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tv   Senators Examine State Dept. Mission Policies  CSPAN  December 8, 2021 6:08am-7:36am EST

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a nation are moving towards and i look forward to having that discussion in the future. thank you. raj: thank you thank you thank you, sir.
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>> the hearing of the senate foreign relations committee will come to order. mr. secretary, thank you for joining us today. as this committee continues to seek to restore its position of conducting robust oversight, we greatly appreciate your willingness, like that of secretary blinken, to come before us for hearings, and that's refreshing. let me also acknowledge that you and secretary blinken inherited a damaged and depleted state department. as i documented in a committee report last year, diplomacy in crisis, the last administration's repeated assault on state department personnel, management, and resources were, in my view, unconscionable and dangerous for long-term u.s. foreign policy interests. when you assume your position, morale was at its lowest point in decades. confidence in leadership had decayed. key bureaus had been gutted. budgetary and morale problems at the department are the result of many years, multiple administrations, and, yes, congressional action and inaction as well. i think there is now broad and bipartisan consensus that we have reached a crisis point, and there is a bipartisan desire to address the core structural and resource issues that have too long plagued the department. with the department being led by people such as yourself who have dedicated so much of their careers to government service, i have been hoping to see a
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necessary effort to undertake a systematic reform and modernization effort. so today i look forward to hearing specifics. what is your thinking about reforming and modernizing the department? where do you see opportunities to ensure that resources are aligned with the department's missions? what are you doing to address the morale crisis and stem the loss of talented foreign service and civil service officers? as the administration continues to de-emphasize our military around the world, where is the necessary diplomatic counterweight? there are a number of specific issues i hope you'll address today. first, i hope you'll address the state's role in the afghanistan evacuation. there's no doubt the department personnel performed heroically, but arguably, had the department been better positioned and structured to get ahead of some of the issues, particularly processing afghan s.i.v.'s, p-1's and p-2, the heroism wouldn't be necessary.
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like during the covid-19, many were stranded around the world while state department personnel ultimately performed herculean task to launch a successful repatriation effort, it took weeks of heavy lifting and congressional pressure and suggested the department needs to fundamentally alter institutional structures to deal with emergency contingencies, planning and operations. i'd like to hear your plans to address a long standing priority of mine, significantly expanding diversity at the department, including long overdue improvements in recruitment and retention. study after study has shown that a more divorce workforce leads to better decisions and outcomes. it is essential that we represent our values as a nation in celebrating all americans. i'd also like to hear your thinking how the united states can best position ourselves to counter china in the conduct of
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diplomacy around the globe. china now has more diplomats, more missions, more concerted public diplomacy, and more money for its diplomacy than we do. in parts of africa and latin america, we are being badly outlaped. and the holdup of confirming ambassadors by this body is certainly also hampering u.s. foreign policy objectives to be competitive with china. relatedly, i hope you'll also address staffing and resource shortages that hamper our diplomacy. for example, a recent state department inspector general report found that the africa bureau has faced persistent staffing shortages and that the department has not appropriately prioritized the bureau's needs. critical posts such as our
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embassy in niger lacked a political and economic officer for months. and i look forward to hearing about the department's plans to create a new bureau of cyberspace and digital policy and special envoy for critical and emerging technology. we're facing a new era of international cooperation and competition on cyber and technology issues. real systematic change in how the united states responds to digital innovation will require swift institutional adaptation and i believe these new structures are the right first steps. finally, i'd like to hear from you on the department's response to the so-called anomalous health incidents or havana syndrome. for years, no action was taken. they stigmatized those who reported incidents and failed to get those affected prompt treatment. i appreciate that you and the secretary have prioritized this issue and i know you're committed to protecting our personnel. the department's response continues to fall short of what we owe our personnel and their families and we look forward to hearing specifics.
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so it's a broad agenda. that's the nature of the undertaking that you have. with that, mr. secretary, let me turn things over to the ranking member for his statement. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you secretary mckeon for being here today. it's been nearly 20 years since congress passed an authorization for the state department. over that time, the department's need for reform of its operations and management has grown enormously. as such, i spent the past 2 1/2 years working with the chairman on a much-needed state department authorization bill. partly on my watch and partly on his watch.
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we have not been successful to date, obviously. if we want to exercise full oversight of the state department, which is the charge of this committee, we must regularly and consistently authorize the state department. if we don't, we will get more of the same. the state department choosing when and how it will listen to this committee. as the chairman knows and i experienced during the last congress, getting the state department to do the basics, provide witnesses for hearings, feedback on legislation, and updates before issues hit the news is extremely difficult without authorizing bills. i look forward to working with the chairman and you, mr. mckeon, on getting a state department authorization across the finish line this congress. since today's hearing is also about the state of the state department, we must address the state's role on the hazardous role of the withdrawal of afghanistan. despite efforts to put afghanistan in the rearview mirror, it remains a pressing national security concern for the senate and for the american people. it's been over a month since secretary blinken appeared before this committee and we have yet to receive the secretary's responses to our questions for the record that were propounded at that time. this is an unacceptable delay and we expect better responsiveness from the
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department, which they have always promised, but never executed on. on the issue of continued evacuations. in september, secretary blinken assured us there were just 100 americans remaining in afghanistan that wish to depart. 100. just last week, however, the team responsible for continued evacuations of americans told us that they were working on over 170 americans who wish to depart more than 360 americans who remain there. i ask to enter into the data aggregate data my staff collected about the botched evacuations. it should be noted this is a snapshot of just one quarter of of the senate's work to get people out. we know that 16,688 cases were referred to the state department during and immediately after the neo. we only know of 110 individuals of this 16,000 who were successfully evacuated out of afghanistan to the u.s. or to a third country.
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i've been working on one flight with several u.s. citizens and over -- with over 100 minors on that flight. i'm also curious about the state of embassy kabul's workforce, particularly the fate of our locally employed staff. we owe a debt to the afghans who assisted us in the last 20 years and it's shameful they were not all evacuated before the administration's arbitrary withdrawal. i look forward to hearing more details on establishing predictable mechanisms for the continued departure of americans and the afghans who assisted us in our mission there. last thursday, i, along with armed services committee ranking member inhofe, and homeland security ranking member portman, sent a letter to the inspectors general of state, d.o.d., d.h.s., and usaid requesting a joint audit on the botched evacuation and the failure to deliver on the special immigrant visa program.
