Skip to main content

tv   Today in Washington  CSPAN  May 12, 2011 6:00am-9:00am EDT

6:00 am
6:01 am
6:02 am
6:03 am
6:04 am
6:05 am
6:06 am
6:07 am
6:08 am
6:09 am
6:10 am
6:11 am
6:12 am
6:13 am
6:14 am
6:15 am
6:16 am
6:17 am
6:18 am
6:19 am
6:20 am
6:21 am
6:22 am
gas. i rise today to discuss an issue foremost on the minds of my constituents and the concern to all americans, the rising cost
6:23 am
of energy. i want to outline the proposals aimed at providing short-term relief for high prices at the pump and to assure -- ensure america's long-term energy security. these are the issues which have been discussed many times in these chambers. the time for talk is past. the time to act is now. mr. president, high energy prices today already are pinching pocketbooks of families and crippling our small businesses across my state and across this country. when i was home over the recess, i visited the roaded areas of alaska. these are communities connected by our highway and road system. from kinaei peninsula to fairbanks. gas prices were well over $4 a gallon. and as you can see by the poster next to me, they ranged from $4.15 a gallon to $4.35 a gallon. these prices might look good to some of my colleagues who saw gas prices over $5 a gallon in
6:24 am
their home states, but off-the-road system in alaska, prices are much, much higher. the fact is, prices for gasoline and home heating oil never came down in rural alaska. they've been well over $5 a gallon for years. some places, such as anatubik pass, are nearly $10 a gallon. i started a discussion with alaskans on facebook to just see how these high prices are affecting their budgets. some families are already facing really tough choices to make their budgets balance. for families commuting intoan ranch from matsu valley every day, they are forced to pay more than $100 a week to fuel up. that's more than a pocketbook pinch. it's a punch. and even worse, families know the price isn't coming down any time soon, and even though speculation ranges all over the places -- all over the place, prices are still expected to
6:25 am
rise 30 cents to 40 cents, probably by july. and it's not just families. small businesses -- the presiding officer: morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will proceed to executive session to consider the following nomination, which the clerk will report. the clerk: nomination, the judiciary. arenda l. wright allen of virginia to be united states district judge for the eastern district of virginia. the presiding officer: under the previous order, there will be one hour of debate with respect to the nomination with the time equally divided in the usual form. the senator from alaska is recognized. mr. begich: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent to speak in morning business for up to seven additional minutes, that the time be counted against the democratic side and my speech in the "congressional record" nolt be split. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. begich: and, even worse, families now the price is coming down. it is continuing to rise. it is not just affecting families. it is affecting businesses. they feel the stickershot shock
6:26 am
as we will. we're seeinthese families and businesses expect toss act now. no more excuses. energy is one place where we should be able to find bipartisan common ground. i have been calling for a comprehensive energy bill from day one in the senate. our lack of progress on this is frustrating. we were real close last spring but now here we're again. we need to provide americans reliable and affordable energy in three ways: short-term relief for consumers, new, renewable energy sources for reliable electricity prices, and keep strong investment in alternative transportation systems. and increase domestic oil and gas production so we're not dependent on unfriendly foreign sources. first, the short-term which call the pocketbook relief. we must help families keep their budgets balanced and hel ensuret
6:27 am
increasing consumer confidence doesn't falter. to that i have introduced a family account to save on transportation, the "fast" act. to help families get through the high gas prices over the next two years. this bill will ayou although employers to set up pre-tax transportation savings accounts just like medical savings accounts to help offset the pain of high gas prices on the family pocketbook. the bill will sunset this two years so it will have no long-term burden on the federal budget. second, we have to bring online alternative power sources to buffer power companies from price shocks of rising oil and gas prices. no matter where you are in alaska, you don't have to go far to find alternative energy sources -- wind, geothermal on the one hand hydro. even in these tough budget times, this is a good investment to strengthen our economy far into the future. the same is true for alternative transportation systems and fuels. we must fully support efforts to
6:28 am
develop electric, hybrid and fully efficient vehicles. we must recognize most working families cannot afford to purchase a new vehicle. so we need to find other ways to reduce their transportation costs such as greater investment into city-to-city commuter services. the recent investment in high-speed rail is positive but is not reaching most of the country and will not. even in alaska, we have the potential for commuter rail. it is critical to move commuters from city to city and cutting the $100-a-week gas prices that our folks pay as they drive into anchorage for employment. solving our energy security challenge cannot just focus on reducing consumption. yes, it is important, but we must cut the use, as is identified through consumption that we need to reduce fossil fuels in all sectors, especially transportation. but we also need to increase our
6:29 am
domestic production. every new oil and gas development buys our country more energy security and national security while also creating american jobs. unfortunately, we're going to the wrong direction. 30 years ago, 28% of our oil was imported. today 60%. and while our largest share of oil imports come from canada, too much is dmg from unstable countries 0 or those openly hostile to the united states. not only will we become increasing by dependent on these countries for our oil, but we're exporting over $1 billion a day. let me repeat that. $1 billion a day we export. in my home state of alaska, we have vast potential to increase america's energy security. the fact is, developing alaska's oil and gas resources buys our country decades of energy security by offsetting foreign imports from unfriendly
6:30 am
countries. consider a few examples, which i have here on the board next to me: developing offshore resources in the chukchi durbin in this area -- and the beaufort sea will produce 1.8 million barrels of oil a day. this is easily enough to offset oil imports from saudi arabia. you could even cover iraq, too. developing the oil beneath the arctic national wildlife refuge, anwr, could offset imports from nigeria. developing the cd-5 project in the national petroleum reserve alaska -- let me repeat that -- the national petroleum reserve alaska, recipient for petroleum products -- set up for petroleum products, and b.p.'s liberty project could produce daily imports from libya. this does not include the tremendous on- and offshore natural resources we have in alaska. one-third of the country's
6:31 am
supply in alaska. why aren't swreeling these? two words: politics and buret bureaucrats. mr. president, earlier this year president obama went to brazil where he declared that america wants to be a customer for brazilian oil and natural gas. i got to say, you don't need to go to famplet you can do it right here in alaska with our people, our resources, our opportunities. i remind the president of that, and i'll remind him on a leg basis. to his credit, i will say later in the month he did mention alaska. alaska in his call for energy and domestic energy independence, he mentioned alaska. unfortunately, the bureaucrats in his administration are not listening. they are not -- they are tossing up barriers in additional alaskan oil and gas production every chance they get. sadly, some of my colleagues in this body are not much better. instead of addressing the problem with specific solutions,
