Mr. BILIRAKIS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 1084, the Reconstruction and Stabilization Civilian Management Act. I want to thank Chairman Berman; the gentleman from California (Mr. Farr), the author of the bill; and my dear friend, Mr. Saxton, the lead Republican cosponsor of the legislation, for working to reach the bipartisan agreement before us.
The text we are considering today was finalized in consultation with the State Department and the White House. It provides the President and Secretary of State with the basic authorities they have been seeking for expanding reconstruction and stabilization activities in order to assist countries whose descent into internal crisis may endanger the national security interests of the United States.
The legislation formally creates and gives full legislative support to the 4-year-old office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization. It also provides the President with the authority to create a Federal Response Readiness Corps and a volunteer Civilian Reserve Corps, a proposal based on a December 2005 Presidential directive and which enjoys the support of a broad cross-section of U.S. agencies.
These new corps will work to prevent future conflicts overseas and ensure that we are better prepared to effectively address post-conflict scenarios in countries that are important to our Nation's security interests. The hope is that, by preorganizing and training qualified civilian personnel, any future reconstruction and stabilization operations can be better coordinated and [Page: H1230]
more effective in order to free up our Armed Forces to better focus on strategic
military and security objectives.
It is important to note that the text before us provides these authorities in a limited, careful manner, subject to greater congressional oversight. In contrast with the original text and other proposed drafts, there are several things that today's suspension text does not do: It does not mandate specific funding levels, and limits funding authorities to a 3-year trial period, from fiscal year 2008 through 2010; it does not create additional budget draw-down authority for emergency peacekeeping
assistance; it does not mandate a minimum number of Civilian Reserve Corps personnel; and it does not include special personnel authorities such as waivers to allow dual compensation of Federal retirees or an increase in the premium pay cap.
Although we are attempting to create a system that is better equipped to intervene more effectively in foreign crises, we are not intending to lower the threshold for U.S. involvement in such situations. This is not an invitation to ``nation building.'' For this reason, the amended text requires a Presidential national security interest determination and advance congressional notification before any deployment of the corps to a country in crisis.
We also intend that these activities be conducted in a transparent and fiscally responsible manner. Toward that end, the text includes an annual worldwide cap of $100 million on all reconstruction and stabilization assistance provided under the act.
In order to mitigate the potential domestic impact, the text we are considering today mandates that the Civilian Reserve Corps be staffed in a way that does not diminish the capacity of State or local governments from which the volunteers may be drawn. It also charges the Office of the Coordinator to avoid duplication with other U.S. foreign assistance activities. Finally, it requires enhanced reporting to Congress on the structure, operation and cost of core operations, their relations to other
U.S. foreign assistance efforts, and any impact on U.S. domestic readiness and capabilities.
I am gratified that we are able to reach this compromise, and look forward to working together in the future to ensure the success of this and other U.S. foreign assistance programs. I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan measure.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. FARR. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank Chairman Berman and Ranking Member Ros-Lehtinen for their leadership and vision on this issue. I would also like to thank the Foreign Affairs Committee staff for their meticulous work. We have a better bill on the floor for it.
This legislation is important because future stabilization operations are going to rely on a different set of skills, different than we currently have. We talk about stabilization and peace building, but how exactly do you do that? That is what this bill is about.
It is a bill that allows the Secretary of State, working with the Secretary of Defense, to essentially bring the core of people that have the talent, have the linguistic talent, the knowledge talent, the experience of careers, to come together to form an emergency response team, much like we have in the domestic program with FEMA.
Even Secretary of Defense Gates has noted that future conflicts will be fundamentally political in nature and will require an application of all elements of national power, not just the Defense Department. On another occasion, Secretary Gates called for more resources to be given to our civilian agencies, so that they will have the civilian professionals capable of carrying out reconstruction and stabilization operations.
Why would the Secretary of Defense ask for more money to go to the State Department and to USAID? It is because he sees the future threats and our capacity to deal with them and understands that a safer and more secure and more peaceful world depends upon adequately funding our civilian agencies. He knows that the best way to avoid war is to stabilize countries by creating stakeholders for peace in those countries.
USAID, our foremost development agency, has the expertise, but lacks the manpower and regular training to conduct stabilization operations. With this bill, USAID will receive additional personnel to implement stabilization operations. The State Department will also be enhanced as it takes on the role of coordinator of these complex operations.
Again, I appreciate all the hard work that went into this bill to get it to the floor. I appreciate the strong backing from Secretary Gates and from Secretary Rice. I would also like to thank Congressman Saxton, my colleague, for his stalwart support and his work on H.R. 1084. It is my earnest hope that improved American civilian capabilities will yield fewer and shorter conflicts and will build a more peaceful and prosperous world. In order to do that, I need your vote, and I ask for
that for the betterment of America and the world.
Mrs. DAVIS of California. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of H.R. 1084. In today's security environment, it is absolutely essential that we authorize the creation of the Response Readiness Corps and Response Readiness Reserve within the State Department and USAID. This legislation is a vital step toward achieving a proper balance between civilian and military efforts in stabilization and reconstruction missions.
