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The Department Of State, Foreign Operations And Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2008--Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE, FOREIGN OPERATIONS AND RELATED PROGRAMS APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008--Continued -- (House of Representatives - June 21, 2007)

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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support of the Fiscal Year 2008 State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bill and also to congratulate Chairwoman LOWEY for her impressive job in crafting a spending bill that meets our important commitments to the international community.

I would especially like to thank Chairwoman LOWEY and the State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee for including language in the Committee Report that I requested regarding the science and technology literacy and capacity in the U.S. Department of State. Additionally, the Committee Report includes language I requested supporting the variety of science fellowship programs in the Department of State, including the science-diplomacy fellows of the American Association for the Advancemnt of Science (AAAS), the professional society fellows, and the recently established Jefferson Fellows Program.

The Office of the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State (STAS) has played an important role at the Department of State since 2000. As the chief scientist at State, the Adviser has brought greater visibility to ``science for diplomacy'' and ``diplomacy for science.'' STAS has increased the number of PhD scientists and engineers employed at the Department, including AAAS fellows, professional society fellows, and most recently, Jefferson Science Fellows program.

I am glad that the Committee Report includes language applauding the work of the STAS for continuing to promote the essential role of science and technology in diplomacy. More importantly, the committee strongly encourages the Department to continue to increase science and technology capacity and literacy within the Department and the role of science and technology in our Nation's foreign policy. And the committee requests that the Secretary of State be prepared to report during hearings on the Fiscal Year 2009 request on progress made during the 2008 fiscal year.

I look forward to working with the State Department and the Appropriations Committee to ensure that advances are made to achieve these stated goals during this upcoming fiscal year.

Second, language included in the Committee Report supports the JSF and the other science fellowship programs in the Department of State and makes clear that the committee believes they are valuable programs that should be expanded in the years ahead.

As a former AAAS science fellow I know first hand about the important role that science fellows serve in helping policymakers better understand and are able to advance science and technology as a major component of diplomacy.

One such program, the Jefferson Science Fellows (JSF) program was established Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2003. By providing 1-year fellowships to tenured academic scientists and engineers from our Nation's colleges and universities, the JSF program works to incorporate the American science, technology, and engineering communities into the formulation and implementation of U.S. foreign policy. Each Jefferson Science Fellow is hosted during their fellowship at the Department of State or a foreign embassy abroad. Jefferson Science Fellows are now contributing their scientific expertise to such challenging problems as nuclear non-proliferation, assessments of nanotechnology, pandemics like avian flu, and extreme weather. As the JSF program matures, this growing cadre of practicing experts with first-hand knowledge of the workings within the Department of State will be an increasingly important resource throughout the government.

Again, I would like to thank the committee for including this language and I look forward to working with the committee as we build the role of science in our Nation's diplomacy.

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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in opposition to two destructive amendments to the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2008.

First, I oppose the amendment offered by my colleague from Pennsylvania, Mr. PITTS.

This amendment will strike an essential provision in this bill for preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS around the world. Mr. PITTS' amendment would strike a provision included in the bill which give the President greater flexibility and the ability for U.S. funded HIV/AIDS programs to better respond to the epidemics in each country.

This does not have to be a pro-choice or pro-life debate. In fact, it is short-sighted for us to think of it that way. This debate should be about prevention. It should be about providing necessary tools for proper prevention including providing contraception, ensuring access to condoms and providing educational information to those in need.

We have the ability to reduce the number of cases of HIV/AIDS around the world by allowing for greater flexibility in how we implement prevention funding. Instead of taking an approach where we require that one-third of all HIV/AIDS prevention funds be spent on abstinence only programs, that are not only ineffective in preventing sexual activity, but in fact harmful to the health and well being of young women, we should be allowing for greater flexibility in how we allocate these essential funds.

The statistics on the number of cases of HIV around the world are startling. In 2006, there were 4.2 million new HIV infections. According to UNAIDS, women and girls make up half of all HIV infections worldwide. And according to the World Health Organization, unprotected heterosexual sex is the leading cause of HIV infections around the world and 80 percent of new infections in sub-Saharan Africa.

Clearly, calls for abstinence alone are not working. We must admit to ourselves that young people, whether by choice or through coercion, are engaging in sexual activity. We have the tools to prevent less unintended pregnancies. We need to use them efficiently and effectively.

In order for any HIV/AIDS prevention program to be successful, we must make sure that we use proper prevention tools like condoms and contraception. I urge my colleagues to oppose the Pitts amendment.

Further, I rise today in strong opposition to the amendment offered by my colleague from New Jersey, Mr. SMITH and my colleague from Michigan, Mr. STUPAK.

Access to contraceptives and condoms is essential to stop the number of cases of HIV/AIDS around the world. With good reasons, the Subcommittee under the leadership of Ms. LOWEY from New York has included a provision that will allow foreign organizations that are currently prohibited from received family planning assistance under the global gag rule to receive in kind contributions of condoms and contraceptives.

I believe that the global ``gag rule'' is onerous and should be lifted because it not only bans foreign non-governmental organizations, NGOs, from using their own funds to engage in free speech and assembly activities on a woman's right to choose, but it also prevents health care providers from counseling the world's poorest women about all their legal health care options.

But the provisions in this bill do not lift the global gag rule. What these provisions do is promote proper family planning information and services. As a basic prevention form of healthcare, family planning services can improve maternal and child health in developing countries, lead to better diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, and reduce the incidence of unintended pregnancy and abortion. The global gag rule has stopped U.S.-donated contraceptives from reaching 16 countries with people in desperate need in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Simply allowing access to contraceptives is a small and necessary step in prevention.

I urge my colleagues to oppose the Smith amendment.

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