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 nomination hearing for Mr. Scott Nathan, nominee to be chief executive officer of the United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the Honorable John R. Bass, nominee to be to be an under secretary of State for management, the Honorable Mark Brzezinski, nominee to be ambassador to Poland, and Mr. Michael M. Adler, nominee to be ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium.
Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
“First of all, on the nomination of under secretary of State for management – this position is not only responsible for keeping our diplomats safe and embassies functioning properly, but also with supporting and improving the State Department workforce. It plays a crucial role in helping coordinate State Department operations with this committee.
“There are enormous pressures on State Department personnel that need immediate attention. Embassy personnel are being attacked, in what State is awkwardly calling “anomalous health incidents.” All of us, on a bipartisan basis, are very concerned about this situation. We’ve struggled to get straight answers out of the Department about what is going on.
“Moreover, in many posts, our diplomats are having trouble getting outside the embassy walls to meet with the local population, putting a serious strain on their ability to advance vital U.S. national interests. We know Russian, Chinese, and Iranian diplomats do not have these restrictions.
“Determining the future of this workforce and how it operates is one of the most important responsibilities of this position, and one that could have ramifications for years, if not decades. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these important issues.
“On the nomination of CEO of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation – the DFC has the potential to serve as one of the most influential tools to unleash the power of the private sector, lift countries out of poverty, and counter the predatory, state-sponsored development models pursued by strategic competitors.
“To that end, the DFC should focus on two core missions. It should promote economic freedom through support for private sector-led growth in developing countries, and it should protect economic freedom through investments in sectors of strategic significance to the United States.
“Investments in the digital economy, advanced technologies, energy, infrastructure, supply chains, and public health are critical in an era of strategic competition with China and to provide alternatives to state-directed investment.
“Senator Warner’s reference to the Intelligence Committee and our work overseeing these types of matters is important, and certainly this agency plays a crucial role there.
“Last month, I sent a letter to the DFC expressing serious concern that 18 of the agency’s 21 current solar projects source panels from China, even after revelations of forced labor in China’s solar industry. That situation is unacceptable and unsustainable. If confirmed, I expect you to fix it and make sure DFC supply chains do not touch forced labor.
“Additionally, the agency’s keen interest in pursuing deals in wealthy countries is inexplicable. The DFC must shrug off its old OPIC mindset and fully embrace the new agency’s dual mission. It must strike a healthier balance between pursuing projects with a greater development focus and those guided by strategic interests.
“On the nomination of ambassador to Poland – I’ll associate myself with the remarks of the chairman regarding our commitment to Poland and its security. Poland is under a growing threat from Russia and its proxy Belarus. I’m glad to see a growing U.S. troop presence there, but being an ally requires more than just military cooperation. Values matter.
“The Polish government also seems set on consolidating its control over previously free media and determined to end the largest U.S. investment in Poland, Discovery Media’s ownership of TVN. Both decisions are counter to the commitments to human rights and freedom of speech we expect our allies to maintain.
“I expect to hear your thoughts on all of these critical issues.
“Finally, on the nomination of ambassador to Belgium – Brussels is home to many European NGOs and international organizations, as well as the headquarters of the EU and NATO. It is an important post, especially within the context of Brussels’ influential position in European politics.
“Like in many European countries, China has sought to expand its influence in Belgium by purchasing stakes in important Belgian companies, particularly ports. I’d like to hear how you plan to address this growing issue should you be confirmed.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”
These remarks have been lightly edited for clarity. Witness testimony is available on foreign.senate.gov.