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Ranking Member Risch Opening Statement at Hearing on AUKUS

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 on AUKUS: a generational opportunity to deepen our security partnerships with Australia and the United Kingdom. Witnesses included The Honorable Jessica Lewis, assistant secretary at the Bureau of Political Military Affairs at the Department of State, The Honorable Mara E. Karlin, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for policy and assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans, and capabilities at the Department of Defense, and The Honorable Kin Moy, principal deputy assistant secretary at the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the Department of State.

Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:

“Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I want to associate myself with the remarks that you’ve made. Both of us recognize how important AUKUS is and we are anxious to see it move forward. Even though there have been some disappointments so far, that doesn’t mean we can’t do better in the future. I think that is the purpose of this hearing – to try to get this thing on track and move it along more quickly and more efficiently.

“As the United States has entered a period of strategic rivalry with China that includes military competition on a scale we haven’t seen in generations, China has undertaken a nuclear breakout and fields the world’s largest navy and a fully modernized air force.

“To meet this challenge, we must move quickly to expand the resilience and capacity of our defense industrial base. U.S. allies should be full partners in this effort, and the AUKUS partnership is an important first step.

“The defense trade partnership between Australia, the UK, and the U.S. is meant to bolster collaboration on joint advanced military capabilities. In particular, our goals include increased technology sharing, co-production and co-development, and expedited export licensing processes.                                                              

“Pillar One focuses on Australia’s acquisition of conventionally armed nuclear-powered submarines. While this is bold and essential, it is also highly contingent upon supply and unlikely to produce increased submarine capability in the Indo-Pacific for a decade.

“Importantly, many of the capabilities needed to fully implement Pillar One – including cruise missiles, the boat’s combat system, or advanced computing capabilities – will be heavily dependent on Pillar Two. 

“If executed as intended, Pillar Two offers the potential to produce meaningful results this decade. Pillar Two can also expand and build resilience across the supply chains and industrial bases – an imperative given the lingering impact of COVID and U.S. limitations exposed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“However, our export control system remains overly cumbersome and treats our closest allies, with proven track records of technology protection, as if they are new or emerging partners. 

“Simply put, Australia and the United Kingdom have legal, regulatory, and technology control regimes that are comparable to those of the United States. Demands from the administration that Australia and the UK undertake extensive reform of their domestic political and regulatory systems are frankly condescending. And, it highlights the need for a clear shift in State’s attitude toward defense cooperation with close allies.

“I fully appreciate that we don’t want to open the doors, as the chairman said, to using this as a trojan horse and do things that we don’t want to do. I have served on this committee for the 15 years that I have been in the Senate, and at the same time have served on the Intelligence Committee. I would like to report to this committee that one of the very first things I noticed between the two committees is that there is a very distinct difference between the way that we treat allies in the intelligence fields versus how we treat them on other things like export.

“I think it probably would behoove State and the Department of Defense to spend a little time with the intelligence community. We share incredibly sensitive and important material with the Five Eyes, so here, I don’t have the concerns that some have.

“As far as the chairman’s concern on using this as a trojan horse, that is a legitimate concern that deserves attention. Having said that, I think there may be an overreach there and we really ought to take a deep breath, sit down, and review how we can reconcile and how we treat our allies in the intelligence field. We must make it more compatible with how we treat them in trade and industrial matters.

“The Department of State, in concert with the Departments of Defense and Commerce, and other relevant U.S. agencies, should clearly communicate to our AUKUS partners our requirements to ensure robust technology security and export control measures and then adhere to them.

“In addition, these agencies should work to reduce barriers to defense innovation, cooperation, trade, production, and sustainment with the governments and industry partners of the United Kingdom and Australia.

“If AUKUS realizes its potential, it will set a precedent and incentivize similar agreements with other close U.S. allies. We need to get this right before we add other partners, but these agreements are necessary if we are to prevail in the long-term competition with China, Russia, and their partners.

“If AUKUS fails to achieve its lofty goals, it would not only show us to be an unreliable ally, but it would also signal that we are fundamentally unserious about competing with China.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”

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