The Global Citizen: Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Last Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the implementation of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), seeking to gauge the treaty's performance in the time since February 2011, when it first came into effect. Witnesses brought before the committee included the Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, Thomas P. D'Agostino; the Acting Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security at the State Department, Rose Gottemoeller; and the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs, Madelyn R. Creedon.
Each of the witnesses offered positive assessments of New START's effectiveness, highlighting the ways in which the agreement has helped to make nuclear relations between the US and Russia more stable and transparent. In her testimony, Gottemoeller remarked that New START has helped to improve the flow of nuclear weapons-related information between the two countries. In particular, she cited the treaty's verification mechanisms, including exhibitions of strategic arms and guaranteed on-site inspections, as concrete examples of provisions that have helped to improve the aforementioned information flow.
Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana lost his Republican primary yesterday to Tea Party backed conservative Richard Mourdock, after more than 35 years in the Senate. His defeat is not just a defeat for Lugar and his supporters, but a defeat for American national security and indeed the entire world. In the words of fellow Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Senator John Kerry, "It will soon almost sound cliché to say that America is safer today because of Dick Lugar's 36 years of service in the Senate, but it really does bear repeating."
Lugar's challenger, Richard Mourdock, said in his victory speech, that his campaign was about ideas for the future of both the Republican Party and our nation as a whole. Unfortunately, Mourdock's win is part of a disturbing pattern of election victories for Tea Party ideas, of unilateralists over more moderate, internationally minded Republicans.
On Tuesday I attended the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on "National Security & Foreign Policy Priorities in the FY 2013 International Affairs Budget," which featured Secretary of State Hilary Clinton as the key witness. While the foreign assistance portion of the U.S. budget is around 1%, this area of funding has been slightly reduced. In her testimony, Clinton identified the State Department's top five priorities for the coming year within the State Department's proposed budget.
The first priority is to sustain the current missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Clinton reminded the committee that "as troops come home, civilians remain to carry out the critical missions of diplomacy and development. Our request reflects the temporary, extraordinary costs of operating on the frontlines." There is now an important diplomatic role for the U.S. to play in Afghanistan.
The second priority the Secretary mentioned is Asia, where the U.S. needs to strengthen its relationships and maintain its Pacific presence. This effort is called "forward deployed diplomacy," in which the U.S. is seeking out better relations within the region.
Born out of war; that has been the headline from so many journalists concerning South Sudan. The dire circumstances which led to South Sudan's independence, are now causing the international community to work diligently with the South Sudanese to prevent continued violence and tension in the region.
Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing titled "Two New Sudans: A Roadmap Forward." Princeton Lyman, the United States Special Envoy for Sudan, was the sole witness. Lyman began by announcing how successful the independence celebration was in Juba on the July 9th weekend. The celebration is of course now followed by an abundance of issues that must still be addressed.
"I'm concerned that our interest and our challenge is incongruous with the essence of what we are trying to do here." These words, spoken by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), marked the first sign of any contention in the first meeting of the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps, and Global Narcotics Affairs of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Sen. Menendez was referring to the issue of drug trafficking in Latin America and the affects of such trade on Latin American and U.S. citizen security. His concern was over the fact that the President's proposed FY12 Budget decreases funding for counter-narcotics efforts and law enforcement by 7% in the region at a time when drug trafficking remains a major problem.
Sen. Menendez asked Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela, "how do we [cut funding] at a time when we are seeing still a very severe challenge?" And Sen. Menendez's question is by no means exclusive to counter-narcotics efforts in Latin America. At a time when the Arab world is democratizing and Latin America is progressing democratically and economically the United States can play a critical role in international affairs...pending on adequate funding.
U.S. special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration spoke before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, July 30. He criticized Sudan's inclusion on the U.S. terrorism blacklist, saying that there was no evidence to back it up and calling it "a political decision." He also said that it prompted economic sanctions that hindered development.
Yesterday the Senate adopted by unanimous consent the Kerry-Lugar Amendment to restore $4 billion to the International Affairs Budget cut by the Senate Budget Committee. The Senate budget now includes the President's request for this account of $53.8 billion in FY 2010 to fund next year's budget ' an increase of 8%, or $4 billion, over last year's funding level of $49.8 billion.
In his statement on the Senate floor, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) said:
From pandemics to climate change to failed states, this century's security challenges demand that a new level of commitment to diplomacy and development. With this relatively small investment, we are making significant strides toward restoring America's leadership role in the world. It will make the world safer, and it will make us safer.
Citizens for Global Solutions staff and members along with other members of the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign worked hard to make this happen. Thank you Senator Kerry and Senator Lugar.
I just got back from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee business meeting on the Law of the Sea. The final vote was 17-4 in favor of consideration by the full Senate.
I've had something of a one-track mind these past few months, as regular readers of this blog might have noticed. The Law of the Sea has been the subject of at least half of my recent posts and an even greater percentage of my advocacy focus.
"What is needed is more strategic thinking in progressive circles about what battles are worth having in order to achieve more systemic success. I think that consensus is impossible in the left -- and thus we need the Matt Stollers of the world to find some like-minded associates and begin hatching the campaigns that matter, and ignoring the ones that don't."
I couldn't agree more and I think the example that Steve offers - the opposition to the Bolton nomination - was a battle well chosen. It was very important on its merits: it successfully weakened and then partially removed an extremely negative element from the administration. But just as important was its execution. Thanks to some smart group decisions on strategy and message, the Bolton campaign is making current battles against pugnacious nationalism more winnable than before.
The Senate won't move on the Law of the Sea until after the August recess. Holding hearings on the Convention this month, ensuring that it won't compete with appropriations bills for floor time in the fall, would've been the right move. But with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Joe Biden on the campaign trail, scheduling isn't all that easy. Leaders in both parties and the President want action, so this will become a test of Biden's leadership in the fall.
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