Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ros-Lehtinen Statement on Foreign Relations Authorization Act


House Foreign Affairs Committee

U.S. House of Representatives

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Republican

CONTACT: Brad Goehner, (202) 226-8467, June 10, 2009

Alex Cruz, (202) 225-8200


Ros-Lehtinen Statement on Foreign Relations Authorization Act

(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, made the following statement today during debate on H.R. 2410, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of FY 2010 and 2011:

“Some ‘Dear Colleague’ letters sent out by a few Members earlier this week in order to express their support for this bill tended to focus on the few attractive features of the bill --- such as improvements that it would make to the ‘Merida Initiative’, our vital effort to assist Mexico and other Central American countries to fight dangerous drug cartels.

“Unfortunately, supporters of this bill have remained silent on or ignored its fundamental problems which are that:

• The bill calls for exorbitant spending in the absence of reform, and

• The bill does not take the difficult, but necessary, step of setting priorities, either with out of control spending or with important international issues facing our country.

“By our best estimates, the bill before us represents an estimated 12% increase in planned expenditures above the levels of Fiscal Year 2009. It creates 20 new government entities – offices, foundations, programs, and the like. These new programs and initiatives funded in this bill constitute expenditures that go beyond the 12% increase to accounts previously funded in FY 2009. The bill also represents a 35% increase in State Department’s main salary and operating accounts.

“We have to ask ourselves: where is the money to support this additional funding coming from?

“In the coming fiscal year alone – Fiscal Year 2010 – we are expected to have to pay almost $285 billion (billion with a ‘b’) in interest costs – just interest, not payment on the debt itself. By Fiscal Year 2014, our costs for interest on our debt will likely have risen to about $560 Billion in that year alone --- again for interest payments alone, not the debt payments that will have to be made. Our deficit in the coming Fiscal Year 2010 is now projected to total an estimated $1.3 Trillion.

“Yet, the funding levels proposed by this bill seem oddly detached from that reality. Both in Committee markup and at Rules Committee, I offered amendments that would have capped increases for next year at 3.7% -- the 2008 annual rate of inflation. This amendment would have saved American taxpayers more than $2.8 billion dollars in authorized funds. Unfortunately, this measured, calibrated approach was rejected twice in favor of the largesse in the underlying bill.

“In trying to justify the enormous spending increases in this bill, supporters paint a picture of a hollowed-out shell of a State Department, suffering from years of neglect. Yet, according to the Congressional Research Service and the State Department’s own data, funding for the State Department and related agencies doubled from fiscal year 2000 through 2008. This clearly shows that growing the bureaucracy and throwing more money at the Department of State are not the answer.

“Supporters of this bill further argue that the major funding increases for the hiring of new staff are necessary, even in the absence of reforms. I note that there was an effort last Congress by colleagues in the other Chamber to ascertain the levels of absenteeism at various US Government agencies. The results for the State Department were impressive – in an ironic way. The Department explained that it does not specifically track absences without official leave. It was the only Executive Branch agency that could not provide such information. Instead, the State Department only tracks those incidents in which such absenteeism reaches such an egregious level that discipline is required.

“As a result, we – and the management of the Department – have little idea if the Department’s own personnel are at their posts at the times we would expect them to be, although the overwhelming majority of State Department employees are hard working patriots. They are the ones who should be upset over absenteeism in others.

“The bill before us today does not address such questions nor does it build on earlier inquiries, such as the one I have cited. Instead, supporters of this bill focus their arguments on unfilled State Department ‘vacancies.’ These arguments, too, do not bear careful scrutiny.

“Most of those so-called vacancies are the result of shifting personnel to high-priority posts, rather than cuts in funding. Furthermore, the State Department always shows ‘unfilled’ positions on their books, because those numbers are the result of our overseas posts’ self-identified needs, rather than being a budget-driven number. It’s a way of saying that they would like more employees and more funding. What agency wouldn’t? I expect that all Americans would identify very significant, unfunded ‘needs’ in their own homes, families, and budgets.

“Moreover, at a time when we need to cut the deficit, in just one little-noticed instance, this bill bypasses an opportunity to transfer several hundred million dollars to our Treasury to help pay down our national debt. In fact, an amendment offered by Mr. Burton was not made in order by the Rule. This amendment would have required that just half of the funds of US-funded enterprise funds abroad be turned over to the U.S. Treasury when they close down their operations. By remaining silent on the disposition of such funds, the bill would instead allow loosely-overseen, so-called ‘legacy institutions’ to take possession of all of those funds. This bill prefers to focus on creating new US-funded foundations and offices that will add hundreds of millions of dollars in new costs to the taxpayers over the coming years.


“When it comes to policy issues, this bill does not set the priorities that we believe would best serve our nation.


“Not only does this bill provide close to $2 billion (that is a b in billion) in funding for the United Nations, not including peacekeeping, without requiring any reform, it authorizes the payment of all claimed UN arrears, or back payments. Why should American taxpayers be asked to write a blank check to the UN? Why not demand specific returns on our investments?

“Instead, efforts to leverage our contributions to secure concrete, systemic, and comprehensive reforms throughout the UN system were rejected in both the Foreign Affairs Committee and in Rules.

“H.R. 2410 provides an inexplicable authorization to pay a higher rate for UN peacekeeping than even the UN is charging us. The bill’s assessment rate could result in the U.S. paying, in one year alone, more than $100 million for UN peacekeeping above that which the UN requires us to pay.

“The bill also fails to take any action to address endemic corruption at the United Nations. In fact, not only does the underlying bill and the manager’s amendment remain silent on the UN’s misuse of American taxpayer funds for activities that undermine U.S. interests, but an amendment offered by the gentleman from Indiana, Mr. Burton, which sought to prevent U.S. taxpayer dollars from paying for the legal fees of corrupt UN officials, was rejected at Rules and will not be considered today.