6:32 am
they are going for headlines by dragging energy company executives before committees or promising the -- or proposing that roadblock incentives for increased domestic energy consumption, some of which have been on the books for decade. let's stop the headline-grabbing and get serious about the energy security. i have three ideas. first, better coordinate the federal offshore permitting process. i introduced legislation before the recess to create the arctic o.c.s.-coordinated model of the legislation that late-senator ted stevens passed establishing the federal gas pipeline coordinator. my bill addresses the problem too many projects are caught in shall -- the presiding officer: the the senator has used seven minutes. mr. begich: i would ask for an additional three minutes. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection, so ordered. mr. begich: my bill addresses the regulatory whack a mole. you think you have a regulatory
6:33 am
one hurdle, another one pops up. this bill gives authority t. second, let's align the clean air standard for offshore drilling permits among the affected federal agencies. we must have a level playing field whether you are in alaska or the gulf of mexico or the eastern united states. as my colleague from louisiana knows, who is here joining me on the floor, louisiana has one rule, alaska has another rule for the same issue. third, let's invest in american transportation and safety infrastructure to develop soil and gas resources in frontier areas. the fact is we need a far greater coast guard presence in the arctic for oil spill prevention and response. we also need to insnreft our pipeline infrastructure, including the alaska natural gas line, to move oil and gas resources from the arctic to other u.s. regions. there is a lot of talk right now
6:34 am
but ending tax incentives for oil and gas industry, but the high profits right now of these companies are easy targets. one thing alaskans know, just because you have aen easy target doesn't mean it is the right thing to shoovment i won't-- --to shoot. it won't decrease prices at the pump for our families and small businesses. it will discourage companies, especially the independents, from domestic investment and job creation. as someone who represents a state with the highest energy prices in the country and some of the best renewable and traditional energy resources, i am ready to join my colleagues on both sides of the ier aisle o address america's energy needs now. we need to set a hard target. that is why i am asking my colleagues to get serious about real energy plan and give americans freedom from high gas prices by the 4th of july. let's work together, roll up our sleeves and pass a real comprehensive energy plan our
6:35 am
families and small businesses can get behind. and let's finally invest in our future energy and put the reforms in place to ensure long-term energy security. mr. chairman -- or, mr. president, i recognize my colleague from louisiana, another great state of oil and gas development, he is here on the floor with me. i yield the floor at this time. ms. landrieu: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. ms. landrieu: i thank my colleague in alaska for asking me to join him in a general presentation and potentially a colloquy between the two of us about the importance of continuing our support for oil and gas production here in the united states by the large international companies that have operated in our country and around the world now for many years, as w well as by the hundreds if not thousands independents that operate doing the same. there is going to be a bill that's going to be debated in
6:36 am
the senate finance committee tomorrow. it's s. 940, sponsored by the senator from nother, our colleague, senator menendez, that i want to go on record and stronstrong -- in strongly oppo. i am going to give some reasons why and would urge my colleagues from this bill comes up, which i understand it will directly to the floor of the senate, without being heard traditionally in the committee, that we would vote it down. i doubt that the bill in its current form or in/form that it can be modified could get the 60 votes necessary for passage, but i would just like to add my strong voice to you recalling my colleagues to -- towrnlging my colleagues to read this bill, to -- look at it and understand the inherent unnative americans it the lack of significant deficit reduction, and the fact that it will not, although it is being touted as, it will not reduce
6:37 am
gasoline prices by one penney. -- by one penny. i want to start with just some facts that people might find very interesting or hard to believe based on the political rhetoric that they have been hearing from the sponsors of this bill and others in the senate. it goes sort st storyline is big oil operates, they make huge profits at the expense of everyone. they pay virtually nothing in taxes, and we subsidize them. why are we doing this? why don't we stop? so i think that it would be good to just get a few things clarified for the record. it may be surprising to american taxpayers to know that of the 16.6 -- $16.6 billion spent on u.s. energy subsidies over the course of one year, that oil and
6:38 am
gas subsidies account for less than 13%. i want to say that again. of the $16.6 billion spent on u.s. energy subsidies over the course of one year, fuels such as renewables, refined coal, nuclear, solar, hydro, et cetera account for 85%. oil and gas is less than 15%, actually 13%. you would think, because of this bill, s. 940, that the big oil and gas companies are getting oil the subsidies, making all the profits, paying no taxes, and the rest of us are suffering. nothing could be further from the truth. let me repeat. this bill, 940, is going to repeal virtually all subsidies from one industry and one sector of one industry, oil and gas
6:39 am
companies, but, mr. president, they only get 16% -- they only get 13% of all the energy subsidies. why aren't we talking about the other 85%? some of them in some people's minds create some harm to the environment, whether it be dams blocking up rivers so fisheries are extinct, or whether it is coal that has its own issues. of course, nuclear doesn't have any problems. we don't -- you know, we must not be paying any ategs to what's happening in japan. why are we singling out one sector of one energy -- you know, one part of the energy industry to repeal the subsidies when it will in fact have the opposite affect of reducing gasoline prices, which even one of its cosponsors said publicly for us not to be fooled. this will not reduce gasoline prices. so why are we doing it?
6:40 am
will it create jobs? no. it will actually hurt job production in the united states. according to eia study published in 2008, the oil and natural gas industry received 13% of the subsidies while producing 60% of the energy. let me repeat. this industry got only 13% of the subsidies but produced 60% of the energy. but the sponsors of this bill, s. 940 that's going to be debated in the finance committee where the industry leaders are going to be called to talk about this gimmick, 940, produce produced with their independent
6:41 am
counterparts 60% of the energy. and i'd like to say exactly where that energy comes from because it really has a bone of contention. the senator from alaska will appreciate this, that the sponsor of this bill represents a state that is one of the highest deficit energy-producing states in the nation, because some of us do this better than others. louisiana produces a lot of energy. alaska produces a lot of energy. texas produces a lot of energy. some states like to consume a lot and produce nothing. that would be like some of our states that put some of their land in agriculture so that they can produce food. other states saying we don't want to produce food, but we expect you to provide it to us. provide it to us when we want it, how we want it, and for the price we want it. and i'm tired of it, and so are the people that i represent.
