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Ranking Member Risch Opening Statement at Hearing Examining U.S. Security Cooperation and Assistance

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today gave the following opening remarks at a full committee hearing entitled: Examining U.S. Security Cooperation and Assistance . The committee heard witness testimony from, The Honorable Jessica Lewis, assistant secretary of State for political-military affairs, and The Honorable Mara Elizabeth Karlin, assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans and capabilities at the Department of Defense.

Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:

“Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I do look forward to working with you on the legislation you referred to, and I hope we’ll be there at the takeoff rather than the landing as has been suggested in the past.

“Never has the subject of U.S. security assistance been more important. It plays a vital role in the defense of the democratic world and our partners. In this hearing, we need to understand our efforts and what else we can do to ensure Ukraine defeats Russia.

“I also hope to hear about major new security assistance programs in the Indo-Pacific, where the State Department has failed to invest sufficient resources.

“And we owe the nation a discussion on lessons learned from security assistance, or lack thereof, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and how those two efforts resulted in such remarkable failures.

“Regarding Ukraine, my wants are the same as President Zelenskyy’s. It’s simple: more and faster. While we have provided significant resources to Ukraine, and certainly the administration is to be applauded for what it has done, particularly over the past year, packages sat on the president’s desk longer than they should have and we lost valuable time. Now, combat losses have depleted most of this aid. The Ukrainians desperately need more and faster. 

“My goal here is simple: Enable the Ukrainian people to expel the Russians and defeat the savage and murderous Putin. Ukraine needs more Javelin anti-tank missiles, Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, larger anti-aircraft systems, drones, ammunition of all calibers, communications gear, and protective equipment and airplanes. Lots more are needed. I have an ammunition manufacturer in Idaho ready to send more. They need State to sign off.

“We should support our allies providing aircraft to the Ukrainians. Stop overthinking this and toughen up – keep these supplies flowing steadily. I guarantee you the Russians aren’t wimping around on these matters – they’re acting. The Ukrainian people have made their stand. They are not asking us to fight on their behalf. They are merely asking for our support.

“Also, as the world watches Ukraine, our Asian allies are watching. Taiwan – threatened by a massive authoritarian neighbor – wonders how vulnerable it is to the growing might of the Chinese military. I hope the fierce resistance of the Ukrainians inspires Taiwan and casts doubt within the Chinese military on its prospects for successful aggression.

“To ensure the Chinese Communist Party knows it cannot succeed, we should be doing now for Taiwan what we should have done years ago for Ukraine. We should support investment in Taiwan’s defense, and help reform it’s planning and organization which are needed.

“My Taiwan Deterrence Act proposes just that, by starting a Foreign Military Finance grant program for Taiwan to highlight U.S. commitment to deterrence, incentivizing Taiwan to invest more in its own defense, and mandating more joint planning with Taiwan to determine the capabilities it needs to best defend itself. Time is running short. We must start this effort now.

“In the Middle East – Today is almost seven months after the disastrous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and that disaster demands we ask hard questions about U.S. security assistance. Throughout a 20-year period, the U.S. spent over $125 billion to build the Iraqi and Afghan militaries. Some efforts succeeded, especially the Syrian Democratic Forces’ campaign against ISIS. But we saw the larger U.S.-supported Iraqi and Afghan armies melt away in the face of ISIS and the Taliban.

“The U.S. government has not institutionalized the lessons from these failures. Instead, it seems eager to forget the whole debacle. We must ensure security assistance is truly focused on our most vital interests, and supports our wider foreign policy and national security objectives, not just tactical and operational capabilities. 

“As the Defense Department continues efforts to cut the State Department out of security cooperation, we’ve seen a greater focus on short-term, tactical capabilities than on sustainable forces aligned with strategic foreign policy.

“However, U.S. policy should focus on building enduring institutions, not just tactical units. We must address governance challenges like corruption in all of our activities. And we need to professionalize our security assistance workforce.

“Security cooperation must support strategic and diplomatic objectives. That is why the State Department must reassert its role in the process and the Senate should support that. But State must also be an active and helpful participant helping coordinate with the Defense Department.

“Security assistance is among the most essential tools of foreign policy, but this policy is being tested. We must succeed in helping Ukraine defend itself. We must pursue new efforts with Taiwan. And we must ensure that all of our efforts benefit from the hard, very hard lessons of the past 20 years.

“We must also acknowledge the world is indeed a more dangerous place than it was 15-20 years ago. Our security cooperation must recognize this hard reality as we work with partners around the world to confront dangerous regimes.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”

These remarks have been lightly edited for clarity. Witness testimony is available on