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Ranking Member Risch Opening Statement at Nominations Hearing for Assistant Secretary for DRL, Ambassador to Timor-Leste, and Communications Coordinator

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 nominations hearing. The nominees included Dr. Dafna Hochman Rand to be assistant secretary of State for democracy, human rights, and labor, Donna Ann Welton to be ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, and Stephan A. Lang to be U.S. coordinator for international communications and information policy.

Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:

“Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate that.

“Let me begin with the position of assistant secretary of State for democracy, human rights, and labor (DRL). This is a critically important post.

“The DRL bureau manages millions of dollars in assistance around the world. This assistance, and this platform, must be used to further U.S. national interests – not the agenda of the left and particularly social issues.

“In particular, I am concerned by recent efforts to expand the definitions of ‘human rights’ and ‘human rights defender.’ It is critical we continue to support internationally recognized human rights around the world, and not get distracted by niche causes. If everything is defined as a ‘right,’ we will lose focus and success will escape us.

“Ms. Rand, should you be confirmed, I expect you will help ensure U.S. taxpayer dollars are directed to those most vulnerable, and to the most trusted partners who value working with the American people.

“On the nomination of ambassador to Timor-Leste – it is important that we further develop our partnership there, alongside allies like Australia.

“In particular, we should focus on infrastructure development and energy security, including liquid natural gas given the country’s resources. China has made big inroads on infrastructure development. We must counteract that.

“Finally, on the nomination of U.S. coordinator for international communications and information policy – Mr. Lang has years of experience working on cyberspace at the State Department. Unfortunately, the Department has been behind on these issues.

“I look forward to hearing about how the Bureau for Cyberspace and Digital Policy can advance U.S. leadership on digital issues and limit reliance on Chinese-made equipment in 5G networks worldwide.

“With that, thank you Mr. Chairman, I yield back.”

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