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State Department Budget

Location: Washington, DC

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Welcome, Mr. Secretary. As a matter of fact, I was waiting in the other room to welcome you. I went to the wrong room! I went over to our committee meeting room.

And let me say at the outset—and I mean this sincerely—I am proud to be associated with you. I think you did better than anyone could have, because of your standing, your reputation and your integrity, as it is understood by our European friends, as well as others around the world. No Democrat or Republican, I think, could have presented the case better than you did yesterday.

And I don't want to embarrass you, but I think a large part of the success was the way—the way, the manner, the language, the verbiage—you used in presenting a case that you and I and everyone in this committee knew existed. But it took you to do it, and I want to tell you I am proud to be associated with you.

SEC. POWELL: Thank you, sir.

SEN. BIDEN: I also would suggest that this hearing, although scheduled some weeks ago, in keeping with a very important practice, is once—one of the first orders of business for this committee is to determine what the new Congress is likely to do relative to the authorization of funding for what I think my chairman has accurately pointed out, and that is, these are new forms of conflict; that although we need a powerful military, a powerful military will not solve them. A powerful military and lack of it and the lack of will to use it will put us in a much more damaging and vulnerable position. But no matter how powerful, no matter how incredible the technology and the bravery of our warriors, it will not solve the new conflicts that we face that don't lend themselves to the neat categories that we are accustomed to.

So I think your budget and your leadership in the State Department takes on a whole new dimension. I would suggest that—what I know you know: that the tools available to statecraft literally are the most likely tools to be able to render this country more secure, even—even—than our military, because we've noted that—and everyone has noted, but notwithstanding our incredible efforts thus far, al Qaeda is still alive, not as well, but well.

There's a whole province in Northeastern Pakistan, which I am of the view that is essentially owned and operated by the Taliban, al Qaeda and tribal sympathies to extremist groups.

I am not suggesting that it lends itself to an easy military solution, but the desperation, the poverty, the despair that exist in large parts of the world, coupled with defense—unfairly, in many cases, the sense that we are only concerned about our immediate interest, and I know we're not, and I know you're not—I think puts us in a very different position and ups the ante for an imaginative and creative and 21st century form of diplomacy that I don't think any of us four, six, eight years ago would have anticipated. So I think this is a New Deal in a big way, and I think you're just the guy to be there to try to craft it.

The fact is that we're going to discuss today—and I'm sure we'll not be able to fail to discuss Iraq and Korea and other things because they're so topical—but the administration's proposed budget. But, and this is not meant to be a political pun, we can't proceed without first focusing on the elephants that are in the room; Korea and Iraq. So, let me say a very brief few words about each of those at the outset.

Mr. Secretary, along with millions of Americans and millions of people around the world, you made—we all watched you make a powerful case. And once again, I want to commend you for making that case, but suggest that I think something you will not disagree with. It is now—the question for Saddam is war or peace; it's in his hands. But the question for the Security Council is relevance or irrelevance. And I hope they are seized of that understanding. And I, for one—I don't want to raise the bar on you; I guess I have—I believe, although it's a Herculean task, I believe that it is possible to bring most along and leave others in a position where they are not objecting, because I think that's important. We're at a very critical moment, as you know, and I think you have a very delicate balancing act, and I am not going to be second-guessing it. But I do want to state what I think it is.

And that is that the degree to which our friends around the world, and those who are maybe not traditionally viewed as our friends, asked for more time to deal with Iraq, I personally think that should be balanced against whether or not they are likely to come along with us if, in fact, a reasonable amount of time is given, and that balanced against what the downside of giving time is. If the Lord Almighty came down and sat in the middle of this table and said, "Joe, I know if you all give six more weeks, even though that puts us in a militarily more difficult position, that you'll get a uniform view at the United Nations that there's a deadline set and war is the option—a war will follow if he doesn't act," I would say take the chance.

I know that's a hard call. That's your business. You know those people better than we do, and I'm confident of your advice to the president. But I do think that the Security Council has to decide whether it's going to be relevant or not.

The other important task for the president is—in my view, the first task has been accomplished: what is the threat? You did that and you did that very well. But the second part of it—and you and I have talked about this often, and I have presumed to talk about it with the president in the past, we all have—and that is that foreign policy, no matter how well conceived, cannot be sustained without the informed consent of the American people. I know of no warrior who believes that more than you, having been through Vietnam and having led our troops in the field as well as been the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It is not a criticism of the administration, because maybe it's not the appropriate time yet hasn't been; but I do think it's important that we begin to tell the American people what may be expected of them in terms of the day and the weeks and Lord knows how long after.

