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 for Richard R. Verma nominee to be to be deputy secretary of State for management and resources.
Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Ambassador Verma, we see a lot of people here with impressive resumes, but this one, as the chairman has said, is stunning really.
“The chairman and I share a biting conviction in our oversight role to see that the State Department does what it is supposed to do, and does it in a way that moves us a country forward.
“The deputy secretary of State for management and resources has an important task – ensuring the Department is organized and resourced to address the multitude of foreign policy issues facing the United States.
“Strategic competition remains the overriding challenge, as demonstrated by China flying spy balloons over Middle America and Russia continuing to pursue its unlawful war of aggression in Ukraine. In order to properly respond, the American people need a State Department firing on all cylinders and effectively and efficiently using its budget.
“For years, the State Department’s cautious security approach made it difficult for American diplomats to get outside embassies and consulates to meet with locals. Thankfully, my Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act and the Diplomatic Support and Security Act were signed into law last year.
“If confirmed, you will be responsible for implementing these efforts to move the Department away from risk avoidance and get our diplomats back to advancing American interests abroad. I expect the Department to use the authorities in this law and I know you will help pursue that.
“This is particularly important in Ukraine, where we need to rapidly increase staffing at the embassy and allow our diplomats to get outside the capital city to conduct oversight on the billions of dollars in assistance rightly flowing to Ukraine.
“More personnel are also needed to conduct oversight over the economic, military, and humanitarian assistance that are critical to helping the Ukrainian people defend themselves and retake territory from the Putin regime. The White House also needs to stop micromanaging Ambassador Brink’s authority as chief of mission to get the job done.
“In June, I visited the embassy in Kyiv and I was really impressed with the facility there. Unfortunely, there were only half a dozen people that were there for obvious reasons. Ambassador Brink had just been appointed at that time. I was impressed with the things she wanted to do there and I know you will continue that forward.
“Along these lines, reopening an embassy in the Solomon Islands is an important step in elevating historic ties and building stronger partnerships with Pacific allies.
“China’s corrupting political influence, its increased presence in critical maritime areas, and its construction of undersea cable networks that carry critical data pose severe challenges to us and our partners.
“I strongly support a rapid and fully-resourced approach to standing up new diplomatic posts in the Pacific Islands, the Maldives, and other critical locations. Opening these diplomatic facilities is vital. We are moving too slow and not thinking creatively.
“If confirmed, you will be charged with coordinating the implementation of this legislation. The Department must be organized and resourced to lead global health diplomacy, including the execution of a coherent global health security strategy overseas.
“On the personnel front, I continue to be deeply concerned by the appalling treatment endured by U.S. diplomats in China in the name of complying with Chinese COVID protocols.
“No U.S. diplomats should have ever been detained in fever camps, separated from their children, subjected to invasive medical testing and monitoring procedures, or silenced when they tried to raise concerns. But what’s worse is that the Department legally permitted this treatment by partially waiving diplomatic immunity – not once, but twice, most recently in April 2022.
“I am determined to ensure accountability for U.S. personnel responsible for enabling this unacceptable treatment. I want to work together to accomplish this.
“One thing the administration could do immediately would be to commit to not nominate – or re-nominate – anyone significantly involved in developing or enabling these policies. This committee must also do our part to make sure we don’t reward poor judgement, incompetence, and undue deference to foreign government demands with promotions and prestigious appointments.
“Thank you for your willingness to serve. With that I yield back. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”
These remarks have been lightly edited for clarity. Witness testimony is available on foreign.senate.gov.