6:42 am
so i want to put this deficit chart up here. we've seen a lot of deficit charts about deficits of infrastructure, real deficits of money, debt. let me talk to you about the deficit and the debt owed by some states in this union that consume a lot, talk a lot, and produce nothing. california has the greatest deficit. it consumes a tremendous amount of energy, and the imbalance is the highest. it produces the least, consumes the most. now, tpho california's -- now, to california's benefit, before senators feinstein and boxer run down here to argue this point, i want to concede this one point: california has been on the forefront of energy conservation and efficiency. this chart does not recognize them for that, but i will concede that point, and i'm going to have some further data to explain that. california, while it doesn't produce a lot of energy, it
6:43 am
consumes a tremendous amount. at least california has been in the forefront of savings and efficiency. because there are a lot of states up here that don't produce, don't conserve, aren't efficient, and all they want to do is yell about high gas prices. why don't you do something about it? florida is a perfect example. florida has a net deficit and b.t.u.'s of three -- i guess it 3.8 billion. i don't think they do much in nuclear, i don't think they do much in hydro. they have a lot of sun. they will not let anybody produce oil and gas on off or off their shores. they sure fire up hotel and restaurants with energy. where do they get their energy
6:44 am
from? if it wasn't so serious, it would be laughable. they have a gas line that goes from mobile, alabama, to the florida peninsula. we pump the gas out of louisiana, mississippi and alabama, put it in a pipeline and ship it under the gulf of mexico so they can light up their state. would they ever think of putting an oil and gas well or build a nuclear power plant? or if they can't do that, why don't you conserve your energy? new york is another user of energy which produces very little. ohio, georgia, new jersey, north carolina, michigan and illinois. now, to some of these states, like new jersey and michigan, think about what they look like. they are big -- they have big factories. they have big industries. michigan is the home to the automobile industry. so they use a lot of gas,
6:45 am
producing things that we all use. so we want to give them credit for that. but still the fact remains that michigan uses a lot more energy than it produces. then you get down here to what i call the gold star states. we get criticized so much, we're treated like we're some sort of pariah sometimes, but i think we do a great job. kentucky, alaska, new mexico, louisiana, west virginia and wyoming. and alaska is up here somewhere. no, alaska is right here. kentucky, alaska, new mexico, louisiana, west virginia and wyoming. we produce enough energy for everybody in our state what we need, and we export it to everyone else in america that needs it. whapbd do we get? -- and what do we get? we get bills like this, that go after directly the big companies in our state that work in our
6:46 am
state to somehow put them in a position to make them feel like they're not really good companies. they're not american companies. they don't pay tax. they get all these subsidies. i'm going to read into the record what taxes they pay. it's going to surprise you. and then on top of that, we get moratoriums. we get perm toerpls -- permatoriums. we can't drill for the oil we have. we can't look for the oil we might have. my people, when i go home ask me -- and it is a very hard thing for me to answer. maybe senator begich they might ask you the same, they say senator since we do so much to produce so much for the country, why do we pay $4 a gallon for gasoline? they don't produce anything, senator. why do we pay so much. can you tell me what you answer your people because i don't know what to tell them other than
6:47 am
this place is a little screwed up. so, until i get an answer for that -- and i'll ask the senator -- go ahead. what do you tell them? mr. begich: it is a hard one to answer because they see the oil flowing. we have $10-a-gallon gas in some of our communities. $10 a gallon. and so it's hard to explain that, yeah, we're the big producer, but the rest of the country then picks on us. i'm just listening. unbelievable the green -- ms. landrieu: i'll say to the senator because he raises an excellent point. president obama is not the first president to go overseas and ask for them to produce more oil to send it to us. this goes on. president clinton did it, president bush did it. we go beg saudi arabia to produce more energy. we ask opec to please don't tighten it so much so our
6:48 am
prices. why don't you go to the local opec or the local producers, which are kentucky, alaska, new mexico, louisiana, west virginia and wyoming. why don't you help us produce more, because we can do it. but we get shut down by bureaucracy, moratoriums, permatorium, rules, regulations, e.p.a., refuges. we can't even get free to produce the energy that we can produce for this country. and then you've got all these middle states that, you know, do a fairly good job of balance. but i tell you, if we passed a law in here that said every state in america had to produce the energy that it needed, we'd have an energy policy all right. senator begich knows, i don't know what it would be, but it would be an interesting rule. just like in the old days, if you wanted food, you produced it. it would be a great law. every state in america, all 50, if you consume energy, you need
6:49 am
to produce something. you can produce it by wind. you can produce it by hydro. you can produce it by nuclear. you can stop driving all your automobiles and everybody walk. you can give everybody a bicycle. we don't care. just eliminate the energy deficit. that would be a very interesting discussion to have. and i might even file a bill like that, because this one is so ridiculous, people might actually read the one i would file. now let me give awe couple of other stats, and -- now let me give awe couple -- give you a ce other stats. i want to put to mind this issue that the big companies don't pay any taxes. this is from "forbes" magazine. take it as it is. it's slanted toward industry; i give you that. it's not left to center. it's right to center, sometimes very right. but i think you can check these figures with anybody else. i'm assuming they're accurate.
6:50 am
exxonmobil -- this is for the top 20 most profitable u.s. corporations in 2010. exxonmobil's net income was $30 billion. their tax rate was not 10%, not 15%, not 25%, not 35%. 45% tax rate. their estimated worldwide tax bill was $90 billion. $90 billion. of $10 billion in total taxes paid in the united states, $3 billion was income tax. let's go on. conocophillips, their tax rate was 42%. preincome tax, $19.8 billion, net $11.4, tax rate 42. chevron was 40%. exxon 45%, conoco, 42 and chevron 40. do you all want to know what google was?
