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Menendez Remarks on FY19 Budget, Global Challenges at SFRC Nominations Hearing

Ranking Member calls Administration’s FY19 budget proposal “stunningly irresponsible”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following opening remarks at a Committee hearing Thursday on the nominations of Susan Thornton to serve as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs; Andrea Thompson to serve as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and Security Assistance; and Francis Fannon to serve as Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing today.

“Before I comment on our witnesses, I need to comment on the Administration’s proposed foreign affairs budget for fiscal year 19—because honestly I find it to be stunningly irresponsible.  A budget is a reflection of our priorities and our values… and an opportunity to commit resources to fulfilling a mission.

“It is often said that, ‘if you show me your budget I’ll tell you our strategy.’  Well, if that is true, then the Administration has a very bad strategy. 

“Far from putting America first, the Trump Administration’s budget would put America last.  This request would slash almost 30 percent of the FY17 enacted levels – undermining our leadership on the global stage and our ability to effectively serve the American people and promote our national security interests.  Furthermore, the request runs counter to the very goals and ideals the Administration seeks to champion and those it defined in its own National Security Strategy, which calls for robust diplomatic engagement and maintaining our position of global leadership.

“So as you said, Mr. Chairman, last year, we largely rejected the last budget.  I think this one needs to be rejected as well. 

“And I look forward to working with you and our colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to provide adequate funding for our diplomats, development officers, and frontline civilians working to promote American national security.


“Let me thank our nominees for their willingness to serve, and in particular I want to recognize the many years that Colonel Thompson and Ms. Thornton have spent in public service. 

“For decades, one of the core objectives of U.S. foreign policy has been to limit as much as possible the spread of the nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.  The success of our non-proliferation efforts has always depended upon gaining the cooperation of other states to legally binding treaties and agreements, U.N. Security Council resolutions, and bilateral cooperative efforts.  We need effective United States leadership that inspires and encourages others to join us to meet these threats with a united coalition. 

“Additionally, Colonel Thompson, if you are confirmed, your role as Under Secretary will put you in an unique position to strengthen State’s ability to provide our allies and partners robust and effective security assistance, while also ensuring that human rights and the protection of civilians are taken into account when providing such assistance. 

“Ms. Thornton, in nominating you to serve as the Assistant Secretary for East Asia and the Pacific, it is my hope that this means the President intends to listen to knowledgeable and sound advice on our policy towards the Asia-Pacific region.

“As a Pacific nation ourselves, our national security policy must recognize that much of America’s 21st century political and economic future lies in the Asia-Pacific region, and it is imperative that we engage with the region – not pull away from it.

“Yet the Administration talks about the importance of a ‘free and open’ Indo-Pacific region, its actions speak differently. While the Administration talks about the importance of our alliances and partnerships, its actions call our commitments into question.  While the Administration talks about how our principles are embedded in our policy, but its actions undermine our values.  And while the Administration talks about the challenge of a ‘revisionist’ China, its actions seem to risk ceding the region to a strategic rival.

“The United States needs to have a strategic and values-driven presence in the region that includes our military AND the full range of American diplomatic tools and resources.  Such an approach is necessary to deal with the wide range of challenges, including the crisis of a nuclear-armed North Korea; making clear our commitments to our allies; and managing our relationship with China. 

“Finally, any policy for a ‘free and open’ Indo-Pacific region must have human rights and democracy at its core.  For too long in the region, the United States has treated human rights as desirable but dispensable.  Instead, we should be using our values as a source of strength and comparative advantage over illiberal forces in the region.

“Mr. Fannon, I want to thank you for meeting with me in my office yesterday.  I appreciate your willingness to serve, but given the focus of your career, I want to explore some of the concerns that I expressed to you yesterday.

“You have been a forceful advocate for the fossil fuel and extractive industries, so I want to know how you will execute ENR’s “core objectives” which includes, quote, ‘advising on energy issues as they relate to… pursuit of alternative energy and energy efficiency, and greater transparency and accountability in the energy sector.”

“I look forward to continuing to explore that conversation with you.

“Mr. Chairman, we are having a major debate and vote on the floor on Dreamers.  I am going to have to go for a few minutes to that.  I have read all of the testimony and I have read all about the witnesses.  I intend to be back for the questions, but I’m going to have to excuse myself for a few minutes.”