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as i mentioned, at secretary blinken's hearing, the secretary of defense has a lot to answer for on s.i.v.'s and more. -- as well. the bungled afghanistan evacuation was a failure not only of the interagency but also at leadership at the top. we will not accept separate audits from each agency just pointing fingers at the others. we've seen a dramatic uptick in terrorist activity in afghanistan. it demonstrates the taliban lacks the will and capability to prevent terrorists from using afghanistan as a safe haven or governing in the most basic sense. coordination with afghanistan's neighbors to address terror threats is critical, and i look forward to hearing an update from you today. i'm not surprised, but i'm disappointed to hear that the taliban is blocking women and girls from the workplace and higher education. yet the department has signaled the intent to restart
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nonhumanitarian assistance to afghanistan without securing concessions from the taliban on these important issues. i have no doubt you're going to face some strenuous questions on that particular issue from this committee and others. any further expansion of long-term assistance to afghanistan requires a discussion with congress. finally, i and 29 of my colleagues introduced the afghanistan terrorism oversight and contractibility act. i've asked the chairman we mark up this important bill soon. mr. mckeon, i look forward to working with you on this matter. with that, i yield back. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator risch. with that, mr. secretary, the floor is yours. we'd ask you to summarize your statement in five minutes or so. and your full statement will be included in the record, without objection. mr. secretary. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman, ranking member risch, members of the committee. i appreciate you having me here today. this is the first time i've appeared before you since i was
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confirmed in march. so i'm happy to be back here to report on many of the issues that you raised in your opening statements. i know there is significant support on this committee for the department's mission and its personnel, and i welcome the discussion of our authorization priorities and your priorities and hope to build on the work that you have started. i first want to take a moment to recognize the state department's remarkable public servants. it would be hard to overstate the unique challenges faced by our global workforce, especially during lengthy global pandemic. their resilience embodies the true spirit of public service. i also want to speak to the department's work since i came before you in march, including the steps taken to address some of the issues that you raised then. in may, the president submitted his budget request for fiscal year 2022. he requested a 10% increase for the state department and usaid which included the largest personnel increase for the state department in a decade.
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it's a budget that reflects the importance of investing in our people and our technology, and we appreciate the support for these priorities in the congress to date. president biden has been clear from his first day in office about his commitment to put diplomacy at the center of our foreign policy. the president's first visit to a major cabinet department was to the state department. an intentional signal of the importance -- the importance he places on diplomacy. secretary blinken is equally committed to this objective. today at the foreign service institute later this morning, the secretary will publicly outline the department's modernization agenda which has five pillars. i believe he came to speak to you, mr. chairman, and senator risch, yesterday about some of these issues. first, building the department's capacity and expertise in areas critical to our national security, including cyber and emerging tech, climate, and global health. second, elevating new voices and fostering a climate of initiative and innovation within the department.
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third, we are determined to compete for talent and to build and retain a diverse dynamic and entrepreneurial workforce. the secretary has appointed the department's first-ever chief diversity and inclusion officer. we are addressing a number of issues that make it challenging for officers to serve, from family member employment to assignment restrictions to the challenges that lgbtq-plus and employees of color face serving overseas. fourth, we are working to modernize our technology, our communications, and our analytical capabilities. the final pillar focuses on over overseas overseas engagement to ensure our diplomats can conduct in-person diplomacy. this gets at the issue of risk management. pursuant to the president's national security memorandum 3 which he issued in february, an initiative that he undertook to revitalize our nation's foreign policy and the national security workforce, we've already taken steps to make systemic improvements in the way we
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recruit and retain employees. on recruitment, we've established a volunteer recruiter corps with 500 foreign and civil service employees who will assist our efforts to recruit a diverse workforce. we've also requested funds and authorization for paid student internship program. on retention, we've broadened access to childcare. we're enhancing telework opportunities. we're expanding eligibility for the student loan repayment program. and we are reviewing our performance management systems. on advancing diversity and equity and inclusion and accessibility, we launched the department's first deia leadership council and as noted the first chief diversity officer. we sought diversity in our senior appointments. there's a lot of other work that is going on that i can speak to during the q&a. we've made considerable progress, but there's a lot of work ahead. we've reduced the lengthy hiring timeline and made security clearance processing more efficient, but we need to do
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better. our passport processing during the peak summer travel season was inadequate. i won't try to gloss over it. we've surged resources in recent months that have reduced waiting times. finally, i just want to thank the committee for the large number of nominees, over 40, who had their hearings in the last two months, but we still have 80 nominees pending before the senate. many of them on the executive calendar. as i understand it, most of the confirmations are delayed due to unrelated policy disagreements. the development and execution of our national security policy depends on having senior leaders in place in our embassies and in washington. in the first nine months of the biden-harris administration, only five ambassadors to countries have been confirmed. just four of them yesterday.
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our security and interests are substantially undermined because so many of our senior leadership roles are not occupied by senate-confirmed officials. while we can do more as an administration to improve our part of the process, the level of delay and obstruction we have faced is unprecedented, and i speak with knowledge of working here for 20 years. i urge the senate to act on these nominations without haste. with that, i look forward to your questions, sir. >> all right. we'll start a round of five-minute questions. so, i heard what you say in broad outlines. what would be your top three priorities for assuring that the department has the organization, the tools, and the resources it needs to meet its mission? >> well, the first priority, sir, is getting adequate funding. as i said, we're very appreciative of where we stand on the appropriations process to date. as senator coons being the new chairman of the subcommittee on appropriations. second, investing in our workforce to try to build a workforce to face the challenges of the next several decades at a
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strategic level, but also, as i mentioned, retention is a real concern. our attrition numbers are not as high as you might think, but anecdotally and some surveys are suggesting that a significant number of employees are thinking about leaving. so that's the canary in the coal mine we have to worry about. and so we have to address a lot of the pain points that make it hard to serve. and that undermine morale. and so we won't hit a lot of home runs, but we're trying to hit a lot of singles that add up to something to make their lives better. and then within the organization, you know, we need to empower people because it's a big organization with a global workforce. and there's been a tendency over the years, and i've been part of it in prior administrations, to try to manage everything with an 8,000 mile screwdriver overseas. we have to empower our workforce at our missions, but also in
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washington to generate creative ideas and fully utilize our workforce. so that's a cultural shift. that's nothing we can do with resources, and it's going to take all of the leadership believing in it and having the back of our employees. >> speaking about the staffing questions, something i have been asked for 25 years between the house and the senate is the diversity in the foreign and civil service, particularly in the state department has one of the worst records of any of the federal departments. it's not only one of the best ways to represent the united states and our values abroad, it's also, i believe, a national security imperative. so how are you working to currently, and how do you intend in the future, to hire, retain, and promote a diverse foreign and civil service?
