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Foreign Affairs Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 2006 and 2007 -- Continued

Location: Washington, DC

FOREIGN AFFAIRS AUTHORIZATION ACT, FISCAL YEARS 2006 AND 2007--Continued -- (Senate - April 05, 2005)

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Delaware.

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, very shortly there will be a unanimous consent request on how to proceed on the Boxer amendment, which has not been introduced yet but will be spoken to shortly. I would like, with the permission of my friend from California, to make a brief opening statement relative to the overall bill.

Mrs. BOXER. Would the Senator also then make the unanimous consent request for the 40/20 so I know that is in line?

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I say to my friend, we are just clearing it with the leadership. We are working that out. I am sure we will be able to move the amendment immediately after my statement which I don't think will take more than a few minutes.

Mr. President, under the leadership of Chairman Lugar, we tried very hard to move this bill in the last couple of years. I hope the third time is a charm. As I believe the chairman has explained, the bill contains the basic authorization for all the major foreign affairs agencies and programs at the Department of State, foreign assistance programs, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and the Peace Corps.

The bill contains several initiatives I would like to briefly highlight.

I am glad the bill includes the Global Pathogen Surveillance Act, which we have been trying to enact over 3 years. In recent years, the SARS epidemic and the avian flu epidemic have made us acutely aware of how vulnerable the world is to a rapid spread of infectious diseases. We face that same vulnerability for diseases that might be used as weapons of bioterrorism.

The Global Pathogen Surveillance Act will combat the bioterrorism threat by improving other countries' capabilities to detect and limit disease outbreaks and by improving international investigation of disease outbreaks. Because these diseases--whether they are natural occurrences or man-made--have no respect for borders, we are only as safe as the weakest link in the chain is strong. This bill will go a long way to help other countries at an early stage detect the existence of these diseases, these potential biodiseases that can be spread via what we call bioterrorism.

The majority leader, who cosponsored the original version of the act in 2001, is once again pressing for action on this bill. He added a very useful provision to the act, which Chairman Lugar and I have happily endorsed, calling for the executive branch to develop a real-time data collection and analysis capability to serve as a warning sign for a possible bioterrorism event. With the majority leader's support, I hope and believe this year we will finally enact this important measure.

I am also proud of the work the committee has done, with the chairman's leadership, to help the U.S. Government strengthen its capacity to handle postconflict reconstruction.

In the last decade, the United States has taken on stabilization missions in countries such as Bosnia, East Timor, Haiti, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. In the decade to come, whether we like it or not, nation-building and postconflict resolution and reconstruction will remain important to our security. As the Presiding Officer knows because of all the work he has done in the Balkans, this is not something that gets done in a day and we are able to leave behind in a year. We should not attempt to reinvent the wheel every time we are faced with a stabilization crisis, such as the one we faced in the last decade. It is inefficient and ineffective. Rather than address crises by cobbling together plans and personnel each time they occur as we have been doing, we need to be better prepared.

This bill establishes a special office in the State Department for reconstruction and stabilization. It establishes a special corps of civilian reconstruction experts who would be ready to be deployed on short notice. The bill also creates a special emergency fund to deal with such crises.

Finally, I am pleased the chairman and I are able to agree on the inclusion of a provision to protect vulnerable persons during humanitarian emergencies--an undated version of a bill I first introduced in 2003 called the Women and Children in Conflict Protection Act.

I have been concerned about the vulnerability of women and children affected by conflict and humanitarian emergencies for some time now. Since the accusations were made about sexual exploitation of refugees by humanitarian workers in west Africa nearly 3 years ago, that concern has been heightened.

Most recently, we have been confronted with cases of rape used as a weapon of war in Darfur, sexual exploitation and abuse by U.N. peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and concerns that the children affected by the tsunami in Asia could be vulnerable to human trafficking.

This provision in the bill establishes a coordinator at the Department of State or AID specifically charged with ensuring that our assistance programs not only provide food and shelter, but also support programs to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse of those living in refugee and internally displaced persons camps. It prohibits U.S. funding of humanitarian organizations that do not sign a code of conduct prohibiting improper relations between aid workers and beneficiaries. Finally, the provision authorizes the President to provide aid specifically for things such as security for refugee camps or something as simple and inexpensive as buying firewood so women will not have to leave these camps, which they have to do now, in order to find material with which they can make a fire to cook and find themselves subject to rape and exploitation outside the confines of these camps.

We have a very good bill that was passed out of our committee 18 to 0. I urge my colleagues, as Senator Boxer is about to do, to come forward with their amendments because I, like the chairman, would very much like to move this bill forward. It is within the budget. It is right on the button of the President's budget number. It has, as I said, unanimous support out of our committee. I believe it is a solid bill, and I hope we can move it forward this year.

I yield the floor.

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