6:51 am
google is a pretty big company. they don't produce oil and gas. they have another line of business. their tax rate was only 21%. let's take hewlett packard. not in my state, and in other parts of the country -- i mean their headquarters is not in the south. their tax rate was 20%. apple computer, their tax rate was 24%. people will say, it's not just the rate. it's what you paid. i think if you look, coca-cola, very big company, their tax rate was down to 16.7%. does this make sense? no. so that's why we need tax reforms. circumstance transformational tax reform so all big companies pay similar in taxes, we eliminate some of these loopholes that don't make sense. i could be for that. i could be for that when we're talking about google, apple,
6:52 am
g.m., g.e. and exxon and mobile and chevron. but if you're going to ask me to stand here and pick on one industry that pays billions of dollars in taxes, that only gets 13% of the energy subsidies, that hires 350,000 people in my state are hired by oil and gas companies or their contractors or affiliates large and small, not just the large, and when i see what our people produce -- and these states produce nothing, or virtually nothing -- and you ask me can i vote for a bill like this. no. not only can i not vote for it, it's laugh afpblt -- it's laughable. so i hope the senator from alaska and i -- i mean i know we're going to be the skunks at the garden party because for democrats to be against this bill it's because we coddle this industry. i don't coddle this industry.
6:53 am
i'm holding b.p.'s feet to the fire. i want exxon to pay the tax they oefplt i -- they owe. i want chevron to pay the tax they owe. i want this president and the administration to stop the moratorium in the gulf. i want to get our people back to work and would much love to reduce gasoline prices. one way tkwaoebgd it is if cars didn't have to be so dependent on gasoline. why don't we give a significant subsidy to produce different kinds of automobiles. i would vote for that. i have voted for that. if you had a car right now running on natural gas, you would be paying the equivalent of $2 of gasoline at the pump. that's much better, senator, than $10. why don't we take some money and invest in natural gas vehicles or more incentives for electric vehicles, if people are really serious about breaking the back of opec, then start building the kind of automobiles and infrastructure in this country necessary to do it, and stop
6:54 am
introducing gimmicks like this that might get you a few political points in the short run, but it is not leading us in the right direction. having beat up on the democrats, let me say something about the republican side. all they want to talk about is drill, drill, drill, drill. we cannot drill our way out of the situation we're in. do i want to drill more? yes. do i think there's more than 2% of the world's oil and gas in america? yes. but you know what? you have to look for it in order to find it. we're under certain provisions -- the senator knows in alaska -- we can't even go look for the oil and gas we might have. and the senator might want to talk about that, and i'm going to close in just a minute. a senator: to the senator from l.a. la l.a. -- to the senator from louisiana, let me say, when you describe the moratorium or whatever they call it in the gulf, it is even worse in our state. mr. begich: i mentioned when i had the map i showed the
6:55 am
national petroleum reserve. that was set aside by the government to prepare our country for more energy independence decades ago. we can't even get a permit to go across in everyone else now calls it a big river. it really isn't. it's a very small area, but just a bridge to go over to go explore for what you just described. we can't even get on to the land that the government set aside that would then term if we have oil and gas prospects, we believe there is. but the other piece to this which you hammer away, and if we're skunks of the garden, so be it. it's a question of fairness as you described the 13% of the subsidies, or incentives, that they receive, they produce 60% of the energy, but your other
6:56 am
statistic is even more dramatic. of the remaining 87% of those subsidies only produced 40% of energy. if this was a business, you would eliminate that part of the equation because it doesn't give a good return on investment, but we're still doing that because there's a lot of politics being played. and your point on the tax issue, like you, i think there should be an overhaul to this tax system, but picking on one industry because it sounds good, rates good in the polls, gets you a couple of headlines is not what the american people want us to do here. if anything, they're getting fed up with that. what they want us to do is to sit down, and as you have described so eloquently in the vision of the country, -- in the description of the country, you bet, i would love every state to produce, because then they see what we go through. but because we're a collective group of states, we do our part. we should not be picked on
6:57 am
because we do more than our share because we're trying to help out states that are producing vehicles or producing a lot of chemistry and other things or pharmaceutical industry. we can go through those list that's somehow don't end up on these -- getting rid of their subsidies, so your point is right on and if there's anything we should be doing right now, and i agree with you, it is the issue of when i open the paper and i see administration officials, current and past, saying the way we're going to control our energy costs is talk to saudi arabia, is that our energy policy? that sure as heck is one that -- does a great job here, two, is the worst national policy from a national security perspective and, three, it is just foolish, as i mentioned earlier, that we export $1 billion a day out of this country to buy from countries, in its own case good
6:58 am
allies, canada is a good example, but some of these countries are not our friends, but we're giving them cash so they then use it against us. does this make any sense? and, you're right, this is a piece of legislation they put down without a committee process on it is a gimmick, a gimmick to get the next week of activity, get some press out there. i appreciate you yielding for me to rant a little bit. i'm glad you said the part two, the assumption is that these companies pay no taxes. somehow they get the subsidies, they pay nothing. you bet you they're profitable. they're big companies. they're huge companies, but they pay taxes in the billions to the treasury of this government and when you listen to all those differential rates that is, again, why we need tax reform and then i'm happy to have this discussion, but not singling out the industry just because it's good political score and good, you know, fodder for the newsprint and everything else.
6:59 am
so i appreciate you yielding me a few more minutes to ramble there a little bit. i'd like -- ms. landrieu: and just a final point, mr. president, we're going to hear tomorrow's speeches given about america is at the highest production levels ever. that may be true, but it is true for a very short period of time, maybe the next month or two, because, as you can see, there is going to be a precipitous fall? why? because even though people say that we're at the highest production levels that we ever have been, it's going to be temporary. then the production levels are going to decline down to the loews level since 1997. so i just want people to understand we are not on a path to produce more in ame o produce more in ame we are on a path to produce less. taking all subsidies away from
7:00 am
the five major international oil companies are not going to change this law and. it will continue to go down. it will not reduce the price of gasoline at the . it will continue to go down. it will not reduce the price of gasoline at theine . it will continue to go down. it will not reduce the price of gasoline at the. it will continue to go down. it will not reduce the price of gasoline at the pump by a penny. should some of these subsidies and tax credits be looked at? yes. in a comprehensive format. and i will be open to the ones that are least necessary and fairly applied across companies like google, at&t, g e and other companies. i will be happy to do my part. people in louisiana will do our part but we are not, along with texas and alaska going to take all on ourselves. we have had enough. we have high water, high wind and a high river and a
7:01 am
moratorium, and now we have a complete no more subsidies now. at least they left the independents out and i thank them for not putting independent flowing gas companies in this bill. they take a smaller percentage of the overall subsidy and we need to do this in a more fair way. i am yielding my time. >> one last comment. your charts say there's one other piece, the alaska oil pipeline. >> 600,000 barrels a day going through there. we are losing 67% the year in volume. it won't be a question of going down to zero. we attacked a level of 400,000 barrels. that it will be questionable if we can even run the line. then you shutdown the whole
7:02 am
volume. so the chart is important because we have to look at the long term. if we decide the comprehensive energy plan include observation and alternative energy, renewable energy and gas production. the senator from louisiana knows that you can't just walk down the street and start drilling tomorrow. it is the seven to ten year process. that chart is a critical chart because in order to reset the clients we have to start doing it today. unless we decide the policy of this country is we will pick up the phone and call saudi arabia, nigeria, iraq, airtran, libya, that is the list, that is our policy, that is the worst policy we could ever have. thank you to the senator from louisiana. my view is this will be good stuff. thank you, mr. president.