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i hope you're looking at, when i have looked into this issue in the past, the oral exam has always been a somewhat amorphous process to me in terms of who can communicate well orally and who cannot. and then, of course, the review panel seems to be certain types of people. so that's one of the elements. and we always hear about recruitment. you have to recruit a diverse place to get a diverse workforce. there are great institutions that are known for their foreign service and policy, education but they don't necessarily provide the most diverse student body as a way to recruit. can you talk to me a little bit about this? >> i am happy to do, senator. it is perhaps worth a longer conversation separately which we're happy to do. so as i mentioned, we have the
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chief diversity officer, gina. it's not just an officer, but an office that we're staffing with ultimately about a dozen people, including people who understand data analysis, and one of her primary tasks she wants to undertake is really getting at the data so we understand at a disaggregated level what the workforce looks like and what the promotion statistics looks like, and understanding what are the barriers to advancement within these services. she sits on some of the key personnel committees. we have what's called the deputies committee that recommends career officers for ambassador positions. she also sits on the committee that selects deputy chiefs of mission and principal officers. she has put out guidance to bureaus on more transparent and objective approaches to hiring. she's putting together a broad diversity and inclusion strategic plan. across the department, every
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bureau now typically has somebody who's assigned to this task, and we have a departmentwide diversity council that the secretary chairs. on the recruitment issue, i have to tell you i just looked at the statistics of people who are taking the exam, and it's not a very good picture. the gender parity is not there. the ratio between men and women taking the exam is 2:1. and underrepresented communities are not signing up to take the exam. our human resources bureau has done some analysis on both why women aren't signing up to take the test and why african-americans in particular are not doing very well on the test. so that will guide our thinking on how we try to strengthen our recruitment. one of our programs for diversifying the pipeline and the wrangling and pickering fellowships are critical and we increased those by 50% and we'll sustain that. but there's a lot of different things we need to work on. we can't flip the switch and
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improve it, but we know if we leave in a few years, the secretary and i, and we have not made material progress, we will have failed. >> i appreciate all those statistical information. for 25 years i have been accruing statistical information and making the case that we are not having a diverse workforce. that information i think is very well situated to know what the reality is. the question becomes, as i said to the secretary yesterday, change starts at the top, and if the top, and you as the secretary in charge of management, if you make it clear to all of those underneath you that part of their performance review is how well they've worked to bring people, a diverse group of individuals into their respective departments, then that message will get out there. so i hope that the leadership is
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pursuing a very clear message of how we are going to make judgments about -- in part about how promotions and other opportunities exist, because but for that, we will talk, as we have for 25 years, about the statistics and we'll be at the same place. this is not new. this is not an issue just to this administration, but it's an ongoing issue. i would hope this is the administration that begins to create change at the end of the day. >> >> the foreign service promotion system guides motion with something they call the promotion precepts. post get revised every few years and we are working on a revision right now. it's a significant change in the
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way we do it, and we are looking at diversity and inclusion, which i think would be a game changer. sen. menendez: let me turn to senator risch, and we will have a further discussion. sen. risch: one of the things that's really troubling to us is we understand the state department has perhaps decided already they are going to start non-humanitarian assistance staff to the afghans. we are already seeing a lot of pictures of starvation and they say the winter is going to be particularly bad. i want to talk about nonhumanitarian assistance, what is the state department doing? brian mckeon: we've done a review within the department and usaid, all of our assistance programs are in the pipeline,
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and created our stoplight chart. a category of green, yellow, and red. federal programs that work directly with the afghan government that we are not able to continue, the others we are taking a look at work for the review, but none have been approved. the green are programs that are similar to humanitarian assistance. we can get you a longer list. sen. risch: give us some examples of that. brian mckeon: vulnerable women. basic -- education. sanitation and health. sen. risch: one of the things we are always concerned about when dealing with countries like afghanistan, how is this money going to be handled? if this gets into the hands of the taliban, i have serious
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reservations they will take care of women and girls to go to school and that sort of thing, since we're hearing lots of stories about them shutting down schools and stopping women from entering the workforce, and removing judges from their positions, how are you handling this? brian mckeon: the aid is flowing through nongovernmental organizations or u.n. agencies that have long records of working in the midst of civil wars like in syria or the democratic republic of congo. they have systems to ensure the money doesn't fall into the wrong hands. no funds shall go to the taliban, we have the legal prohibition on that occurring. we have to be very mindful of it, and if we get reports that money is being siphoned off, we will stop the flow of that program. sen. risch: can you give us any more examples of where this
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money is going, and specifically how it is being kept out of the hands of the taliban? it is hard to conceive that money flows into the country, and the taliban, how do you keep it out of the hands? brian mckeon: on the humanitarian assistance inside and the types of sectors we are working in our food and nutrition assistance, including covid-19 assistance. emergency shelter and relief supplies. we're working at the provincial and local district level, and the level of government in the provinces is pretty mixed. i'm not sure the taliban is present everywhere and controlling what's happening. i'm happy to get you a more detailed briefing with folks working on that issue directly. sen. risch: let's talk about the evacuations. how many americans are left in afghanistan -- as we sit here today? brian mckeon: the number we are
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currently tracking, senator, and we know it seems to be going up, the total is a little over 400. and we break that down into two categories, because we are constantly communicating with them to see if they are ready to depart afghanistan. and the number of people who are ready to depart is around 225. those who say they are not ready is about 190. these numbers change all the time. somebody who told us last week they are ready to depart, we call them today and say there is a flight in two days, we are not ready this week, let me go next week. sen. risch: i appreciate that, i suspect that is the exception as opposed to the rule. when people say they are ready to go, i would expect they are really ready to go. brian mckeon: you would think, but people have big extended
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families, roots in the country, they are human beings and they change their minds. sen. risch: as we surveyed the offices, we find about 16 bases that have been referred to your department. i have to tell you, i have personal friends that have been working on flights out of there, and they just aren't getting the help. the department has got every excuse there is as to why they can't people out of there, and these are people that help every office i think in the senate got called from veterans over there, and other people who have worked over there and said look, these people went the extra mile for us, they and their families are going to die if we don't get them out of there. and there just isn't anything happening. so i understand the leadership of that office has changed two or three times, but as a person
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in charge of management, i would strenuously urge you to take a look at that and see if you can't move that on because this is not a partisan issue by any stretch of the imagination. this is a bipartisan issue, and i know that my friends on the other side of the aisle are as frustrated as we are that we have left behind some pretty bad messes that we should have cleaned up and haven't yet. so i urge you to take a personal look at that. brian mckeon: thank you, senator. i can catch up with senator risch on this issue later. i will speak briefly. i followed this pretty closely, and meet with beth jones, the head of our team working on these issues. the big issue with the taliban which keeps changing its minds on what the rules are and we are
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working first on getting americans out and green card holders, but people who work with us, including the u.s. embassy. and trying to get some regular flow of people out of kabul, and holding the taliban that there commitment. many of them have been working on lights out of muzarri al-sharif, where we have had a lot of issues with stowaways, and others coming to qatar and wanting to stay there and not go back. they come to the base in qatar. we have an agreement with qatar, if these planes come, these people are there, so we have to get a better sense of the manifest.
