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Diplomacy in Action

Nomination Hearing Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

Rick Barton
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations
Washington, DC
March 13, 2012


On March 13, 2012, Ambassador Rick Barton appeared before the U.S. Senate Commitee on Foreign Relations to give testimony and answer questions about his nomination. A video of Ambassador Barton's remarks is available on CSO's YouTube page. His prepared remarks are available on the Committee's website. Excerpted remarks appear below.

SENATOR UDALL: We meet this morning to consider these three nominations which are important to achieving the smart power goals of the United States: Ambassador Frederick Barton to be Assistant Secretary of Conflict Stabilization, the Honorable William Todd and Ms. Sara Aviel. All of these nominees play a crucial role in promoting smart power of the United States. Why don't we start with Mr. Barton.

AMBASSADOR BARTON: Great. Thank you very much, Senator Reed. Thank you, Senator Corker. It's great to be here today. I'd also like to give special thanks to your colleagues, Senator Kerry and Senator Lugar for their path-breaking work in this conflict and crisis phase. They've been pushing for us to do what we're trying to do right now for a number of years and I’m happy to have this opportunity if confirmed.

I’d also like to thank the SFRC staff. They've been working this issue for as long as I've been around and would like to say that since my father was on this staff many, many years ago, it's great to be back in this place. I think he might be making it here, but he's 91 and sometimes he'll move at his own pace, I find. But he's an old friend of Birdie's and others’, so it really does feel good to be back here.
My deepest thanks to President Obama and Secretary Clinton for giving me this opportunity and obviously to Ambassador Rice for having called upon me to serve in New York. Mine is a lifelong commitment to public service, and the advancement of peaceful democratic change is what I've been trying to do for the last 18 years. Obviously much of that foundation is built on the service of my parents and has been reinforced by my wife, Kit Lunney, who is here, and our daughter Kacy, who's serving the public in her own ways as well. So it's great to have everybody here today. I've heard “break a leg” more often in the last 24 hours than I have probably in the rest of my life.

Senators, you have my written testimony so what I'd like to do is just make three, bring together three of the elements of the testimony. First, today's conflicts and crises present fresh challenges, whether it's popular revolts, economic collapses, threats without borders, or hyper-emergencies where a combination of factors come together. We're being challenged in very different ways. The United States will continue to play a pivotal, if not dominant role, and we must be more ready. Secondly, to be more effective, we have to especially expand in the area of local ownership, and CSO can help by making sure that the U.S. government model is built off of an analysis that is driven by local voices. Secondly, that has to lead into an integrated strategy with really clear priorities, two or three priorities, and then the resources of the U.Ss government have to be driven at those particular elements. We can't be all over the place. We have to ask the question "what is most needed" rather than “what can the United States do.” And third, I believe that CSO's success in the coming year is going to be determined by two key elements: whether we'll have a real impact in two to three places of significance to the U.S., and will we be able to build a trusted and respected team. If confirmed, that will be my intent and I will make sure that our relationship with the Congress is open and responsive in every way. Thank you again for this honor.

SENATOR UDALL: Ambassador Barton, what role if any do you foresee for the CSO bureau in complementing the work of the recently created Office of the Special Coordinator for Middle East Transitions and how can USAID workers effectively assist countries in transition given the enormous political, economic, and security challenges Arab states are currently facing? In what fields could U.S. conflict and stabilization operations make the most difference, and would Arab states even accept this kind of aid. Please.

AMBASSADOR BARTON: Well first off, in my various meetings that I've been going around and having, Bill Taylor, who's one of the first people that I met with and he's one of those people that I feel if we can't work with him we have no future in the State Department. He's just a first rate public servant and he's focused mostly on North Africa right now, and we're definitely working with him. The CSO bureau has already started to work with him on Libya and in particular, the countries that he’s working in. All these places are so tough and so complicated that anybody who doesn't look for friends and partners within the U.S. government is making a very big mistake. And so I would hope that our bureau and, if confirmed, under my leadership would fashion a pretty high degree of modesty in terms of both the challenges of these places and recognizing that we have to work closely with others. So we've already had extensive meetings with USAID. As you know I worked there. I helped to start the Office of Transition Initiatives, which is I think thought of as one of the really agile parts of the U.S. government in these places. We need more assets and resources that are directed the way that OTI does it, so they're going to be a key partner as well.

Then in terms of the welcome, CSO's looking at three particular country cases right now in the Arab spring world. We're trying to work in Libya. We're hoping CSO also has people working on Syria and on Yemen. And each one of those cases is so dramatically different. In Syria, we really cannot, CSO cannot work inside the country, so it's all about how do you help to grow the opposition from within. And I know that a couple of CSO people last week were meeting with about 25 representatives of local governing councils inside Syria, trying to figure out ways to strengthen that relationship, and I think that's the way to move in that space. Libya is a very different challenge because we're, the U.S. government is there, we have an embassy, we have a mission. CSO's already backing up the existing post operation there, but we're also being asked, CSO is also being asked to really address the border security issues and the militia issues. And those are the kinds of strategic concerns that I hope that CSO will continue to be focused on. Yemen again is a very different case, much, much more fragile, much, much more in transition with this new government, and in that case, CSO has been asked by the National Security staff to work on the strategic planning process which is already under way right now. So that gives you an idea of sort of the way we would go, I think we will. The United States' help is welcome in most of these places as long as it's not too heavy a hand and we don't take over. And there's no reason to take over because we don't have that ambition and we won't be effective if we do.

SENATOR UDALL: Ambassador Barton, as the United States and its allies continue to transition to an Afghan-led mission, the role of the State Department and USAID will increase dramatically. What do you think needs to be done today to create a smooth and effective transition in light of the many problems still faced in Afghanistan, including corruption, which I think is still among the worst in the world? And what is the role and vision for the CSO operations in Afghanistan in the future?

AMBASSADOR BARTON: Thank you, Senator. CSO is currently focused on trying to help the embassy, the military—the US military—and a range of Afghan ministries to advance their transition planning. That is what the Ambassador has asked us to focus on, and that is where we are concentrating our effort. We're on a little bit of a glide path ourselves in terms of leaving Afghanistan, but this particular task seems to be one that our people are really well suited for, and since we have been involved with quite a lot of the planning processes in the last couple of years, focusing on this transition planning is exactly what we need to do. The toughest part here is obviously to make sure that the Afghans are in as capable a position as possible as soon as possible, and that's really what I think we can be helpful with and that's where we're going to stay focused.

SENATOR UDALL: We very much appreciate your testimony, your commitment to service, and we really look forward to seeing you serve in these positions and continuing to visit with us on the Committee.

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