7:03 am
>> a few moments a hearing on the safety of peace corps volunteers and the senate back in session at 9:30 eastern. the house foreign affairs committee yesterday focused on peace corps volunteer safety, volunteers who were raped in their host country. the heads of the peace corps promised to end a blame the victim mentality. it begins with testimony of a volunteer murdered in west africa. >> my name is lois puzey and i'm here in the nerve my daughter kate who was murdered when serving with the peace corps. and to urge congress to enact
7:04 am
legislation so other families won't go for a similar tragedy. kate was a deeply compassionate, talented, upbeat person with a gift for understanding of this. she was twice elected student body president and graduated at the top of her class. she joined the peace corps serving in a royal village. she loved her time, build close ties to her village and was considered a model of volunteer. how would a model volunteered become a victim of murder? the man accused of killing her, below quote -- kate was told mr. bothell pressured students for sex and her concern escalated.
7:05 am
in 2009 students and teachers, to actually rape two citizens and begged her to help. kate tried to do the right thing. since her village had no internet service and was 12 hours from the country off as she traveled to the nearest work station where she e-mail the peace corps country director asking for the system. cage emphasized the need for confidentiality because she understood that the brother of mr. bothell worked in the same country as the fees corps director. tragically the way her e-mail was handled ultimately led to her death. the country director without talking to kate without taking any precautions or investigation on her own. she didn't take any precautions
7:06 am
to remove cake from her village and even worse the inspector general's report indicateskate and even worse the inspector general's report indicates her confidentiality was broken. kate was never alerted to the danger. a few days later she was murdered. kate was the heart of our family. our lives have been shattered. the peace corps was very supportive during the funeral and made great efforts to honor her. we were shocked with the experiences after kate's death. the peace corps provided very little information. they refused to answer questions about the inspector general's investigation and to stop all
7:07 am
communication after four months leaving debts to piece together what happened to our daughter. six months after she died and accompanied, simply left -- we discovered before kate's death the peace corps had no whistle-blower protection. these were first drafted two weeks after she died. feeling abandoned in 2010 we created our own -- that has had improved relationships with of the peace corps thanks to the leadership of director williams. the peace corps has never acknowledged the critical role it paid in kate's death and we are painfully aware that abc's 20/20 had not investigated her murder we would not have heard
7:08 am
from them. our family deserves an honest acknowledgment and formal apology from the peace corps for any actions that contributed to our daughter's death. after our experiences and hearing many other stories we also believe whistle-blower and victims' rights legislation is urgently needed. in the past the peace corps has believed -- the present administration's belief that they have solved the problem but because of the transient nature of the leadership, efforts have eroded time after time. we do not want another family to endorse the nightmare we live daily made worse by the recent news that those responsible for kate's murder could go free. legislation is the only way to ensure reforms remained consistent over time. we still support the peace corps and understand the instinct to
7:09 am
protect it but by not acknowledging and addressing its systemic weaknesses, that doesn't help the peace corps or its volunteers. instead, please build a stronger, stay for peace corps by passing legislation. in the future, there will be another volunteer like kate who will want to do the right thing. honor kate's sacrifice by doing the right thing now so that future volunteers can work safely. >> thank you very much and we will do so. thank you. miss clark? if you could push that little button and hold it close.
7:10 am
>> thank you ileana ros-lehtinen, ranking member berman. i am carol clark. i'll let school teacher, former peace corps volunteer and rape survivor. i thought i was alone in my experience but when i learned women today are still living with what i thought had been remedied decades ago i had to come forward. in august 1984, three months after i graduated from college, i was ready to begin my lifelong dream of becoming a peace corps volunteer. the peace corps's staff never talked to us about protecting ourselves from sexual harassment or assault. i never expected the peace corps's unstaffed members from whom i would need protection. shortly after i arrived, our supervisor in the nepali peace corps program told female volunteers he expected sex in
7:11 am
exchange for providing us with our living supplement checks. we told our peace corps country director about this but he did nothing. he told us to grow a thicker skin and allow the program director continue supervising us. three months later the program director raped me. devastated and humiliated i reported to the peace corps medical officer. instead of helping me he told me he was disgusted with the volunteers. and anything that happened to us was our own fault. i was not offered counseling. the peace corps allowed by program director to continue supervising volunteers. and before the peace corps would assign me to raise supervisor other than my rapist i was forced to confront him in front of the peace corps medical director, who had chided me. being forced to see this man
7:12 am
again, to speak to him and convince the peace corps he had raped me was extremely traumatic but i did it. the peace corps took no action against my assailant even after a forced confrontation. after i returned to service he arrived unannounced at my village. it was there he told his friends in the village they could violate me without fearing repercussions from the peace corps. he was right. soon after he left a nepali official with whom i had worked told me my peace corps friend told me how are liked to have fun and demanded sex. i refuse. he took up a knife, baird by nec and joe ogilvie. he forced the -- he forced me to put a used condom on him and
7:13 am
began raping me. for the next 15 hours he raped and beat me. for a long, prayed to live and then i prayed to die. when i finally escaped by took my bike and road before iran and weighted by way to johannes ford. then i reported the rape. medical officer was angry with me for putting myself in a dangerous situation. he did not document the crime and my attacker was not brought to justice. the peace corps flew me back to washington d.c.. constructing meet to say i was leaving because of dysentery. the program director who initially raped me was given my home address and assigned to e-mail me my belongings. once after i left, so many
7:14 am
volunteers sexually assaulted, created their own safety survey that showed numerous volunteers had been verbally and physically harassed and three more had been raped. they and i sought change from the peace corps. my former peace corps regional director told me our stories had made a difference. the peace corps was creating new training materials and future volunteers would be safer, better prepared and better treated. i believe the peace corps wanted to change this as it does now and that some improvements have been made but the women sitting next to me prove those improvements were lacking. in the next 20 years according to peace corps's own data peace corps volunteers reported more than 1600 incidents of sexual assault over 1,000 of which occurred in the last decade. the three most recent years for which peace corps has released
7:15 am
statistics have seen the greatest number of assaults. director williams is a good man but the peace corps has had 30 years to fix things on its own and it has fallen short. the women trusting their lives to the peace corps cannot wait decades for the peace corps to politically -- peace corps policies to organically mature. they need the immediate, permanent and meaningful change that comes through legislative accountability. for that we look to you. please help us build a better, stronger, safer peace corps so that our daughters can help the peace corps build a better world. >> thank you very much. jessica smochek. >> chairman ileana ros-lehtinen. >> hold it closer to. >> chairman ileana ros-lehtinen. middle ranking member berman and
7:16 am
committee members. my name is jessica smochek. i'm a former peace corps volunteer and rape survivor. thank you, congressman perot and all of you who have been working to make the peace corps better, stronger and safer for volunteers. in 2004 i was 23 years old. just out of college i joined the peace corps, an organization i admired and set off for bangladesh. the peas coarse that we might experience harassment during our posting but it just took some getting used to. this statement did not prepare as for the realities we would soon face. shortly after i arrived a group of six local men began following me home. eventually they surrounded me, knocked me to the ground and began touching and kissing me. i was terrified and helpless.