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early on in this process, there was a flight being organized and we were told there were about 10 or 12 americans and 200 or so afghans, we checked the passport records and yes, there were seven or eight americans on the list. most of them were in the list -- united states, not in afghanistan. just drilling down and understanding who is getting on that flight, we have nobody on the ground. once we get to qatar, we on them. i understand the frustration, we have been working closely with veterans groups about this. we are working at it hard every day, i can tell you. sen. menendez: thank you, senator shaheen. sen. shaheen: thank you deputy secretary mcewing are being here -- mckeon for being here. you have offered to sit down with me on the havana syndrome a tax, also known as anomalous health incidents.
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i would be remiss if i didn't bring some of my concerns today at this hearing. i continue to be disappointed by the state department's response, even though i heard from both you and secretary blinken that you are committed to ensuring that people who have been affected get the medical care they need. i'm still hearing from victims that that is not had that happening. so there is clearly a disconnect between what is happening at the top levels of the state department and how people are being treated in some cases. let me ask you a couple of questions. ambassador spradlin was designated to be the point person on this, left in september. it's been about 40 days that she has been gone, and the secretariat says that he was committed to ensuring someone would replace her.
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so do you have any sense when that's going to happen? and is there a protocol that is provided to all of our embassy personnel, all of our ambassadors for how to treat reports of these kinds of attacks and get people medical care? brian mckeon: yeah, thank you, senator. she performed great service and we're sorry to see her go. i expect the secretary to make an announcement in the next day or two. in terms of protocols, when an officer posts an incident, they are instructed to either report it to the medical unit or the diplomatic security, the regional security office, and both of those offices have a standard protocol. the rso has a questionnaire that
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the officer fills out and then that's reported back to washington. and then the medical officer, whether it's a doctor or nurse, has what's called a triage tool. similarly, it's a medical assessment of various things. they are all being asked the same questions so we can try to have consistency in the data. and then if their symptoms are serious enough, some officers are medevaced. and back here in washington, we have organized the contract with johns hopkins university medical system to get people in to care quickly if they need it there. i know there's been interest in getting folks in walter reed, but that's not typically a fast process and the hopkins contract allows people to get more immediate care. sen. shaheen: and i've had the opportunity to question a number of the ambassadorial nominees about this issue and whether they've been briefed by the state department. i don't think there is anybody who said they've actually been briefed. brian mckeon: well, that surprises me, senator. we have this course called the
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ambassadorial seminar for nominees for positions, whether they've been confirmed or not, out of the foreign service institute. i spoke to the class in august, as did ambassador spratlan. i spoke about a lot of issues but i touched on this issue. and i am speaking to them next week about this issue, so whoever told you that skipped class that day. which doesn't surprise me because they don't go to the , class every day. sen. shaheen: it was two weeks ago. i am glad to hear that is there , a written protocol that people are provided? brian mckeon: there have been several guidance, both classified and unclassified, about what to do, how to report, emphasizing that there's no stigma for those who wish to report. both the diplomat security service and the medical bureau have guidance to their
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individual workforces. i think the head of the medical bureau did a town hall on this issue within the last couple weeks. there's a lot of communication, both to the workforce at large but also the units who have to deal with these issues directly. sen. shaheen: thank you. as we're talking about afghanistan and going forward, obviously, what's happening to women and girls there is a critical certain for i think probably all americans. the secretary has said that he expected to appoint someone to coordinate a strategy around how to respond on afghan women and girls. that person has not yet been appointed. do you expect that to happen soon? and can you tell us who that is so that we can work with whoever is appointed to address concerns that we're hearing, both from afghans but also thinking about how we can be helpful in the united states? brian mckeon: i know that's still the secretary's intention. i confess, i've lost the thread on where we are on selecting a person. so when i come to see you next
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week to talk about a.h.i., i'll have a better answer. sen. shaheen: good. thank you. hopefully you'll have the name of a person. brian mckeon: even better. sen. shaheen: to share with us. thank you. sen. menendez: senator romney. sen. romney: i appreciate the chance to ask a few questions. i begin by saying something i think we can all agree with or almost all of us can which was the afghanistan withdrawal was a very sad day in american history and in human history for many, many reasons. but at this stage, one of the things we're all concerned about is the number of people who are working with us and working with our military, who are fighting for our values, who are nonetheless still in afghanistan. i understand that an afghanistan task force was created to help get these individuals out.
