This morning, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is holding a hearing with Secretary John Kerry to examine the State Department’s budget request and review the Department’s policies in a troubled world.
Here are 6 things to know before today’s hearing:
1. Given Washington’s chronic budget deficit, wasteful spending is intolerable. Secretary Kerry will present his Department’s budget request. Needless to say, given Washington’s chronic budget deficit, wasteful spending is intolerable. We can’t do everything, even though it often feels that we must.
2. The world is more unstable by the day. Iran is pursuing, and North Korea is building more, nuclear weapons; Russia is gobbling up neighboring Ukraine by force; ISIS is beheading, crucifying and immolating; cartoonists and Jewish shoppers are being targeted and killed on the streets of Paris. At a time when it feels as if the world is coming off its axis, our allies are looking for stronger leadership from the United States. Where is it?
3. Iran nuclear negotiations are on a troubling path. The Committee has real concerns with the direction of nuclear negotiations with Iran. Negotiations have become less about the dismantlement of Tehran’s nuclear program, and more about the permanence of Iran as a nuclear power in the combustible Middle East. That could spur nuclear proliferation in the region, as neighboring rivals eye a dangerous and aggressive Iran.
Particularly disturbing, international inspectors report that Iran still has not come clean on its past bomb work. This should be a fundamental test of Tehran’s intention to uphold any agreement. Iran is failing this test. Meanwhile, Iran and its proxies are wreaking havoc in the region.
4. In Eastern Europe, Russia’s military aggression is matched by its subversive propaganda. Russia is spending more than $500 million annually to mislead audiences, sow divisions, and push conspiracy. Yet the agency charged with leading our response, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (“BBG”), is – as the former Secretary of State testified – dysfunctional. Last Congress, the House passed legislation to reform the BBG so that we can fight this battle. We’ll be looking for the Administration’s active backing as we push this reform.
5. ISIS is on the march. The Administration was tragically slow to react to the rise of ISIS, missing the chance to devastate them with airstrikes. Today, the Kurds are still outgunned; our training of the Syrian opposition isn’t off the ground; and Arab allies complain they don’t have the weapons needed. And while the Administration is focused on the fight against ISIS in Iraq today, it’s still unclear what its plans are for Syria. As the Committee considers the President’s request for a military authorization against ISIS, it will be looking for Secretary Kerry to respond to the many concerns Members have with the Administration’s commitment to defeat ISIS.
6. More terrorism means more diplomats at risk. As terrorism from Islamist terrorist groups spread, more of our diplomats are put at risk. In the past half year, the Department has had to evacuate staff from two U.S. Embassies, Libya and Yemen. Last year, the House passed an embassy security bill to help secure the day-to-day operations of the State Department, only to have it stall in the Senate. The Committee wants to work with the State Department to see these important security provisions signed into law.