July 17, 2017

Corker Opening Statement at Hearing on 2018 State Department Authorization Bill

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following remarks at a hearing on draft legislation to reauthorize the State Department for fiscal year 2018. In 2016, Corker led congressional passage of the first State Department authorization bill to become law in 14 years, fulfilling one of his top priorities as chairman. This year’s authorization will build on last year’s progress with a focus on improving organization of the department, embassy construction, personnel, information security, and public diplomacy. The committee heard testimony from Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan.

“We thank you for being here, Mr. Secretary, again so promptly. 

“We appreciate that you have made time to appear before this committee twice in a week’s time.

“Passing an annual State Department authorization bill is one of the fundamental responsibilities of this committee, and when we shirk that responsibility and decline to exercise our oversight, we, in essence, surrender our authority to the executive branch and to other congressional committees. And we fail to do the job our constituents sent us here to do.

“Restoring this annual practice was a top priority of mine when I became chairman, and I’m proud of the significant progress we made last year when the first authorization bill in 14 years became law. And I want to than Senator Cardin and everybody on this committee for making that happen.

“However, because of previous inaction, there are programs at the department that have not been appropriately reviewed and analyzed in well over a decade. 

“This lack of oversight results in uncertain policy goals, wasteful spending, and a lack of transparency.

“This year’s state authorization contains numerous important provisions that build upon last year’s bill in exercising oversight of the State Department bureaucracy and government programs that spend billions of dollars in taxpayer money.

“We also understand that this legislation is being crafted in the early stages of the department’s plans for reorganization, and we expect that the reorganization will be a topic of a good bit of our conversation today. 

“We’re pleased that you have come before us to speak about the process underway to reorganize the department, and you being here is further evidence of the new administration’s commitment to openness to input and consultation with Congress.

“And I, again, appreciate the 45 minutes you spent with Ben and I last week before the hearing.

“Rather than being a hindrance to the secretary as he assesses the future structure of the department, I believe this authorization is a tool that will assist the administration in its work, while also serving as a mechanism by which Congress can assist in improving how the department functions.

“Ranking Member Cardin and I, and our respective staffs, worked together successfully in the past two years to pass authorization bills out of committee and to get a combination of those two bills signed into law. Again, I want to thank you, Senator Cardin, for your dedication to making sure this committee continues to fulfill its duty this year as well.

“I also want to thank all of our members for their cooperation and important contributions in this process.

“We’re here today to discuss the committee’s draft authorization bill that we’ve shared with everyone, and we look forward to hearing your views.

“Thank you, again, and I’ll turn it over to our distinguished ranking member.”

Click here for complete testimony and video footage of the hearing.