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but i'm interested in understanding how many people are associated with that task force? is it effectively getting people out? what is the state of that work now? brian mckeon: thank you, senator romney. i concur in what you said at the beginning. and i know that there was a marine from utah who lost his life on august 26. so, you know, as the secretary said, we have a special relationship with the marines. a lot of the state department officers knew some of those marines from service in other posts. we have a task force that's led by former ambassador beth jones that's looking across the continuum on how to get people out. how we are helping to facilitate travel out of afghanistan. as we call the transit points for -- or lily pads, military bases in the middle east, primarily, and bringing them to the united states for resettlement activities. there's been some turnover in the task force as people have gone back to their jobs and we issued a new call for recruits. rently, we put out a
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department-wide call for people to come work on the task force. 140 or so people raised their hand. i have to get you the precise number of people that are working on it. there are people working out at the military bases on the resettlement work. on the bases in the middle east who are either state or usaid people. the first priority right now as i said, is american citizens and green card holders, but we're working to evacuate afghans at risk and other people closely associated with the united states government. there's a number of applicants for the civil immigrant visa program who already have a visa. they got a visa back in august. an electronic visa. we are trying to arrange flights for them. sen. romney: deputy secretary, i'd speak for myself. if there is need for additional resources, financial resources to provide additional personnel to speed this process, i would for one be very anxious to provide that support.
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i think we have a moral responsibility and american commitment to help those who helped us and leave no one behind. not just our own citizens but others who fought alongside us. on a very different area, many of us have a great deal of concern what china's ambitions might be with regards to taiwan. one, because of the people there who've enjoyed a freedom from the heavy hand of the communist chinese party, but also for our own interests. particularly given the fact, for instance, that the great majority of the world's semiconductors are made in taiwan and this would be an attractive get for the chinese communist party. what is or what can the state department be doing to make sure that china understands what the consequence would be, i am not talking about military
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consequence, but the consequence would be of them taking an effort, a military effort to grab taiwan? brian mckeon: senator, this is not something i work on very often, but i'm familiar with the general contours of our taiwan policy. as you know, it's grounded in the taiwan relations act and our commitment to taiwan's self-defense and providing them with their self-defense needs which those go through the state department approval process. i think politically, it's a broader campaign that we do directly with the chinese but we have to to make it clear that coercion by china vis-a-vis taiwan or god forbid the efforts to change the status quo by nonmilitary means will not be accepted by the united states and the international community. sen. romney: i'd love to have that expanded upon. not necessarily right here in
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this hearing. but to make it very clear to china what the consequence would be -- i mean, oftentimes we put in place sanctions on things we -- people who do things we don't like. the thing is those things have occurred without sanctions being put in place. i'd like to be clear to the chinese communist party what would occur, not just on the part of the united states, but of our allies and friends around the world whether they take kinetic action against the people of taiwan. and i think that specificity might be helpful in helping them calculate just exactly what the cost, and i'm talking about the diplomatic and economic cost might be, were they to take such effort. thank you, deputy secretary. appreciate your participation today. sen. menendez: senator cardin. sen. cardin: secretary mckeon, welcome. thank you, again, for your leadership at the state department. let me first follow up on a point that senator risch brought up in regards to afghanistan.
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and the procedures being used to help those that are vulnerable in afghanistan, whether they are u.s. citizens, whether they're eligible for our special visas, or whether they are at risk because of the taliban government. i sent a letter to the state department about a week ago and asked for a response before this hearing, and i have not gotten one in regards to the apparent lack of transparency and openness in individual cases that we have. during the withdrawal, the evacuation, we had a pretty open process with the state department on individual cases. that seems to have changed once our presence was no longer in afghanistan. i just really want to point out, i was disappointed i didn't get a response. but i do look forward to getting that response as to how you're going to be working with our individual offices on the still
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significant amount of inquiries we get in regards to vulnerable people that are still remaining in afghanistan. brian mckeon: senator, i'm told by our head of legislative affairs sitting behind me the letter should have been delivered this morning. i looked at a draft last night. so if you don't have it, we'll make sure that you get it after this hearing. sen. cardin: i appreciate that. i'm very supportive of the announcements being made today, the five areas that you mentioned for significant reform within the state department. i agree with chairman menendez's initial statements of how over a long period of time we've seen a decline of the support for our foreign service officers and our diplomacy mission. and so i do think it needs to be reinvigorated. and i think the outline that you announced today is the right way forward for us to have those discussions. i do encourage us to have a
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robust interaction as these plans are being implemented, because we're certainly going to have some comments. we may not be in total agreement with every move, but we certainly want to work together to achieve the objectives that you set out. so let me mention an area that gives me great concern, and that is, we've seen in regards to the training of our diplomatic service people that we have cut back pretty dramatically in their ability to get the type of training necessary to carry out those missions. we've also seen a decline within the missions capacity to deal with the core values that make america the strong nation it is in promoting democratic institutions and advancing human rights and dealing with anti-corruption measures in country. we just don't have the capacity within our missions to carry this out. we don't have the trained
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foreign service officers in order to advance these core mission objectives. so we in congress are looking at following president biden's leadership to advance these values, but we need to have in -- but we don't have the capacity to deliver on that. so will you just share with us the priorities of making sure we have the training resources available for our foreign service officers as well as the capacity in mission to deal with advancing these values? brian mckeon: yeah, thank you, senator cardin. on the first issue, and it's mentioned in my longer statement in the record. i don't think i hit it in the oral statement. we're trying to build in what secretary powell first had a vision for which was a training float. that is a sufficient number of people in the workforce so that people can go off and get training and we don't lose our capability at missions and in washington. we have a training float now to
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some degree, because people go take language training for six to 12 months. we need to build in a bigger cadre of people so we can have that training and professional development float so people can go on interagency rotations or even go outside the government for a rotation. so in the 2022 budget, we asked for 500 new positions. we've been ambitious in our submission to o.m.b. four -- omb for the 2023 budget to try to continue to build on that. obviously, that's a decision which needs to be made. with regards to democracy and human rights, the president embraced central to his foreign policy there's broad guidance to our mission and our workforce about how to speak to these issues and amplify them. the president's hosting a summit for democracy later this year, which will be the first of a couple. in terms of the training for these officers to carry these messages, i'll have to get back
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to you on exactly what we do at the foreign service institute. i know there are some courses on human rights. but i'm not familiar with all the details. sen. cardin: i'd just underscore the summit, we all support the summit being held and the president's leadership on that. there will be countries participating in the summit that have challenges in regards to current trends on democracy. i hope that we're very direct in our messaging about the importance of not backsliding on democratic principles. and then lastly, mr. chairman, i just want to support your comments in regards to diversity. and i would hope the state department would work with us, keep us informed as to the strategies they're using in order to make sure that our state department workforce represents our country in the-- -- and the diversity of our country. sen. menendez: i understand senator young is with us virtually.