I believe, from my exposure to my constituency at home, which is every day, that notwithstanding the growing support based on the additional evidence put forward for the use of force if need be, there is an overwhelming expectation that this will be a repeat of what happened in the early '90s—and that is that we will be swiftly successful, and I for one think that is a probability, that is the most likely outcome, though we have to plan for the worst—but that Johnny's going to come marching home very, very rapidly. And Johnny and Jane aren't going to come home immediately. It may be eight months, it may be 16 months, it may be three years, but it is going to be some period of time that they're going to be there. I don't think the American people understand that yet.

And when I had the opportunity and the privilege to meet with our forces under General Franks' command in Qatar about a month ago, I was asked whether I would—as a matter of fact, Senator Hagel and I were asked whether we would address several hundred—I never saw so many stars in one room, and I mean literal stars—I was asked, we were asked whether we would say a few words and take a few questions. And the one thing on the minds of these warriors was not whether they would win if sent, but whether or not we would be there a year and a year and a half and two years and three years down the road when we had to make hard choices between another 18 to 20 billion, which has been the estimate we got in this committee, to maintain forces in the region—or in Iraq, or whether we'd be using that money for a tax cut or we'd be using that money for health care or we'd be using that money for something else.

And so I think we not only owe it to the American people, I think every one of us who say we support this effort ought to understand, if asked, we're prepared—the single most important, first requirement that we will have will be to fund that effort, above every other thing that we are concerned about.

And we have deep concerns about a number of these issues.

And so I think it's the second reason why we should be now discussing—and I will not pressure you today on this—what are the plans, how detailed are the plans that exist for the day, the week, the month, the years after.

And I hope—and I know you and I—you were kind enough to discuss this with me, but I also think that North Korea is equally—equally—as urgent a problem as Saddam Hussein at the moment, notwithstanding the fact we've pre-positioned tens of thousands of forces, and we are on, unless he chooses otherwise, the brink of war. North Korea, as you know as well as anyone—and this morning they announced they have reopened their small nuclear power plant—there's no doubt that everyone involved with the United States government understands that that has the capacity to very quickly produce plutonium, which is very quickly available—within one month, maybe one bomb; within six or eight months or a year, somewhere between six and eight additional nuclear weapons.

And quite frankly, in light of the—and the comments, the concluding comments made by the chairman, that worries me less than the fact that they have become a small plutonium factory with a history of miscalculating what the rest of the world thinks, with a history of proliferation, with a history of supporting terror, with a history that is—worries me that three years from now, we may find that plutonium in a suitcase, in a homemade nuclear weapon, in some city in the United States of America.

So I'd like you to be able to discuss with us very briefly, at some point, the degree to which you think we have some time. I understand the administration's proposal of a multilateral umbrella. It makes sense. I think that's the best way. But as the president said in his State of the Union messages—and I'm paraphrasing—he is interested in results, not in form. I hope we do not let form trump substance here, notwithstanding the fact that we are in somewhat of a difficult position.

So, Mr. Secretary, let me stop there. I do have specific questions about the budget. But it is inescapable, in light of the news of the day and your brilliant performance yesterday, for us not to discuss at some point Korea and Iraq.

And again, I think your budget is an increase, but if you take out the Millennium Challenge Account and—as part of the request, we're basically a flat budget. You had $27.2 billion for fiscal year 2002. That's how much we spent in that year, counting the plus-up as we got going. You take out the Millennium Challenge portion—Account out of this, we're essentially back to where it was.

And you've always been candid with us. I'd like to know whether you think that can get this new job done.

Again, thank you. Congratulations.

And, Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the time.

SEN. BIDEN: Boss, I like your style. And I think that is a very important statistic; a very important figure.

Now let me, since the time is short, get right to it. There's so many questions to ask; we're going to submit a lot of these in writing. I know your staff is always available to us. Now, let me speak, and if you could give me a quick answer, I'll try to make the first two questions very quick.

Iraq. Are you looking that you're likely to have to submit a supplemental budget to us if we end up going to war? Because there's not anything in here.

