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Public Statements

Washington, Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. WEINER. If we are going to engage in a debate and if you will yield on your time, I gladly will.

Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. I would be happy to.

Mr. WEINER. Yes, I will gladly yield.

Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. General Petraeus has written a letter indicating that the Institute of Peace is an integral part of resolving conflict and mediation on the ground.

I hope the gentleman will comment on that.

Mr. WEINER. Yes, certainly. He's right.

The question is not that but, rather, where in General Petraeus' letter did he say we should be funding it with a direct congressional earmark. No one says stop functioning. I want this building to be filled up with happy, peace-loving activists who are doing their job. I hope they do.

The question is very simple, I say to my colleague from Illinois, one of the foremost leaders of this House:

Why do we choose this particular think tank to bestow this direct congressional line item? I'm amenable to taking the $42 million and saying, let's see if they can use it at Cornell or the University of Illinois' Peace Institute or at the Cato Institute or--I was going to say a more conservative one just to mix it up a little bit.

The point that I'm making is, it's just why it has this status in the budget. It shouldn't. It had it once. It keeps it. It keeps it. It keeps it. It keeps it. Look at this. Have you been to the State Department recently? It doesn't look this good. Have you been to the Pentagon recently? It doesn't look this good. I mean, this is pretty darned good, and it's $100 million of U.S. taxpayer dollars. Go out and raise it like every other think tank.

General Petraeus is right. Let's keep the United States Institute of Peace, but let's stop paying for it in this way.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. Madam Chair, the U.S. Government simply must have options for solving international conflict other than military action or international diplomacy. USIP is the only independent U.S. Government actor that is dedicated solely to conflict mediation and resolution.

For example, in both Afghanistan and Iraq, USIP has been on the ground since the beginning of these conflicts, actively bringing together parties to the conflict and building an agenda for the resolution of these conflicts, resulting in less need for American troops and paving the way for stabilization efforts. General Petraeus called USIP's reconciliation work in Iraq ``a striking success.''

Here are several examples of what the Department of Defense, the Regional Combatant Commands and other components of the military have asked USIP to do, just in the past year, to help them deal with challenges:

A joint program with the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center in Fort Leavenworth to convene multiple U.S. agencies and extract key lessons from the U.S. military to civilian transition in Iraq to help those confronting another massive handoff in Afghanistan.

Comprehensive training for the U.S. Department of Defense's Ministry of Advisors Program, MoDA, going out to serve in Afghanistan for Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell, IV, commander of NATO Training Command Afghanistan.

USIP, Madam Chair, is a small, agile center of innovation in support of America's national security. Funding for it, obviously, should not be eliminated today.

I want to draw from a letter that General Petraeus, the General of the United States Army Commanding Forces in Afghanistan, most recently wrote to Rob Goldberg, the Director of International Affairs at NSP.

He says--and I extrapolate--``USIP's experience working closely with the U.S. military will be a great asset in developing stronger unity of effort between civilian and military elements of government. In fact, I hope soon to see U.S. military officers training alongside civilian governmental and nongovernmental counterparts in USIP's headquarters at 23rd and Constitution,'' the wonderful building that my colleague Mr. Weiner, one of the foremost leaders of this institution, pointed out to us just moments ago.

``Their facility is not just an important symbol of our Nation's commitment to peace; it is also home to a wonderful training center that we hope to leverage to increase understanding and unity of effort in today's complex operations.''

The USIP is across the street, or just across the river, from the Pentagon, therefore giving access to our military leaders who are fighting abroad.

Mr. WEINER. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. I yield to the gentleman from New York.

Mr. WEINER. The gentleman correctly points out some of the great things they're doing on behalf of the Department of Defense.

Is the gentleman aware that the United States Institute of Peace gets, in addition to the money that I've identified here, $135 million in transfer from DOD, USAID and the State Department? Is the gentleman aware that they already get grants to do that work and that the money that I am seeking to cut is above and beyond that work? Is the gentleman aware of that?

Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. I am aware of that.

That notwithstanding, the fact of the matter is this money is not wasted money. This money is designed to provide our military officers and civilian sectors of various combatant war zones in both Afghanistan and Iraq with an opportunity to interact.

This is not the responsibility of the Pentagon. This is not what the Pentagon does. So, with our military personnel on the ground, either as combatants or as noncombatants, having access to civilian sectors in society and helping them transition to peaceful forms of government and having conflict resolution at the local level are critical parts of our long-going mission in Afghanistan.

I would be happy to continue to yield to the gentleman from New York.

Mr. WEINER. Does the gentleman not believe that the Council on Foreign Relations is good or the Foreign Policy Research Institute or the Brookings Institute or all of the other institutes that do similar work but that don't live in this gilded building and that don't do so with government?