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senator young, are you with us virtually? sen. young: i yes, sir. am. can you hear me? all right. thank you, chairman. mr. mckeon, i wish we could spend this hearing looking at long-term resources for the state department. i wish we had the luxury of rethinking the state department of evaluating new horizons of diplomatic efforts throughout the world. i especially wish we could discuss how we're shifting our focus to asia to deal with the growing threats to national security from a rising china. instead, we must first attend to this administration's sub-optimal withdrawal from afghanistan. its careless failure to treat allies with respect. two it's -- to its
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self-inflicted wounds that sapped our nation of vital resources at a critical time in our nation's history. so i want to start with a very simple yes or no question, sir. has our withdrawal from afghanistan freed up resources at the state department to focus on other strategic priorities in asia, such as the threat posed by the chinese communist party? yes or no, sir? brian mckeon: we're spending fewer resources in afghanistan, that's correct. though, some of these resources may get rescinded in the appropriations process. it's not a yes or no. sen. young: so it's freed up resources to focus on other strategic priorities. we are not more focused on afghanistan now than we were a couple years ago? brian mckeon: in terms of our overall resources, that's correct. we still have a focus on the enduring commitment to americans green card holders and afghans who helped get us out of the country. we have resources devoted to
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afghanistan. as i mentioned we had a big assistance pipeline, some of which probably will get rescinded in the appropriations process. sen. young: let me follow up. i'm a little skeptical, only because i know the nature of the withdrawal has forced the department to pull officers and staff from asia and throughout the world to stand up multiple crisis teams. and those teams are desperately trying to catch up to the crisis on the ground. we know diplomats spent hundreds of hours reassuring allies. it doesn't sound like a strategic refocusing. so can you provide specific numbers of personnel and funding that have been freed up as a result of the withdrawal, sir? brian mckeon: i'll have to get you those numbers. for the record senator young,
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what i would say is we certainly have not lost focus on the importance of the generational challenge with regard to china and our indo-pacific strategy. i'm unaware we pulled officers from posts in asia to work on the task force. we did have some consular officers at some of our figure seven -- bigger embassies from manila and new delhi, helping to call american citizens in august. but we've not pulled officers from missions. sen. young: i look forward to getting the specific number of personnel and funding that's been freed up. brian mckeon: i could also say, senator, both in our 2022 budget and pending 2023 request with o.m.b., as we look at an increase in personnel resources, the number one bureau, the bureau that's getting the most new positions is the east asia-pacific in both years. sen. young: sarah, -- sir. how would you say morale and
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confident in state has been affected by our botched withdrawal from afghanistan? brian mckeon: well, senator, with some humility, i am not sure i can speak to the morale of the 75,000 people who work for the department. i would say that many people who stepped up to volunteer either to go to afghanistan -- to go to -- afghanistan or. sen. young: i'll briefly respectfully interject. you're one of the leaders in the state department. you're supposed to have your finger on the pulse of the morale of folks at the state department. i think you can at least make a generalization about institutionally, organizationally how folks on the line are doing right now. so that we in congress might fulfill our oversight responsibilities. brian mckeon: well, senator, the people who volunteer to go to kabul kabul or worked during the crisis i think felt they did the best they could and managed to
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save a lot of lives, but i know a lot of people who came back from kabul airport who are undergoing an emotional toll about the experience they went through. i think many people in the department served in afghanistan over 20 years, so there's an array of emotions about what was invested and what was lost. sen. young: how can we possibly say that we are better face -- equipped to base diplomatic challenges? brian mckeon: we are investing substantial sums in human resources both at the defense department and usaid which in some respects was an opportunity cost. i remember in the obama administration in which i
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served, president obama constantly asking the question, what am i getting for $20 billion to $40 billion a year and what is the opportunity cost of that? ultimately the strategic shift away from afghanistan allowing us to focus on the priority you started with, the response to china will be to our benefit. sen. menendez: senator kaine. sen. kaine: i have a thought that i wanted to direct to the leadership of the committee. in discussions there is discussion about the withdrawal and whether it was planned correctly. and i'm not aware of it really happening in the senate of significant discussions in committee hearings about maybe
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the most pressing issue with respect to the afghanistan withdrawal. we have brought tens of thousands of afghans safely into the united states. there in new jersey, virginia, new mexico, indiana and wisconsin. i have visited two of the sites in virginia. want to go has about 5000 afghans on its base. fort lee has about 2000, fort pickett has about 10,000. i think the biggest marker of the success or failure of the afghan evacuation is going to be the work that we do as a nation to help these families transition into being successful parts of american society. my worry is i'm not hearing that is a focus of committee discussions. some of it is owned by the state department. the dhs is now the lead agency on the effort. most of the afghans we are not
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sivs, but in a humanitarian pearl situation that will go through a period with the judiciary committee. there are different needs of resettlement agencies and those likely will be handled via appropriations. but i'm running from a senate oversight of this critical mission going forward. i'd love it if this committee might have a hearing about the resettlement effort looking forward, and what we're going to do for these families or a number of these committees doing it together, because i think it is absolutely critical. i went to portly at the beginning of the evacuation, the plane at the time, and families were told this was they might be on a military base for 10 days to two weeks. what i went to quantico this past monday, the families were told they might be there for three or four weeks. there were 5000 afghans on that base, they were living 50 department day. i did my math, 50 department
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everyday, that's 100 days, three or four months. it all depends on the resettlement agencies ability to find jobs and housing. i've got a barbecue restaurant in richmond and if i want to hire afghans, if i can't hire afghans, i am not able to hire anybody. there are some market conditions right now that can make the resettlement effort may be easier than it would be at a time when the employment rate is high. but i'm just worried in the discussions about afghanistan that we had beginning in late august to now, i don't see a kind of organized discussion with the big spotlight on what do we need to do to successfully enable tens of thousands of afghans to resettle and lead productive lives? i don't know whether the foreign relations committee is the right venue, or would it be judiciary or appropriations, but i'm