SEN. BIDEN: Right. Well, I'm sure of that, as well. But I—you're one of the departments that I know is trying very hard to anticipate—although you—no way to know—what the parameters of the needs may be if all peaceful means are exhausted and we go to war. I hope you'll keep us informed through Secretary Armitage of what those general parameters are. As you—I know you're not waiting; I hope—I know you're not waiting just to think, "Well, let's see what happens." You are gaming this out, just as the military's gaming out what they may need to do if they have to go. And it would be useful for us, I believe, as a committee, even if other—all members don't want to be bored or bother with that, to let us know as you think this through so we can be prepared to be helpful if we get there.

SEN. BIDEN: Second point. I am disappointed that although the monies—the export control and border assistance, the science and bio programs that are within the Cooperative Threat Reduction—they're about what they were in '03, but they're below what was appropriated in '02. I think that should be, in my view—I would just warn you, I think—but I'll follow the lead of the chairman—I think that should be plussed up in terms of what the needs are. But that's—I just wanted to give you kind of a heads up on that.

Let me go to something you said yesterday in your speech; it doesn't directly relate to the budget.

You devoted a section of your presentation to the ties between Iraq and al Qaeda. And you identified a poison and explosive training center camp—I think that was the quote—in northeastern Iraq.

When the good senator from Nebraska and I sat in a car for, all total, 11 hours, seven of which was in the mountains of Iraq, northern Iraq, just a couple of months ago, or a month ago, we met with the Barzani and Talabani clans; we met with a whole of people, and they were telling us about their concern about what was going on on the Iranian-Iraqi border, which you spoke to yesterday.

And last August, there were news reports that suggested U.S. officials were aware of a plant in the region that produced deadly toxin—ricin—yet the same reports said that the U.S. called off a strike against that Ansar al-Islam facility. In addition, officials of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, with whom we met, whose territory borders the Ansar pocket, say that they informed U.S. officials of an al Qaeda presence in September 2001. And I'd ask my friend from Nebraska to correct me if my recollection is wrong about what we were being told when we addressed the so-called Kurdish parliament, which I think reinforced that point. And today's New York Times carries a story based on an interview yesterday in Norway with Mullah—I think it's pronounced Krekar—K-R-E-K-A-R—the purported leader of the Ansar group.

And so my question is, if you know, how long has the administration been aware of this presence in northeastern Iraq? And if Ansar is so dangerous and a key part of the link between al Qaeda and Saddam, why haven't we taken direct military action—it's in the no-fly zone—direct military action against that group? Or, alternately, urged and supported the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan to eliminate Ansar?

Can you give us an answer to that?

SEN. BIDEN: We were not told by—let me be clear. We were—I was not told by the Kurds, with whom we met for 24 or more hours, that they told the State Department or Defense Department in 2001. But at the time we were there, which was at the end of this past year, in December, we were told about that connection. So I'm not making a case that they told us 2001.

SEC. POWELL: We have been monitoring that location and closely monitoring who's been going in and out of that place. It's been occupied and unoccupied since last summer. We have had conversations about it. I would rather not in this setting go into what contingency plans we had looked at or what we might or might not have done. But I can assure you that it is a place that has been very much in our minds, and something we have been studying very carefully. And we have been tracing individuals who have gone in there and come out of there. And that's why I was able to make the presentation that I made yesterday.

But with respect to specific military contingency plans we might have had, which might still exist, I would rather not go into any detail in this setting, Senator.

SEN. BIDEN: Well, I hope you'll—either yourself or if you're busy, provide someone from your department who's able to do that for us in a classified basis.

Let me conclude, Mr. Chairman, by saying—asking one ancillary point. If Ansar is such a threat, why is its purported leader walking around free in Norway giving interviews? And the reason I ask the question is it's the only thing out there that sort of undercuts our sense of urgency. You made a very compelling case yesterday, and I remember sitting watching it with my staff, and one of my staff members turned and said, Look, we got a reconnaissance photo there. It's in the no-fly zone.

We could take that out in a heartbeat. Why have we not taken it out? Which—my staff did not question what it was, but I'm confident there's people around the country and the world going: If this was so bad, if this is as bad as we're purporting it to be, why is the head of this outfit giving interviews in the Norway press, walking around Norway, as well as why have we let it sit there, if it's such a dangerous plant producing these toxins? It would be useful to have, on the record or off the record, an answer to that.

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SEN. BIDEN: Mr. Chairman, may I have 20 seconds to correct the record?

When I was talking about Ansar my staff pointed out I said it was in the area of the no-fly zone. It's in the area controlled by the PUK. It's not—and it's just due west of Kirkuk, a zone controlled by the Kurds. But it's not—it's below the no-fly zone. I want to correct the record.

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