WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following opening remarks Tuesday at a nominations hearing for Mr. Eric Ueland, the nominee to serve as the Undersecretary for Management at the Department of State:
“Mr. Ueland, it’s good to see you, a member of the Senate family. You get certain privileges, but not all, by your association with the United States Senate.
“You have been nominated to a position of great trust and importance for the proper functioning of the Department of State, that of Under Secretary for Management. It is not a job that often generates flashy headlines, but it is a job that is absolutely critical, often behind the scenes and in quiet ways, for the proper functioning of our foreign policy.
“And as I consider the challenges that you will face, I have been struggling these past several months to understand the “management philosophy” of the Department’s current leadership. I am struggling to understand the administration’s approach to the Department’s budget, management, reorganization, and personnel.
“There is a significant obligation on you, as we consider your nomination, to help this Committee better understand how the administration is thinking about and approaching these issues, and helping us to work through our concerns as we move forward.
“As I have expressed before, I remain deeply concerned that the administration’s approach to reorganization of the State Department is a solution in search of a problem. It has the appearance of a pre-cooked and ideologically driven exercise. Both this Committee and the Appropriations Committee have expressed our concerns, and made it clear that the road to reorganization runs through Congress.
“I also want to flag a couple of issues where we have had concerns over the past few months, including the way the Department has handled the Rangel and Pickering Fellows; the suggestion that Consular Affairs and the Population, Refugee, and Migration Bureau be moved wholesale from the State Department to the Department of Homeland Security; and the apparent lack of urgency in filling critical positions like the Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security.
“I do this not to re-litigate concerns with you, but rather to suggest the real pressing need for proper management guidance at the Department.
“When we see things like the Department seeking to reduce its workforce through attrition – where critical functions and expertise are lost – it suggests an operation that either does not understand or does not care about using proper management tools to steer that process.
“So, as I said, I have concerns about the management of the Department. I am hopeful that you will be able to do so on the core issue of how you intend to bring to bear your experience in order to institute functional management and processes for the Department.
“My over-riding concern is that without proper management and leadership at the Department, the United States is at risk of effectively leaving the stage as a global leader. The Department of State plays a vital role at the heart of our nation’s foreign policy by maintaining our global stature, ensuring the security of our citizens, enhancing our prosperity, and supporting our allies and partners around the globe who share the ideals and values that are at the heart of what makes America a unique and exceptional nation.
“I trust that you would agree that if the Department does not function properly the United States’ role in the world, and our national security, is at risk. Your job, if confirmed, will be to see that that does not happen.
“So, I look forward to the discussion that we will have during this hearing.”