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feeling a compelling need that we should be about it, because that work is going to be so tout. desktop. but the prospects of it being successful might be the most memorable thing about the end of the afghan war. i don't know if you have thoughts about that, i hope this committee might be able to take up this matter may be in tandem with other committees. >> i thank the senator for his observations. i agree with you, we have 9000 in new jersey. i visited them. and the process is it doesn't seem to be the labor opportunities, that seems to be a real opportunity. right now it's the housing element that seems to be a challenge across the country. but to the extent that the committee has jurisdiction, i'm happy to consider it and to the extent that it exceeds our jurisdiction, we're happy to engage with other committees to see if we can have either a
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joint hearing or at least create attention to what we do moving forward. speak to this briefly if you wish, senator kaine. let me ask you one question. looking at the havana syndrome issue, a previous -- leader of the task force left on september 23. as far as i know state has not appointed any person to be that task force. will you get a good director running that task force asap? brian mckeon: we expect to make an announcement about a new coordinator in the next day or two. >> senator booker also. -- senator barrasso. >> on august 19, president biden vowed that he would get
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every american out of afghanistan before withdrawing u.s. forces. he stated americans understand we're going to try to get it done before august 31. the president went on to say, if there are american citizens left the hide, we're going to stay until we get them out. this saturday, i attended the funeral services for the life of riley mccollum, one of 13 of those soldiers, a u.s. marine, 1000 people turned out in wyoming to honor his life. a life he gave at the airport in kabul. would you please pay attention? brian mckeon: i'm looking at my notes on this very issue. >> the next day, the president stated that anyone who wants to come home, we will get you home.
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he didn't keep his word. on august 30 his military evacuation ended with the last five planes leaving kabul without a single american on board. the biden administration let hundreds of americans and thousands of afghan partners behind enemy lines. the administration seems in deep denial, gravely miscalculating how many u.s. citizens they left behind. one of the other, deep denial or grave miscalculation. on september 13, secretary blinken said there were fewer than 200 american citizens in afghanistan who wanted to leave. yesterday, under secretary of defense for policy colin powell testified before the senate armed services committee that there were 400 50 american citizens still in afghanistan. he said 196 americans related to leave afghanistan. september 1, the u.s. government has helped facilitate the departure of 234 u.s. citizens,
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and 144 permanent residence. today, you testified to a different number. it's been almost two months since the u.s. withdrew from afghanistan. there are still american citizens trying to get home to safety, still behind enemy lines. with no u.s. presence on the ground, what mechanism are you using to ensure the safety of americans that the biden administration but behind in afghanistan? brian mckeon: we're working every day to try to bring out the americans who wish to depart. we are working with a couple of airline companies that are willing to go into kabul airport, to bring people out on chartered aircraft. those -- there is no commercial air service right now to kabul airport. we expect to go this week to bring out several dozen americans. >> several dozen.
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why do you believe all americans who want to leave afghanistan will be able? brian mckeon: the number of people ready to depart is over 200, at the current pace, if we continue to have success with chartered flights, all the people who say they are ready to depart will be offered an opportunity in the next couple of weeks. >> we have american still trapped in afghanistan, what actions has the department and taking to ensure the well-being of these american citizens. brian mckeon: we are talking to the taliban in delhi about -- doha about the freedom to travel. there are a couple of airlines willing to go into the kabul airport, they have agents on the ground checking manifest ensuring that people coming on the planes have the right documents. our tax -- task force led by beth jones is working on it hourly. >> the taliban has taken over
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afghanistan, they are a foreign terrorist organization. there are increases in security, restrictions on movement, threats posed to civilians, afghanistan is in crisis, no u.s. civilian, diplomat, or military presence other than those being held. the administration wants to continue to provide foreign assistance, including economic support funds to afghanistan. during his testimony before the house subcommittee on national security, the secretary stated quote, a reduced civilian and military presence in afghanistan, among the deteriorating security environment, could create new challenges for conducting effective oversight of u.s. funded grants, programs, and contracts or reconstruction work. given the fact that there is no u.s. diplomatic or military presence in afghanistan, is
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there any way to ensure u.s. taxpayer resources will be used appropriately and actually go to the intended recipients? brian mckeon: senator, the primary assistance we are providing is humanitarian assistance through nongovernmental organizations, u.n. agencies like the world program -- world food program, all of these agencies have long experience working in challenging expect -- environments with civil war. we have confidence in that system, but if we see anomalies or money-saving out there taliban, we will stop the programs. we have a statutory provision you have given us which says no funding to the taliban. sen. menendez: i just have to say i wish we had the alarm bell sound when president trump made a deal with the taliban that
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with a date certain, and released thousands of prisoners to their fighting force, and dramatically reduced our troop presence before this administration took over. and got none of the commitments from the taliban cemented before these actions were taken. that set the stage. i don't see -- excuse and went the actions they have decided. >> it takes a lot of guts to come down to this committee and lecture the administration about foreign policy when right now, senate republicans are using extraordinary powers on the senate floor to deny this administration the personnel they need to conduct this policy. you are also -- i just came from
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the floor trying to get approval for two totally noncontroversial usaid administrators, whose job is to oversee the spending of dollars in places like afghanistan, and we were denied the ability to move two nominees that would've gone by in any other administration. but the policy directly relevant to afghanistan was balked by republicans. spare me the righteous indignation over whether this administration is conducting foreign policy according to your priorities, when you are denying personnel necessary to protect this nation. never before has a minority party gone to this length to stop diplomatic teams from being put in place. president trump by this time had
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nearly 20 ambassadors that were confirmed, this president has four ambassadors in place. it's like criticizing your buddy for not fighting back, after you just tied his hands behind his back. >> i wanted to talk to you about the impact of not having any ambassadors. we have great chargees out there, they are capable, but they are not ambassadors. in my travels around the world representing this committee and this congress, there is a difference when you have an ambassador. there is a level of public diplomacy that an ambassador can engage in on behalf of the united states. a level of meetings that can be secured in some countries, but only by the ambassador, very different than what a chargee can get.