7:17 am
eventually they simply left. when i reported this the peace corps staff told me those types of things just happen. over time the harassment only increased. we reported this to the peace corps staff but most of our reports went unanswered. 8 mail volunteered offered to teach a self-defense but the peace corps rejected this offer. we ask for pepper spray or mace but the requests were denied. we begged to be moved to a safer site. again the peace corps refused. after reporting the incidents got dangerous. locals who learned the reports became serious. they told me it would hurt me if i didn't keep quiet. we reported these threats too. the men grew angrier and the
7:18 am
peace corps did nothing. than on december 6th, 2004, shortly after 5:00 p.m. men directly into an abandoned courtyard and the violence began. they started by raping me and forced other objects inside of my body and when they were done violating me with their bodies and their objects they intensified their physical assault. they yelled insults and threatened to kill me. i began to think it would never end so i beg them for the deaths they promised. they just laughed. then after what seemed like a lifetime my ordeal was over or so i thought. i went to the capital to report the rape but the peace corps medical officer did not examine the, perform a rape kit or collect any evidence. instead she took away my cell phone. this prevented me from warning other volunteers about what
7:19 am
happened. in fact she told me if i did talk to other volunteers i should tell them i was going to washington to have my wisdom teeth taken up. before leaving bangladesh for steve to go back alone to my village where my rapist remained, gather my belongings and spend a night in their one last time. then, still reeling from the trauma of a cent on a plane alone back to washington d.c.. the peace corps didn't send me home or give me the option, and so i stayed in washington d.c. for the next 45 days. when i arrived in d.c. late at night, 1 met me at the airport. i was forced to find my way to this large, unfamiliar city on my own. the peace corps said the to a
7:20 am
male gynecologist. he was insensitive and it was excruciating. she suggested i had an hour after 5:00 p.m. i didn't fight back, rather than feeling safe and supported by felt the little and blamed. after a month and a half in bci was medically separated from the peace corps and put on to workers compensation. i have been repeatedly forced to describe my injury on forms and to strangers to get the support i need to recovered. it can take months or years to receive reimbursement. this must be changed so that survivors do not have to go from agency to agency begging for the help they need to recover.
7:21 am
i wish what had happened to me dated difference to the other volunteers in bangladesh but shortly after i left the country director without my permission told female volunteers i was raped, that it was my fault and rape was always a woman's fault. years later i learned at least three other women in my volunteer group were sexually assaulted. part because of what the country director said, was not reported. the police -- the peace corps must change. women must be better protected from rape and the callous treatment that too often follow her. history despite its wrenching pain cannot be unlived but if faced with courage need not be lived again. i am hopeful that today's hearing will precipitate the much needed change in peace
7:22 am
corps sexual assault policies and my nightmare need never be lived again. thank you for the opportunity to testify today and for bringing me -- the very important issues to life. >> thank you for your testimony. karestan chase koenen. >> my name is dr. karestan chase koenen, i am associate professor at columbia university. >> put the microphone closer to your mouth so we can hear you better. >> i am associate professor at columbia university and adjunct professor at harvard university. they teach about psychological trauma. my understanding and passion for the topic of the results of my education and my own experience at the peace corps. i joined the the peace corps in 1991. it was clear from the beginning that my country was dangerous. also clear was the peace corps staff inadequacy in dealing with the effect of danger on
7:23 am
volunteers. for example, one week during our infantry training period several men broke into our site, sold two male volunteers and raped a female volunteer. i recall telling my site director i felt unsafe but i was told by was making too much of what happened. the peace corps staff instructed us not to tell our families about the attacks. staff instructions to calm down and keep quiet was the only training we received on how to respond to and of assault despite the fact that serious crime had occurred on the training compound. we did not receive any training and to minimize the risk of a salt or how to record them should weaker. on december 27, 1991, i learned by experience the dangers of sexual assault. a nigerian man held me down, ripped off my shorts and underwear and raped me. the doctor who worked for the peace corps was kind but neither
7:24 am
trained nor equipped to perform a forensic rape exam. no one gave me the opportunity to make a formal statement or speak with law-enforcement. also the dark reported the rape to the peace corps's country director. he did not visit me or call me. i was put on an international flight to washington d.c. alone. on arriving at peace corps headquarters i was greeted with a cold reception. i was sent to a male gynecologist. i found the pelvic exam painful and him telling me to stop being hysterical and just calm down. i was then sent to speak with a peace corps staff investigator who's at i am so sick of you girls going over there and drinking and dancing and flirting and if a guy comes on to you use a you were raped. my final straw was when my peace corps country directors said to me when i wanted to prosecuted is your word against his. he said you wanted to have sex
7:25 am
and we believe him. as an expert in psychological trauma i know how dangerous an adequate response to rate can be. fear of being this believed or blamed as i was by the peace corps is why so many survivors did not report their rate. the peace corps's own data suggests we 2 times more assaults occur than those that are reported. over a decade of research has demonstrated the social support a survivor receives in the aftermath of the trauma highly influenceds the risk the victim will have post-traumatic stress disorder. a negative social response and quagmire for the rest of her life. i examine the current sexual assaults protocol and policies of the peace corps and they have evolved since my time of service they're dangerously inadequate. several other experts have reviewed the peace corps's 2011
