1. Statement
  2. Peacebuilding, U.S. Wars & Militarism

Congress Needs to Ask Hard Questions About U.S. Foreign Policy

Ouster of Secretary of State Tillerson, appointments of Mike Pompeo and Gina Haspel cause for concern

By Jim Cason, March 13, 2018

The president’s firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson managed to add insult to the year of injury that has been visited on the State Department and U.S. foreign policy.

The firing sows doubt among our allies and tempts those working against the values we seek. Congress needs to reassert its constitutional responsibilities to shape how the U.S. engages with the world, decide whether our nation goes to war, and review the qualifications of nominees the president proposes to lead our nation at the State Department and the CIA.

A year of understaffing and underfunding the State Department is driving America’s foreign policy into crisis. Now, more than a year into the Trump administration, the State Department lacks Senate-confirmed appointees for secretary, five out of six undersecretaries, six out of seven regional assistant secretaries, and numerous key ambassadors.

As Mike Pompeo seeks the nomination as the nation’s top diplomat, we urge him to clearly define his strategy for working closely with America’s friends around the world to protect hard-won diplomatic victories such as the Iran nuclear agreement and the president’s bold decision to engage North Korea directly. We at FCNL are particularly concerned about Mike Pompeo’s past statements calling for the Iran nuclear agreement to be ripped up and calling for regime change in North Korea.

Gina Haspel, President Trump’s nominee to lead the CIA, was the clandestine officer who oversaw the waterboarding torture of two terrorism suspects and later destroyed evidence of those abuses. How can we say “never again” to torture while asking one of the perpetrators of these abuses to lead the agency?

Congress must provide a steady hand in directing our country’s foreign policy and its diplomatic engagement. Congress must fully fund diplomacy and development while focusing its attention on filling the vacancies that remain.

In the weeks and months ahead, FCNL calls on Congress to focus on these key questions:

  • How can additional resources best enhance key diplomatic initiatives to secure America’s interests and values?

  • Who will fill America’s key diplomatic positions, and how quickly will they be in place?

  • How will the United States support and work with our allies to build on and advance, rather than set back and undermine, our shared nonproliferation and security goals for Iran and North Korea?

  • How would Secretary of State nominee Pompeo negotiate in good faith with North Korea or Iran, given his past statements on negotiations with these countries?

  • How can CIA Director nominee Haspel ensure the U.S. public and the world that waterboarding and other torture never happens again, given her role in these violations of international law in the past?

Jim Cason

  • Associate Executive Secretary for Strategic Advocacy

Jim Cason is responsible for directing the full range of FCNL’s strategic advocacy work. In this capacity, he works with program staff to develop long term change strategies that accomplish our particular legislative goals.