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can you share with the committee what the practical impact is of not having ambassadors, and not having assistant secretaries in place to oversee our diplomacy? brian mckeon: thank you, senator murphy, you have what your finger on an important issue. we have very talented officers serving as charge d'affairs in many parts of the world. but they were selected to be deputies, not as chiefs. that is a job you all before you get to be an ambassador. people are doing what we call a stretch assignment. many of them have been performing very well, but there are substantial costs. one, you put your finger on. in some countries, but government of the highest level will not receive un-american representative unless they are an investor. you're not getting the meetings and influence we want to have in that country.
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secondly, it is an interagency mission, there are people from across agencies, having an accredited ambassador it makes a difference, somebody empowered by the president and the secretary. with assistant secretaries in washington, they drive policy innovation. we can't all do it from the seventh floor. having senate confirmed people recommended by the secretary, chosen by the president, it makes a difference. the acting people we have in place a terrific, but some of them weren't used to being in power. so having the focus that we have chosen made a difference, i can see it already with the assistant secretaries who have common in the last beer weeks. >> thank you for being so vigilant of out trying to move forward the president's national security team. this is largely a crisis being
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created by one member of this committee. but it does seem to be spreading. i was just on the floor asking for these two usaid administrators, and it was senator marshall objecting. this remains a crisis but i hope this committee can get its head wrapped around. and if i can send you some information on a bill today on more subnational policy, to help represent the united states abroad. i know this is something you care deeply about, but i would love to continue to work with this committee and the administration --to buttress our diplomatic corps with americans want to do good things abroad. brian mckeon: --
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>> senator hagerty: i would like to come to senator barrasso's defense. this is about priorities, it is about how senator schumer sets priorities on the senate floor. i've seen the board of governors of the postal service seated. i have seen two appointees of the previous administration pushed out of their positions, leaving those departments unsupervised. i myself was put through 30 hours of cloture before i could be named u.s. ambassador to japan. this has to do with how time is utilized. i would like to turn to you now, deputy secretary. there is strong opposition to the plan to open a u.s.
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consulate in palestine, that would establish a second competing mission in israel. and goes against the recognition of jerusalem as israel's capital. and moving the embassy from tel aviv to jerusalem. in biden's proposal to open a second u.s. mission in jerusalem would reverse the recognition of jerusalem, and would devise -- divide israel's city. yesterday, i led a group of 36 senators to introduce a bill that would protect americans implementation of the jerusalem embassy act of 1945, and ensure
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there is only one admission in jerusalem. i want to confirm on the record, is it your understanding that under u.s. and international law, the government of israel would have to provide its affirmative consent before the united states could open a consulate on them jerusalem, or does the biden administration believeth can move forward to establish a second mission without the consent of the government of israel? brian mckeon: we need to consult with the government to open a diplomatic facility. >> i appreciate you being on the record clarifying that is your requirement. this is in your decision, you would be an implementer. but congress has enacted laws that mandate the united states
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should recognize jerusalem as the need turtle and undivided capital of israel, and should take all steps to effectuate this recognition. opening a second mission would reverse this process. my next question. we voted 97-3 to make sure that was the case. i want to focus on the bipartisan issue of modernizing the state department for the 21st century. as a diplomat, i am personally committed to this issue. i held a subcommittee hearing on this topic. the former deputy secretary said, it's been 41 years. since the congress passed
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legislation on this issue. it is now time for congress to modernize the act. i worked with the other members of the committee on this issue. deputy secretary, do you agree with the former deputy secretary that change is desperately and urgently needed at the state department? brian mckeon: the modernization agenda i announce this morning's precisely because we have a historic moment where we need to enable the department for the challenges of the next several decades. >> do you commit to working with this committee, as well as the subcommittee on state department management to reform the state department, including testifying on the subject when necessary? brian mckeon: yes. >> i understand that state is conducting a review on cybersecurity, digital policy, and emerging technologies. i understand you are contemplating a new cyber office that's going to report to deputies secretary sherman. i hope to work with you on the
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department to ensure the highly capable and technically capable nominee is appointed to that position. brian mckeon: we welcome your suggestions. yes, we are announcing a new policy on cyberspace and digital policy. we need to work with this committee and other committees to work through the notification process and get your consent. >> thank you, mr. care. -- chair. >> i did get your letter this morning it had a chance to read it. i wanted to acknowledge for the record. brian mckeon: i'm sorry it took until this morning. >> one final question, then we will adjourn. i applaud the recent announcement of the new cyber bureau, and the technology special envoy, as well as the work the state department has already done to advance technological cooperation.
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the question for me, including concerns about repeated intrusions, what steps are you planning to take to ensure that the beer of cyberspace and digital policy and the special envoy for critical and emerging technologies will be successful in keeping their mission. particularly, you plan to clarify the distinct missions between the bureau and the technology special envoy? how do you tend -- intend to deconflict their strategies and objectives. brian mckeon: the cyber and digital policy bureau will focus on international security policy, digital freedom, international digital policy working with international telecommunications, and the like.
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the special envoy on emerging and critical technology will focus on artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, making our engagement with both these sectors with government. so part of the reason to have both of these entities under secretary sherman directly for the first year is and shoring harmony in their missions, and not stuffing a leverage other. >> we look forward to your engagement as you create this structure. this is an area we think is incredibly important. >> senator hagerty: it is critically important that in these positions we enable people
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with the right technical proficiency. the evolution of these technologies is moving rapidly. i think it is going to be critically important that we get people who are deeply trained and immersed in this technology. and i look forward to looking -- working with you on selecting those nominees. brian mckeon: one of the reasons we created two separate entities was it is hard to find one person who is versed in both of these skill sets. that was part of the thinking. >> the record of this hearing will be made to the close of tomorrow. this hearing is adjourned.
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