Bush and of his Administration.

Turning now, if I may, Mr. Chairman, to my opening statement, I'll try to be brief to give maximum time to the members for their questions.

I want to thank you for this opportunity to testify on the State Department’s portion of the President’s Budget Request for fiscal year 2005. While I know that this committee's specific oversight pertains to that part of the request that deals with State Department operations, I want to give you as well an overview of what those operations will support in the way of foreign policy. So let me give you the overall budget picture first and then, touch on foreign operations. Finally, I'll deal with the top priorities of our funding request for State Department operations.

Mr. Chairman, the President’s 2005 International Affairs Budget for the Department of State, USAID, and other foreign affairs agencies totals $31.5 billion, broken down as follows:

Foreign Operations - $21.3 billion

State Operations - $8.4 billion

P.L. 480 Food Aid - $1.2 billion

International Broadcasting - $569 million

And the U.S. Institute for Peace - $22 million

President Bush's top foreign policy priority is winning the war on terrorism. Winning on the battlefield with our superb military forces is just one step in this process. To eradicate terrorism altogether, the United States must help create stable governments in nations that once supported terrorism, like Iraq and Afghanistan. And we must go after terrorist support mechanisms as well as the terrorists themselves. And we must help alleviate conditions in the world that enable terrorists to bring in new recruits.

To these ends, in 2005, our foreign affairs agencies will continue to focus on the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan. We will continue to support our coalition partners to further our counterterrorism, law enforcement and intelligence cooperation, and we will continue to expand democracy and help generate prosperity, especially in the Middle East.

Forty-eight percent of the President’s budget for foreign affairs supports the war on terrorism. An example: $1.2 billion supports Afghan reconstruction, security and democracy building; $5.7 billion provides assistance to countries around the world that have joined us in the war on terrorism; $3.5 billion indirectly supports the war on terrorism by strengthening our ability to respond to emergencies and conflict situations. And finally, $190 million is aimed at expanding democracy in the Greater Middle East, crucial if we are to attack successfully the motivation to terrorism.

Two of the greatest challenges confronting us today are the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan. Let me turn to Iraq.

The Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Governing Council have made great strides in the areas of security, economic stability, growth and democratization. Iraqi security forces now comprise more than half of the total security forces in the country. In addition, the CPA has established a new Iraqi army, issued a new currency, which is quite stable, and refurbished and equipped schools and hospitals all across Iraq. And as you know, we're taking steps to get ready to return sovereignty to the Iraqi people in the summer.

We have to do a lot more. Working with our coalition partners, we will continue to train Iraqi police, border guards, the Civil Defense Corps and the Army in order to ensure the country’s security as we effect a timely transition to self-governance once again.

At the same time, we are helping to -- we're helping to build the critical infrastructure that is needed to include clean water, electricity, reliable telecommunications. All are essential for meeting basic human needs as well as for economic and democratic development.

Alongside their military colleagues, USAID, State Department and the Departments of Commerce and Treasury are working to implement infrastructure, democracy building, education, health and economic development programs, and we're seeing real progress as a result of these programs.

As I told you, we are involving the UN again with the presence recently of Mr. Brahimi and he had a very successful visit and gave us some new insight as to how to move forward. Creating a democratic government in Iraq will be an enormous challenge, but Ambassador Bremer, working with the Iraqi Governing Council and with the United Nations and our partners, is committed to success. And on the 1st of July, when sovereignty passes, we will be ready as a State Department to take over the responsibilities of the Coalition Provisional Authority.

Afghanistan is another high priority. The U.S. is committed to helping build a stable and democratic Afghanistan that is free from terror and no longer harbors threats to our security. After we, and our coalition partners, defeated the Taliban, we faced the daunting task of helping the Afghan people rebuild their country. We have demonstrated our commitment by providing over $3.7 billion in economic and security assistance since 2001.

Through our assistance and the assistance of the international community, the government of Afghanistan is successfully navigating the transition that began in 2001. And Afghanistan adopted its own constitution just a few weeks ago, a major achievement on the part of President Karzai and his associates.

With technical assistance from the United States, Afghanistan also has successfully introduced a new currency, which is also stable, and we're now working to include revenue collection in the provinces to make sure that it gets on a stable financial footing as a nation.