7:26 am
sexual assault guidelines and recommended change. i include these letters as part of my testimony. the affidavits and letters from other experts make it clear it is time for a systemic, permanent solution that addresses better training for volunteers, training for in country staff and appropriate accountability for staff in the united states. of these needed reforms there are eight things the peace corps could do to increase the care provided to its volunteers. they are discontinued the use of peace corps's curran sexual assault training video called serving safely that shows survivors apologizing for engaging and causing their rape, put victims' advocates in every region and hire a victim's advocate in d.c.. caring in country and coast service needs where at least 100 sexual assaults a year is too
7:27 am
great burden for one person to carry. provide travel companions for rape and sexual assault survivors returning to the u.s.. eliminate the harmful and minimizing distinction used in the peace corps's own material to distinguish major sexual assault from minor sexual assault. set up a task force in the department of labour to determine how to help survivors give adequate and timely benefits without being forced to experience their trauma. enlist the help of outside experts with authority to insure peace corps's policy continually reflect best practices. give survivors a choice of treatment provider. fire the staff of treatment providers who blame victims and harm them. i believe director williams to be well-intentioned but we simply cannot ignore history. the peace corps has promised time and time again to fix these
7:28 am
problems and it has not. we need congress. thank you for the opportunity to speak to you about my experience and the hopes for better, stronger and safer peace corps. >> distinguished members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to speak today. before i begin i would like to take a moment to talk about the women who spoke before me and commend them for their courage. i am jennifer wilson marsh, sexual assault hot line director at the rape abuse at rainin, the nation at large as sexual assault of a -- association. we are recognized as a leader in the field of sexual assault services and provided thousands of hours of training and sexual
7:29 am
assistance to sexual assault providers across the country. rainin has been selected for the national victims assistance standards consortium and assisted 1.5 million people affected by sexual violence through the natural -- national sexual assault hot line. i will outline best services in serving victims of violence. the peace corps has a long history of successfully promoting peace around the world and we believe if applied correctly these best practices can strengthen the peace corps organization and their response to victims. i will follow this with a description of our rainin is working with the peace corps. the following best practices are drawn from the department of justice that did. accessibility of quality advocacy services following the assault is paramount. the value of these is lost if
7:30 am
victims do not know of their existence. peace corps volunteers need to receive through layered and repeated training information describing services available to them in the event they are insulted. this should include a comprehensive overview of issues surrounding sexual violence and risk reduction strategies. if you are familiar with bystander intervention training of the peace corps is developing for volunteers and believe this is an effective model service reduction. all staff members who may be first responders should receive a minimum of 40 hours of training and complete annual refresher courses. training should focus on special needs of sexual violence victims and be reinforced by all peace corps and administrative policies and procedures. sexual assault response team is the most effective approach in responding to sexual assault victims. this is typically comprised of a
7:31 am
victim advocate, law enforcement and a forensic medical examiner. this approach is a streamlined response minimizing the victim dramatization and create singular point of contract allowing victims to focus on their recovery. without a guarantee of confidentiality victims may not be willing to seek help for fear their experience will be scrutinized. control over possible -- information is not only a matter of privacy but personal safety. it should be made clear during all training how information will be maintained and shared. through the national sexual assault on line of line we have seen safe and secure help. with confidential services that can discuss concerns and the more likely to report the crime or seek long-term support. finally there needs to be a clear grievance procedure for victims who feel they were treated poorly by staff or did
7:32 am
not receive adequate response. on march 20 third, 2000 eleven, rainn and the peace corps signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate and share education resources and training tools on sexual assault, risk reduction and response. since assigning with the peace corps we have been asked to review training, content and procedures. peace corps is in the process of improving their response to victims of sexual assault we believe they are moving toward implementing some of these best practices. as the committee on foreign affairs is charged with general oversight of the peace corps we believe it should do the following, an act legislation that will ensure the peace corps establish best practices and victim responds and include a mechanism for formalized planning to address high staff turnover due to mandated appointment limits. we recommend the peace corps expand on the progress already
7:33 am
made with hiring of a victim advocate with the addition of mobile victim advocates. train staff would be able to immediate travel to the location of a volunteer who had been assaulted and provide on the ground help completing the starck model. staffers should be experienced in navigating foreign legal and cultural system than victims will benefit from having an advocate negotiate each challenges of being victimized abroad. the machine these recommendations will of victims get what they deserve. >> thank you very much to all of you for your brave testimony. thank you for appearing before the committee today. your testimony is going to make a big difference.