Iraq and Afghanistan have really highlighted a need for better interagency coordination and a more robust civilian capacity. As someone who went to Iraq early and saw a void of adequate civilian support, I know that we need to improve the civilian apparatus for future stability in reconstruction efforts. In Iraq and Afghanistan, we have relied on the military to act as diplomats, help build government capacity and conduct combat missions, all at the same time.
Simply put, stability and reconstruction have fallen too heavily on our military in recent years. Unable to tap into a viable, full-scale deployable civilian force, our great men and women have been asked to perform jobs outside of their area of expertise. Congress must, must do a better job of marshalling all elements of national power in support of U.S. goals abroad and ensure that future missions are not military-centric, but joint interagency efforts. Part of this effort must be greater capacity
within civilian agencies, a bench to pull from when contingencies arise. This legislation by my friend from California will help do just that.
Congress must also be thinking about how to capture the skills and lessons learned from military personnel and civilians who have served on PRTs or other interagency projects in Iraq and Afghanistan. These individuals now have vital skills that could be used to help train Federal civilian employees deploying to zones of conflict.
Mr. Speaker, H.R. 1084 gets us on the right path, and I encourage all of my colleagues to support this legislation.
Mr. BERMAN. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield 3 minutes to a gentleman who has been very interested in this whole process of capacity building, the gentleman from Arkansas (Mr. Snyder).
Mr. SNYDER. Mr. Speaker, people in Arkansas want to be safe and they want to feel safe. Everyone in America wants to be safe and have a strong national defense. National security means a strong military. National security also means that all the tools in our tool box must be available, including the capacity and availability of the civilian side of our government.
Mr. Farr has been leading this charge, along with Mr. Saxton, and I appreciate the great work of Mr. Berman stepping into his new role, to bring forth this issue that all the tools of U.S. strength must be available. As Mrs. DAVIS was pointing out, we have a lot of work to do beyond this bill in terms of the coordination of all our different agencies. [Page: H1231]
I was talking to one of my constituents who is a civilian working in Iraq, and she said, You know, I sometimes think the differences in conflicts between the agencies of the U.S. Government are greater than the differences between us and the Iraqis. I think that really brings home the issues and challenges that we have.
But this bill today is a great step towards making sure that we have all the tools in our tool box that we need for our national security, and I applaud its passage today.
Mr. BERMAN. Mr. Speaker, before I yield back my time, I would like to include for the Record an exchange of letters regarding H.R. 1084 between the gentleman from California, the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (Mr. Waxman), and me.
House of Representatives, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform,
Washington, DC, March 4, 2008.
Hon. HOWARD L. BERMAN,
Acting Chairman, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC.
DEAR CHAIRMAN BERMAN: I am writing to confirm our mutual understanding with respect to the consideration of H.R. 1084, the Reconstruction and Stabilization Civilian Management Act of 2008.
As you know, on February 27, 2008, the Committee on Foreign Affairs ordered H.R. 1084 reported to the House. The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (Oversight Committee) appreciates your effort to consult regarding those provisions of H.R. 1084 that fall within the Oversight Committee's jurisdiction, including matters related to the federal workforce.
In the interest of expediting consideration of H.R. 1084, the Oversight Committee will not separately consider this legislation. The Oversight Committee does so, however, with the understanding that this does not prejudice the Oversight Committee's jurisdictional interests and prerogatives regarding this bill or similar legislation.
I respectfully request your support for the appointment of outside conferees from the Oversight Committee should H.R. 1084 or a similar Senate bill be considered in conference with the Senate. I also request that you include our exchange of letters on this matter in the Report by the Committee on Foreign Affairs on H.R. 1084 and in the Congressional Record during consideration of this legislation on the House floor.
Thank you for your attention to these matters.
HENRY A. WAXMAN,
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS,
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, DC, March 4, 2008.
Hon. HENRY A. WAXMAN,
Chairman, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.
DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you for your letter regarding H.R. 1084, the Reconstruction and Stabilization Civilian Management Act of 2008, which authorizes the President to provide assistance to stabilize and reconstruct a country or region that is at risk of, in, or is in transition from, conflict or civil strife, and establishes a Response Readiness Corps and Civilian Reserve Corps to respond to such country or region.
I appreciate your willingness to work cooperatively on this legislation. I recognize that the bill contains provisions that fall within the jurisdiction of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. I acknowledge that the Committee will not seek a sequential referral of the bill and agree that the inaction of your Committee with respect to the bill does not prejudice the Oversight Committee's jurisdictional interests and prerogatives regarding this bill or similar legislation.
Further, as to any House-Senate conference on the bill, I understand that your Committee reserves the right to seek the appointment of conferees for consideration of portions of the bill that are within the Committee's jurisdiction, and I agree to support a request by the Committee with respect to serving as conferees on the bill (or similar legislation).
I will ensure that our exchange of letters is included in my Committee's report on the bill and in the Congressional Record during consideration on the House floor of H.R. 1084, and I look forward to working with you on this important legislation.
HOWARD L. BERMAN,