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Mr. SIRES. Mr. Chair, today I rise to give my full support for the passage of H.R. 2410, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act. I believe defense, diplomacy and development are the three key components of our national security strategy. This bill will give the Department of State and Peace Corp the tools necessary to ensure that diplomacy plays an integral role in furthering U.S. foreign policy goals.
H.R. 2410 strengthens our diplomatic corps by giving the Department of State the authority to hire over 1,500 new foreign service officers and improve their language capabilities. The bill also seeks to double the number of Peace Corps volunteers in the field. Peace Corps volunteers are vital to U.S. diplomacy as they are often the only American faces in some of the world's most remote places. Finally, this legislation establishes the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation to expand the number of U.S. students studying abroad, learning new languages and fostering cultural understanding.
Mr. Chair, H.R. 2410 puts us one step closer to developing a global security strategy that uses diplomacy as a crucial tool to help ensure our safety at home and abroad. I would urge all of my colleagues to support this important legislation.
Ms. Loretta Sanchez of California. Mr. Chair, I rise in support of H.R. 2401, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act. This legislation will enhance our national security by providing adequate resources to the State Department, which has been underfunded for the last 8 years. Diplomacy and international development are key components to any national security agenda.
I was also pleased to see that title nine of the bill, which enhances the Merida Initiative, includes provisions to further combat gun trafficking and drug cartels. However, I was greatly disappointed that the House Homeland Security Committee was not included in the development of this title or the previous Merida Initiative legislation. The Department of Homeland Security plays a significant role in the Merida Initiative by coordinating through its agencies that are assisting Mexico and other foreign governments address issues surrounding smuggling, trafficking and violence at our borders and internationally. Thus I firmly believe this committee should have been allowed to play a role in this legislation.
As Chairwoman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counter Terrorism, I have held several hearings on issues affecting the Merida initiative. These hearings focused on the ongoing violence along our southern border, drug trafficking, weapon trafficking and cash trafficking. My subcommittee and the full committee on Homeland Security have been at the forefront of addressing the threats posed by drug trafficking organizations and other transnational crime syndicates. Many of the recommendations made during our recent hearings, including southbound border check points for cash and guns going into Mexico, have been implemented along the border.
The hearings also emphasized that many agencies--including the Department of Homeland Security--will need to work together closely to stop these growing transnational crime networks. The Merida Initiative would not be as effective without the constant and tireless work of the brave men and women at the Department of Homeland Security. I hope that in the future more consideration will be given to the role the Department of Homeland Security plays implementing critical security initiatives like the Merida Initiative.
My colleagues on the Committee on Homeland Security look forward to working with our friends on the other relevant committees to continue to develop, implement and improve initiatives such as the Merida Initiative.
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