“The UN has decided to pay the legal fees - possibly almost $900,000 - of Benon Sevan, who ran the UN’s corrupt, disastrous Oil-for-Food Program, which was supposed to help innocent Iraqis but was instead exploited by Saddam’s regime. U.S. federal and state prosecutors have charged Sevan with bribery and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, but H.R. 2410 does nothing to protect taxpayer dollars from bankrolling and rewarding corruption at the UN.

“The underlying bill also helps foster the ‘culture of corruption’ at the United Nations by failing to leverage U.S. contributions to the UN Development Program (UNDP), until it accepts the jurisdiction of the UN’s Ethics Office. The UN Development Program (UNDP), to which the U.S. contributes $100 million or more per year, continues to be the poster child for mismanagement, corruption, and waste – from Zimbabweto Uganda to Burma to North Korea. In fact, UNDP had to pull out of North Korea, after reports emerged that development aid was being diverted to the North Korean dictatorship. Now, unbelievably, UNDP is returning to North Korea, with essentially no meaningful protections to prevent U.S. taxpayer dollars from again benefiting Kim Jong Il and his cronies.

“Our Treasury Department has even engaged a collection agency to retrieve over $7 million in U.S. taxpayer dollars mismanaged by UNDP inAfghanistan! We might never know about UNDP corruption and mismanagement without the help of brave whistleblowers. Unfortunately, whistleblowers have few protections at the UN, and UNDP has reportedly retaliated against a number of them, including the one who exposed their operations in North Korea.

“H.R. 2410 should do more in safeguarding our constituents’ hard-earned dollars. Nowhere are UN failures, which undermine U.S. interests, clearer than with respect to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. UNRWA, which has a strictly humanitarian mandate to provide aid to Palestinian refugees, continues to compromise its mandate – and U.S. taxpayer dollars.

“It does so by:

o Emitting propaganda against Israel and in favor of Hamas;

o Doing business with banks targeted by the U.S. Government for terror financing and money laundering;

o And refusing to vet its employees and aid recipients for ties to Palestinian militant groups like Hamas.

“UNRWA’s Commissioner-General says she doesn’t even consider Hamas to be a Foreign Terrorist Organization, and her predecessor admitted that members of Hamas were on UNRWA’s payroll, saying ‘I don’t see that as a crime.’

“No one can guarantee that over hundreds of millions in U.S. funds sent to UNRWA will not end up in the hands of Hamas. Yet, H.R. 2410 takes a see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil approach, refusing to demand accountability and transparency for our investments.


“Supporters of the bill will claim that H.R. 2410 strengthens nonproliferation activities at the Department of State. However, the pertinent section of the bill contains contradictory provisions regarding the Department’s nonproliferation and arms control infrastructure.

“On the one hand, the bill asks the Secretary of State to develop a comprehensive plan to determine what the Department actually needs, in terms of personnel, additional authorities, and new appropriations, in order to carry out its arms control and nonproliferation policies.

“Yet, before that plan has even been drafted, this bill:

• removes the statutory requirement for the Assistant Secretary for Verification and Arms Control,

• authorizes $3 million for 25 new positions focused on arms control, and

• mandates other programs and activities.

“These provisions actually appear to be laying the foundation to reverse the reforms enacted in 1998 under the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act. Further, by removing the requirement for the Assistant Secretary for Verification and Arms Control, it is diminishing in importance and targeting for possible dissolution, the bureau at State that was instrumental in the dismantlement of Libya’s nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs.

“This is also the one bureau that has consistently pressed for greater disclosure by the North Korean regime on the totality of its nuclear activities.

North Korea

“And on North Korea, this bill and the Congress have remained largely silent in the face of this, one of the most grave foreign policy crises currently confronting our nation.

North Korea’s leader is preparing to test yet another long-range missile which could reach Alaska, Hawaii, and the West Coast, possibly as early as next week. Yet, an amendment I offered at Rules to address the escalating crisis over North Korea’s nuclear brinkmanship was rejected.

“This amendment would have re-listed North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, as suggested by Secretary of State Clinton this past weekend. It called for full implementation of sanctions, including those imposed by UN Security Council resolutions adopted after previous North Korean missile and nuclear tests but never fully enforced. It contained consequences as called for by the Administration’s North Korean special envoy after Pyongyang’s April 5th missile test.

“This amendment raised grave concern about Pyongyang’s defiant, continuing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to Iran, Syria and other rogue regimes. It also pointed to the North Korean regime’s horrific record of human rights abuses.

Pyongyang made a provocative and reprehensible decision on Monday of this week, in a secretive kangaroo court, to sentence U.S. citizen journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee to 12 years of hard labor in the North Korean gulag. This amendment demanded the immediate and unconditional release of our two U.S. citizens before the lifting of U.S. sanctions or granting of diplomatic recognition.

“Much of the language of my amendment had been accepted by Chairman Berman last year and incorporated into the Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Reform Act of 2008. The Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously adopted the agreed upon North Korea language during a mark-up held last May. Yet, the amendment I offered to address this threat to U.S. security interests and our allies in the region was rejected yesterday by the Rules committee.


“In conclusion Mr. Chairman, at a time when our country faces a range of threats in our own Hemisphere, the bill does not set out a comprehensive approach to those threats.

“This bill also displays a willingness to put our national interests in the hands of the vaguely defined ‘international community.’

“Mr. Chairman, because the fundamental weaknesses and core problems with this bill have not been addressed, I will not be able to support this bill.

“I urge my colleagues to also oppose H.R. 2410 and vote NO on final passage.”


“I urge my colleagues to also oppose H.R. 2410 and vote NO on final passage.”


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