The lives of women and girls are improving in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq. Since 2001 in Afghanistan, the United States has rehabilitated 205 schools, 140 health clinics and trained thirteen battalions of the new Afghan army. Also, President Bush’s commitment to the new road from Kabul to Kandahar was fulfilled. The road is complete, but it's more than a road. It's a way of pulling the country together through commerce, trade, visiting, and going back and forth on this vital artery of the nation.

To demonstrate tangible benefits to the people of Afghanistan, we will continue to implement assistance on an accelerated basis. The 2005 budget contains $1.2 billion in assistance for Afghanistan. U.S. assistance will focus on rehabilitation and construction of schools and more health clinics, also extend the Kabul-Kandahar road to Herat so that we can link east-west as well as north-south.

We are making progress in both of these areas and that progress really rests on the backs of our wonderful young men and women in uniform and out, and it is still a dangerous work that they do and we treasure each and every one of them and we regret when a life is lost. But I want their parents to know, their loved ones to know, that they did not die in vain. They died in the cause of freedom.

Mr. Chairman, as important as waging the war on terrorism, there are other priorities. Africa, for example, is high on our foreign policy agenda, particularly with respect to the devastating HIV/AIDS pandemic. 8,000 people died today because of AIDS in the world. It's especially virulent in Africa, particularly when it goes after young people, people in their most productive years, people who are parents, people who are teachers, people who are doctors, who are being devastated, leaving children and grandparents to keep the society moving forward. It doesn't work. And as a result of that, the President knows that we will see the demise of democracy in these nations if they are so devastated that they cannot make social and economic progress.

It is for that reason that he has put such emphasis on HIV/AIDS. And as you know, we now have a new HIV/AIDS office under the leadership of Ambassador Randall Tobias. On Monday of last week, Ambassador Tobias, Secretary Thompson, USAID Administrator Natsios and I rolled out the strategy for this new plan and announced the first dispensation of dollars, $350 million, in contracts to some of the NGOs and PVOs who will be carrying out the fight at the grassroots level.

As a crucial next step, the 2005 budget request expands on the President's plan with $2.8 additional billion to combat AIDS in the most afflicted countries in Africa and in the Caribbean. We will place primary ownership of these efforts in the hands of the countries that we are helping just, as you will recall; the Marshall Plan did in World War II.

There are other dimensions of economic success and around the globe, and they, too, are part of our foreign policy agenda. For example, a program that I am eagerly waiting to implement, and frankly, the implementation has begun, is our new approach to development assistance.

In February of 2003, we sent the Congress a budget request for the Millennium Challenge Account and legislation to authorize the creation of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, an independent corporation that is designed to support new and innovative development strategies.

The MCC has been stood up. I am the Chairman of the Board of the corporation, and Mr. Paul Applegarth has been nominated by the President to be the CEO of the new Millennium Challenge Corporation. Congress appropriated $1 billion for MCA in 2004, and the 2005 budget request of $2.5 billion makes a significant second-year increase on our way to the President's commitment of $5 billion in 2006.

Let me turn now to the parts of the President's budget request that deal with your specific oversight responsibilities. As you will recall, Mr. Chairman, and members of the Committee, we created the Diplomatic Readiness Initiative in 2002 to address staffing and training gaps that had become very adverse to the conduct of America's diplomacy.

The goal of this program was to hire 1158 new foreign and civil service employees over a three-year period. These new hires, the first over-attrition hires in year, would allow us to provide training opportunities for our people, and greatly improve the ability of the Department to respond to crises and emerging priorities overseas and at critical domestic locations. To bring these new people onboard, as quickly as possible, and to get the best people possible, we significantly improved departmental hiring processes to include recruiting personnel from more diverse experience and cultural backgrounds and people who could fill crucial skill gaps in the process.

We broke records in recruiting, and thus had the best and brightest from which to select. The Department of State will be reaping the many benefits from this process for many years to come. We've included mandatory leadership and management training, enhanced public diplomacy training and consular training in all of our programs, in all of our leadership and professional development programs at the Foreign Service Institute.

We're doing great on this recruiting business. Tens upon tens of thousands of young Americans are signing up to take the Foreign Service Exam or to enter the civil service and to become part of the State Department family.

We've also done everything we could to make sure that we are protecting the wonderful young men and women that we send out to our embassies and missions around the world.