I mean, the question is not whether they're good. It's whether they should have this wonted status that puts them primary among all think tanks that are doing very good work.

Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. In reclaiming the balance of my time, let me say that, while I recognize the importance of the other think tanks and the work that they do in achieving and working towards peace, the United States Government also has an obligation to work directly with civilian sectors in various combatant zones.

What is the United States Government's commitment to peace? Well, that commitment to peace manifests itself through the United States Institute for Peace, USIP, not through other foundations or through other means by which peace may be maintained.

I thank the gentleman for engaging in the debate.


Mr. CHAFFETZ. Madam Chair, one of the great urgencies that we have in this country is to get our fiscal house in order. We're paying more than $600 million a day in interest on our debt. Our debt has now accumulated to something like $14 trillion; and when we have an opportunity, really an obligation to point out redundancies within our government, we have to take that obligation and act upon it.

The United States Institute of Peace is clearly one of those opportunities where we cite redundancy and we say we don't need somebody competing, in essence, with the State Department. Yes, they do great work in many different areas. They have been able to raise literally millions and millions of dollars from grants but, also, more importantly, from the outside world; and this is an opportunity for us to actually scale this back and allow that transition to happen.

Now, some will say, well, it is just another $40 million; that's not going to make a big enough dent in the debt. The reality is, we have to start small. We have to see small things add up over the course of time. These appropriations that have happened year after year after year really on autopilot have now cost the taxpayers in excess of $700 million. We're about to approach $1 billion, right in the shadows of the State Department.

Their primary mission is to do what the United States Institute of Peace is also trying to do; and if they are able to add to the equation, then they surely, with the letters that they get from General Petraeus and the former Secretary of State, can go out and use that in a fund-raising mechanism to continue in that effort. But for us to go back into the taxpayers' wallet and pull money out and give it in favor of this particular institution, in contrast to what CATO and Heritage and all these other organizations that have been identified previously, is not fair, it's not right, and in this case, I would urge my colleagues to understand the redundancy that is going on here and say, please, this is an opportunity where we can truly make a cut.

I appreciate the great work that the Representative from New York (Mr. Weiner) has done and the gentleman from Minnesota who has spoken to this. I concur with that.

Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. CHAFFETZ. I yield to the gentleman from Illinois.

Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

There seems to be some confusion about the role of the State Department and the role of the Institute of Peace. We know that the State Department is responsible for diplomacy, and the Institute of Peace is the only institute that the United States of America has on the ground that advances peace in conflict areas, sustainable peace.

Would the gentleman please comment for us on the difference between diplomacy at the State Department and peace? Peace is not the responsibility of the State Department.

Mr. WEINER. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. CHAFFETZ. I yield to the gentleman from New York.

Mr. WEINER. I appreciate you yielding. Peace is not the job of the State Department? That is exactly----

Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. Diplomacy is the responsibility of the State Department.

Mr. WEINER. Diplomacy and not towards making a grilled cheese sandwich; diplomacy towards making peace.

Look, we're parsing here. The fact of the matter is it's a nonprofit think tank that does a great job. Pursuing peace is a good thing. I don't believe Mr. Chaffetz and I are against pursuing peace.

The only question is, when we are apportioning Federal dollars in the budget, do we say to one institute that tries to foster peace, you're going to get money, and another, you're not? Do we say to one, you're going to get a building, and the other, you're not? Do we say, one, you're going to go through competitive grants; the other is not?

That's the only question. The idea there's only one--maybe Mr. Chaffetz can speak to this. The idea there's only one think tank pursuing peaceful outcomes, I believe, Mr. Jackson, you know that that's not the case.

Mr. CHAFFETZ. Reclaiming my time, I would state that it is the overarching goal of the United States of America in every form to achieve peace. I think we are a very peaceful Nation. I think to the President, the Congress, the State Department, the Department of Defense, the overall goal of the United States of America is to achieve peace; and if we have anybody who is trying to pursue anything other than peace, I would take issue with that.

Mr. WEINER. If the gentleman would yield, I also think we need to change the way we think here. A lot of us are, like, why would you want to defund anything with peace in its name?

Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. CHAFFETZ. Reclaiming my time, I am happy to yield to the gentleman from Illinois.

Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. Once the conflict in Afghanistan is over, once the conflict in Iraq is over and we have an embassy in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is not the responsibility of the embassy in Afghanistan or Iraq to be responsible for conflict resolution in various provinces as a result of conflict.

The Institute of Peace has a very different role than that of the State Department in a combat zone. There's a very, very different role for the Institute of Peace.


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