WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today delivered the following opening remarks at this morning’s full Committee hearing on the nominations of Ambassador Bonnie D. Jenkins to be Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security and the Honorable Jose W. Fernandez to be Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment; United States Alternate Governor of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development; United States Alternate Governor of the Inter-American Development Bank; and United States Alternate Governor of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

 

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“I have spoken often of the pivotal foreign policy challenges facing our country and the State Department, and this hearing will be no different. If confirmed, both of you will confront serious issues and challenges and a Department in need of repair and rebuilding,” Chairman Menendez said. “I am heartened by the Biden administration’s emphasis on nominating knowledgeable and seasoned leaders with rich foreign policy experience.

 

Find a copy of Senator Menendez’s remarks as delivered below:

 

“This hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will come to order.

 

Ambassador Jenkins, former Secretary Fernandez, congratulations on your nominations, and my thanks for your willingness to return to the State Department with your demonstrated experience, strength, and commitment to advancing our national interest.

 

I have spoken often of the pivotal foreign policy challenges facing our country and the State Department, and this hearing will be no different. If confirmed, both of you will confront serious issues and challenges and a Department in need of repair and rebuilding. I am heartened by the Biden administration’s emphasis on nominating knowledgeable and seasoned leaders with rich foreign policy experience.

 

Ambassador Jenkins, the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security is one of the most vital senior positions in the Department of State. Its portfolio ranges from nuclear weapons to terrorism, and from non-proliferation to landmines. It requires orchestrating global cooperation with both allies and adversaries on critical issues. 

 

As you and I have discussed, I have long been concerned over the way that the Department of Defense has assumed the security assistance mission that should be the exclusive purview of the State Department and the Secretary of State. I greatly respect the service of the men and women in our Armed Forces, and particularly your own twenty years of naval service, but the person delivering assistance to officials of a foreign government should not be wearing a uniform – they should instead have the authority to advance and promote a comprehensive foreign policy vision consistent with our core values.

 

We also discussed the need for the State Department to respect this Committee’s crucial statutory oversight role over the arms sale process, including when the laws and regulations governing those sales may have been violated. This relationship was poisoned by the last Administration. Thus far, the relationship has been much improved, but more work is necessary to create an effective partnership. Make no mistake: one way or another, this Committee will conduct effective oversight, and I hope and expect that we can depend on your cooperation.

 

Finally, we stand at a crossroads in our nuclear relationships with Russia and China. We have extended the New START treaty with Russia for five years. The question now is where we go from here.

 

Do we seek deeper reductions in Russian strategic forces? Should we focus on shorter-range nonstrategic nuclear weapons not covered by New START? Should we focus on engaging China, which, although its force structure remains smaller than the United States or Russia, is rapidly modernizing and expanding its nuclear forces? So I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these matters today.

 

Mr. Fernandez, if confirmed, I expect that your previous experience as Assistant Secretary for Economic Growth will serve you well. This is vitally important because the last four years have been especially difficult for the bureaus that you have been nominated to lead. They suffered from neglect, a loss of an institutional experience, and an undervaluing of diplomacy at the highest levels. The former Administration never even bothered to nominate an Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International Environment and Scientific Affairs.

 

Given this sad state of affairs, your first priority must be to rebuild the ‘E’ bureaus, restore morale, and provide clear leadership. This is especially important because President Biden has elevated the mission of the ‘E’ Bureau by prioritizing climate change as a foreign policy imperative. Energy, the environment, and economic growth – leadership in all of these arenas is necessary to restore U.S. leadership and successfully combat the climate crisis.

 

If confirmed, you will also head the Economic Diplomacy wing at the State Department. I am interested in hearing about your views on ‘building back better’ America’s economic statecraft toolkit.

 

Economic diplomacy is an absolutely critical domain for competition in the 21st Century, and there are many questions to be answered about a strategy for the post-COVID reconstruction of the global economy, as well as how to help poor countries administer vaccines and build resilience to the economic strains wrought by the pandemic. I am particularly interested in your views on Secretary Yellen’s proposed $650 billion in Special Drawing Rights, and how it promotes global economic stability and growth. And I would like to understand how you plan to engage on economic sanctions, both within the Department and in the interagency process.

 

So, Ambassador Jenkins and Mr. Fernandez, both of you face steep challenges ahead, but I have no doubt that you are up to the task.

 

With that, we look forward to your testimony, and turn to the distinguished Ranking Member for his opening remarks.”