Hearing of Senate Foreign Relation Committee Regarding Lugar-Obama Legislation S.1949.
Opening Statement of Senator Barack Obama Foreign Relations Committee regarding Lugar-Obama legislation S.1949.
Thursday, February 9, 2006
Mr. Chairman, I can't do a better job of laying out the issue than you just did, so I am going to keep my opening remarks relatively short.
I want to thank you for your tireless leadership on this issue; for holding this hearing; and for working with me to introduce what I believe is a very good bill. I also want to thank Senator Biden for his insightful comments and his long track record of good work on nonproliferation issues.
The Lugar-Obama legislation, S.1949, does two basic things.
First, it enhances our ability, working with friends and allies, to detect and intercept illegal shipments of weapons and materials of mass destruction. Second, the bill bolsters ongoing efforts to destroy conventional weapons such as lightweight anti-aircraft missiles.
As the Chairman pointed out in his opening statement, many of these efforts are under-funded, fragmented, and in need of high-level support. I take note of the Chairman's comments that new threat reduction proposals - even the Nunn-Lugar program - are not always warmly received by the Executive Branch.
I agree with your testimony Secretary Joseph that the Department does need flexibility to deal effectively with global threats and international diplomacy. But that isn't the issue here before us today. Every Member of this Committee wants to give the State Department the flexibility it needs.
This issue here today is whether the State Department could use additional resources and coordination to more effectively deal with two critically important threats - interdiction of WMD and destruction of conventional weapons. I believe it can.
I am also concerned that the issue just simply does not get the attention it deserves within the State Department.
I know that both the President and Secretary Rice have expressed their commitment to nonproliferation issues. But, four key State Department interdiction and nonproliferation programs are either flat-lined or slated for only modest of increases in the President's budget. Meanwhile, a $1.2 billion increase is proposed for the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), which will provide funding to nations such as Cape Verde, Madagascar, and Vanuatu.
I am supportive of the MCA, and I am not saying that these countries aren't worthy of U.S. assistance. But, a budget is about prioritizing strategic objectives. And, in my view, the priorities don't appropriately align with the strategic threats we confront today.
Secretary Joseph, despite my concerns, I am hopeful that we can work together to make adjustments to our budget priorities. With regard to Lugar-Obama, I am also confident that we can work in a collaborative spirit to make a good bill even better. I look forward to your testimony.