Washington, DC - Today, Representative Gregory W. Meeks. Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, provided the following opening and closing remarks during the November 3rd, 2021 hearing entitled Assessing Progress and Challenges in State Department Management, Operations, and Reforms”  

Opening Remarks: 

In closing, I want to thank Deputy Secretary McKeon for his testimony today, and for his ongoing work to respond to the many management challenges at the State Department.   

I also want to take a moment to correct the record on some of the assertions made by my colleagues on the other side.  To be clear, this committee will continue its oversight on Afghanistan policy, including the events of the last 20 days in August.   

But any, any good-faith assessment must include an evaluation of Trump’s February 2020 agreement with the Taliban, and the impact the agreement had inside Afghanistan. This was a “peace” deal that forced the Afghan government to release 5000 prisoners. This was a deal that allowed the Taliban to continue to attack the Afghan government. This was a deal that fundamentally altered the political power dynamic in the country, and if we are being honest, we must acknowledge that there is a direct line between Trump’s deal with the Taliban and the events of August 2021.  I wonder where my colleagues’ outrage was during the debacle that was Trump’s “peace deal.” 

I also want to address the claims by my colleagues accusing the State Department of stonewalling Congress. What I find ironic is that members on their side are, at the same time, citing briefings the State Department has provided for this committee and is regularly providing for our staffs.  Members of this committee or our staffs have been invited to participate in more than 40 different hearings or briefings with the Administration, NGOs, and former government officials since January alone.  This is the exact opposite of the previous administration, where Secretary Pompeo refused to brief members of this committee on the Trump Administration’s negotiations with the Taliban. 

Further, on the issue of the Afghanistan evacuation, the State Department is responsible for recommending the evacuation, but it is the Department of Defense, that executes the non-combatant evacuation operation, or NEO, which is what occurred in Afghanistan. I’m disappointed that several of my colleagues on the other side would offer misleading statements about the evacuation, and I know I would have welcomed more of our GOP colleagues joining us in this oversight effort during the previous administration.  

Today’s hearing and the range of issues we’ve discussed underscores how expansive the State Department’s responsibilities are, and how much work there is left to be done in reforming and modernizing State’s operations.  These are critical challenges that we must tackle head on if State is to remain the premier foreign affairs agency on the globe.   

Whether it’s addressing the decades of institutional discrimination within the Department, solving the visa and passport backlog caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, or responding swiftly to today’s modern challenges like Anomalous Health Incidents and cyber threats, Congress must work closely with the administration to institute reforms and better improve State’s organizational structure and tools. 

With that, this hearing is now adjourned.