As you know, we reorganized the overseas building office under the leadership of General Chuck Williams. And within the budget that he has provided to you and the long-range plan he has provided, we are launching an effort to replace the remaining 150 embassies and consulates that do not meet current security standards, and to do it over a period of 14 years for a total cost of $17 billion.

To fund construction of these new embassy compounds, we will begin the Capital Security Cost-Sharing Program in 2005. We will implement this program in phases over the next five years. Each agency with staff overseas will contribute annually towards construction of the new facilities based on the number of positions and the type of space they occupy.

This is not an entirely pleasing prospect to all of my cabinet colleagues, but this is the way we're going to do it as we move into the future.

We arrived at the cost shares in the 2005 President’s Budget Request in consultations with each agency and with the Overseas Building Operations Office.

Along with securing facilities, we have focused on assuring that overseas staffing is deployed where they are most needed. As agencies assess the real cost of maintaining staffs overseas, they will adjust their overseas staffing levels. In this way, new embassies will be built to suit appropriate staffing levels.

Before I conclude, let me say a few words about public diplomacy. Over the past two years, much has been written and said about public diplomacy. This committee, however, actually did something by creating the Public Diplomacy Advisory Group. Under the leadership of Ambassador Ed Djerejian, your initiative is bearing fruit and the Department is moving aggressively to change how we communicate with the rest of the world. We are acting on several of the recommendations contained in the group's first report and on other constructive recommendations such as those received from Dr. David Abshire's Center for the Study of the Presidency, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Heritage Foundation.

Our strategic goals are clear: We need to focus on the Arab and Muslim world, where the greatest challenges exist with respect to our public diplomacy effort. 25 percent of our exchange program assistance is targeted there.

We are also launching innovative programs like Partnerships for Learning, Youth Exchange and Study, and our American Corners in embassies around the world to get America's message out -- not to government officials and elites, but to the person on the street. These programs also take aim at the challenge of improving how we are perceived around the world by bringing Americans and foreigners together.

In the Middle East, we are getting into more living rooms, cars and offices through dramatically expanded radio and television broadcasts. As an example, the Middle East television network Al Hurra, which reaches 22 countries, including Iraq, will be broadcasting 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by the middle of this month. Radio Sawa now is also broadcasting 24 hours a day, and its audience has grown from 2 percent in 2001 to over 30 percent penetration in 2003.

Mr. Chairman, I know we agree on the critical importance not only of explaining our policies, but of also demonstrating who we are as a people. I can assure you that we are making the most of the recommendations of this subcommittee and that we are making progress.

Mr. Chairman, let me close by once again thanking you and the committee for all the support you have provided to these kinds of efforts.

I didn't linger on it, but you also know the effort we have made on information technology. And we have been quite successful at bringing the modern technological age into all of our embassies around the world: 44,250 Internet-capable computers with the bandwidth necessary to sustain them have been installed over the last two and a half years. We're changing the culture of the Department. We're going to get rid of the old cables system, sending cables around, and go to an entirely Internet-based system. And it's working.

While I was waiting for you and the members of the committee to come back in, I visited my little liaison office here in the building -- and I thank the Congress for allowing us to put a liaison office in the building to serve congressional needs -- and I was talking with one of the folks there; "What kind of work do you get? What do Members of Congress and the staffs ask you to do?"

As you would expect, a lot of consular affair actions, "Get information about this and that," "Can my daughter travel to a particular country safely," those kinds of questions. But another kind of question that comes in is, "Why did a relative of one of my constituents not get a visa when requested?"

So I asked the young woman in the office, "Well, how do you find out the answer to a question like that?" And because of the information technology revolution we've had in the Department, she doesn't go to the Department. She is able to get on her computer, go to the Internet, go to the embassy, get to that embassy and get into the consular section of that embassy and pull up in her screen, right down the hallway, the exact application of that individual. And it all happens in a matter of a few seconds. And she can then explain to the staffer or the Congressperson why that individual did or did not get a visa and what the reason was.

It's that kind of power that we're using to break through barriers, make the Department much more responsive and show that we are really serving the American people and the people of all the countries in which we are accredited in a way that I hope will make this committee proud and the Congress proud, but especially, the American people proud.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.