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– As Delivered – 

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following remarks in the House of Representatives on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (H.R. 2810):

“I rise in opposition to this record-breaking closed rule—50th closed rule in a year—which is more than any time, any yearly period previously. 

“I think our rules should be open.  I think closed rules are not good for this institution, regardless of who does it, and I would urge the majority party to think about open rules so the legislature can truly work its way.

“The legislation in itself it includes a handful of measures that I authored, I’m happy about that: to require reporting on Russia’s role in the Balkans, including Serbia’s defense relationship with Russia; to enhance Congressional oversight of changes made to policies and legal interpretations that govern security operations; a strategy to improve transparency and civilian protection in Nigeria; and a requirement for a Defense Department official to protect cultural heritage, the looting and trafficking of which is a funding source for terrorism. We’ve voted on that here on the floor and it’s passed.

“I’m also pleased that we've included continued support for Israel’s missile defense. This system is critical to Israel’s security, considering the threats that Israel faces from Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah.

“Mr. Speaker, even though I’m Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I’m glad to see these measures in this bill, because they all belong in this bill. They’re related to our national security. And indeed, I strongly support the measures in this bill that provide authorities and resources necessary for our military to carry out its missions.

“But as we’ve seen again and again in recent years, this Defense Authorization continues an unsettling trend toward involving the Defense Department in activities outside its core competencies. In my view, we need to preserve and strengthen the important roles of the State Department and USAID. 

“We wouldn’t ask our diplomats or development experts to do the jobs of our men and women in uniform. So we shouldn’t be asking our servicemembers to do the work that has traditionally resided in our civilian foreign-policy agencies.

“I want to caution against continuing down this road.  And I hope that in the years ahead, we can work to support our diplomatic and development efforts in the same way we support our national defense. After all, America’s security depends on all of these efforts….

“And let me say in conclusion, I hope that in the years ahead we can work to support our diplomatic and development efforts in the same way we support our national defense.  After all, America’s security depends on all of these efforts working together and it’s important to remember that.

“I again thank the Ranking Member, and I yield back the balance of my time.”

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