Secretary of State
Opening Statement Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
May 24, 2018
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Senator Menendez, as well. You were gracious enough to allow me to read that statement. I will – I have prepared remarks. They have been submitted for the record. I will save a couple minutes here this morning. A couple of other items that I want to mention off the top, things that have happened recently that I think are important to our diplomatic efforts around the world that I want to share with you and explain to you. And then I want to spend a couple minutes – you asked, Senator Corker, about what I’ve tried to do in my first, now, three weeks or three and a half weeks, to get the team back on the field. And I’m happy to share both what we’ve done and what I have in the queue, and how I’m thinking about that problem set now that I’ve had a chance to get on board and see a little bit more of the challenge that’s in front of me.
First, you would have seen, in the last 48 hours, that we had two officers declared persona non grata in Venezuela. We have responded reciprocally by expelling two senior Venezuelan officials from the United States. We are deeply worried about what’s taking place as a result of the sham election that occurred on Sunday the 20th, or we’re – we’re doing all the right things. We have an American there that we desperately want to get back, Joshua Holt, and so know that we are engaged. We were disappointed that the Maduro regime kicked our folks out, although frankly not surprised. We’ve been trying to do the good work that diplomacy brings to a country like – that is occupied by the great people of Venezuela, and Maduro found that unacceptable.Second, also in the last 48 hours there, we notified our workforce in China about a medical incident that took place there, in Guangzhou. We had an officer who suffered a medical incident that is consistent with what we had happen to American officers that were serving in Havana. We informed the Chinese government about that. They took – they said all the right things, and are – have demonstrated their willingness to help us identify the vector which led to this medical incident. We have medical teams heading there. We have all the appropriate folks heading to help all of the officers, American officers, serving there in China and doing the things we can to mitigate the risk that we have another incident like this there or, frankly, for that matter, anyplace else in the world.
And then thirdly, my first three and a half weeks we have taken steps to allow our team to go effectively conduct their jobs, to – to actual announcements. We allowed the team to hire family members, a very ready source of very capable officers to serve alongside our – my current colleagues. We think that will help our families a great deal. And then the hiring freeze itself was lifted.
Senator Menendez, you said some of the bureaus aren’t hiring. We still have a little bit of guidance that needs to be issued, but most of that is now out. We have end-strength goals. We have a plan for how we’ll do that in a thoughtful way so that resources are expanded appropriately. But know that it is now the case that where our demand signals we need additional talent, the State Department employees are empowered to bring those additional team members on board.
The third piece is I have spent a fair amount of my time personally and have big teams working to get America’s senior officials on board. There are still big gaps at the assistant secretary level, at the under secretary level. We are – where there were nominees, we’re pushing to make sure they move quickly. And where there weren’t, we’re working to develop nominees to come across so that we can in fact engage all over the world, sharing American ideals and values in the way that the State Department has done historically well. And I look forward to being the leader of the organization that’s back on the playing field leading America’s diplomacy abroad.
With that, Mr. Chairman, I’ll yield back.