7:34 am
lois puzey, i offer you my most sincere condolences on the loss of your brave daughter and your testimony will change the way business is being done in the peace corps and you are very brave to come before us. i am sorry you only had five minutes to describe what a dreadful and life changing experience it has been for your family. i know the criminal cases about to begin in your daughter's case. i don't know if that is true but i don't want your testimony to have any negative influence on that. perhaps you could explain to us what you think in detail needs to change in the peace corps that would prevent such a terrible travesty to occur again. >> as i said in my testimony i really feel like is important to have the whistle-blower protections in place and
7:35 am
training procedures, not just training procedures for volunteers but they know their avenues and how to report but also important that staff knows what to do particularly people in positions like the country director so they will know how to handle a situation when it comes to them. it is very important. and on the other side to be sensitive to victims' families. i always said the peace corps when everything is going right, is one of our country's best ideas. but when the things go wrong, that response component needs to be improved. >> thank you very much. karestan chase koenen, i want to ask about blaming the victim and how that would impact the recovery of victims of sexual assault or any kind of crime
7:36 am
committed against them. one of the teams in the testimony that we heard is that the peace corps was not equipped to handle complaints, did not act on it, accusations were not taken seriously and more than anything it was blame the victim that was at play here. can you tell us how blaming the victim impact the recovery of the victims of sexual assault? >> thank you, chairman. social support or the reaction a survivor receives in the acute aftermath of an assault, within 24 hours, is the key factor in determining whether she or he will have long-term mental health consequences or not and the reason is in that cute period the victim is incredibly vulnerable. she is in a fight or flight mode and is playing over in her head
7:37 am
what happened, how did this happen, and when something terrible happens we question ourselves and our behavior and when you meet a provider who rather than ask you questions about how can we keep you safe, what do you need is what you would like to do, blaming the victim just adds to that questioning of your own behavior and the end up internalizing of that blame. psychologically that can keep you from talking to anyone else about it, it can keep you from seeking the help you need because you are worried other people will respond the same way. and long term it can negatively affect your mental health. a big predictor of post-traumatic stress disorder. blaming the victim after an assault increases risk of
7:38 am
post-traumatic stress disorder more than characteristics of the assault. weather a victim as physically injured or whether there's penetration or not. it is the key factor in whether the victim will recover or not. >> thank you very much. this smochek, comment on the safety and security information included inmiss smochek, commen safety and security information included in your hand book and materials, did you find that to be useful? >> in my hand book there was a very general -- there was no clear-cut who to call when something happens, those steps in place if a crime was committed. to do you call? where do you need to go? how do you find a safe place? how is your confidentiality going to be kept? none of that is in there.
7:39 am
deep in the packet was a number for i believe the 0 ig's office in washington d.c.. as a survivor, after you have been raped or sexually assaulted, have to go through your hand book to find a number to call in d.c. is ludicrous. the volunteers don't have the ability to make that phone call. >> thank you very much. mr. berman? >> thank you, madam chairman. i just want you to know that your testimony to date and the other things you have done will work to empower other victims
7:40 am
and also have helped to motivate the peace corps to make sure that people who will suffer from your experience get the assistance they are entitled to. miss puzey, i think the world will miss your daughter's sense of community and commitment to public service. we all lose when a young person with such energy and promise is taking from us. miss marsh, you touched on this in your testimony but could you take a moment just to talk about your evaluation of what the peace corps is starting to put in place once again and what they need to do particularly from your son, this issue of whether one person based in
7:41 am
washington with this responsibility is enough, or do we need -- you talked about a notion of roving personal they can go to the site and make sure the country director, program director, medical officer, are operating correctly. >> in terms of the work we have done with the peace corps so far i was invited several weeks ago to participate in their bystander intervention training which of the model used for risk reduction or prevention of sexual assault and i find that to be a positive experience. in terms of the victim advocate i do feel that having a victim advocate in d.c. is a step in the right direction. as mentioned by the women before me i feel as though having somebody on the ground in person
7:42 am
is crucial and somebody who doesn't have collateral duty. so cross training and medical officer or a security officer to be a victim advocate, i don't feel is advocate. and an entire holistic approach to case management. having a victim advocate from overseas, whether the assault occurs travel to accompany the victim. the the different options to explore. >> any of the witnesses, if congress, based on what we heard
7:43 am
today, and other information about this, besides to embark on a legislative implementation and mandate for the best practices that miss marsh talked-about, enforced policy of the peace corps to institutionalized as a number of the mentioned, directors come and go, creates an institutional basis for these business practices and funds, what needs to be done here. do you think that can significantly reduce situations you found your shelves and in this program? >> i would like to speak to
7:44 am
that. i love the peace corps and support the peace corps and would be devastated if my testimony were used to cut funding or eliminate the peace corps. we wanted a stronger, say for peace corps. we need legislation to cement the changes that rain and first response action, so when directors come and go and budget priorities change, that victims, crime is prevented and victims are treated adequately so they can have the best chance of recovery. i can speak in my case, if changes that i outlined in my testimony were in place they were legislated. my recovery would have been faster and much better because everything they recommended would have completely changed my
7:45 am
experience. just the implementation of regional victim advocates would have transformed all of our experiences and i know budget priorities are tight now but the cost of doing nothing as far higher. thank you. >> anyone else? in 15 seconds i have left? >> i would like to say i would be heartbroken for my testimony to be used to destroy an institution that i absolutely love. i still believe in the ideals of the peace corps. we as an agency of the peace corps are there to showed the rest of the world the best part of the united states. peace corps is there to make changes in the world for better to provide education, to provide ways for people to learn to have
7:46 am
a decent living in come that will promote communities around the world people to become more economically self-sufficient. i do not have the goal of destroying the peace corps. my goal is to make the peace corps better leverage the will to help them provide better responses. we can't stop all sexual assault. the key is to provide strong, effective, best practices when problems do occur. >> thank you once again for holding this hearing and i appreciate you being here today. appreciate your career courage. and appreciate your service. i agree with you totally.
7:47 am
the answer is not to get rid of the peace corps but to make it better and safer, america's angels abroad. miss puzey, what is the one of thing you want to hear from the peace corps director? >> director william as did give us an apology. what we felt was not compassionate, we are very sorry. i never doubted the compassion of director williams or the present staff. what we would really like to hear it is an apology and to a acknowledge any action on the part of the peace corps.
7:48 am
>> i hope you get that apology from the peace corps. let me ask you something about victims of sexual assault. i think it is awful. in the peace corps, overseas, but what this is a unique crime based on my experience on the binge. the emotional stability or the inner spirit of a crime victim. would you agree or elaborate on the fact that victims like peace corps victims are sexually assaulted want the peace corps
7:49 am
and us to give them validation of what happened to them and to support, as opposed to immediately distancing them from us and making them at fault, making it feel like it was their fault that a crime was committed against them. is that part of what we need to do as a society to support the validation of what they say? >> absolutely. all victims of sexual assault in the peace corps need to know from their initial contract that the peace corps is on their side. that they are not the criminal. in all of our cases we have felt we were the criminal and rape is always the responsibility of the
7:50 am
perpetrator. the peace corps needs to change the culture so that victims know that the peace corps is on their side and that is crucial for the recovery of victims. it is a unique crime in that way. >> do you think the peace corps as we see it now based on your testimony and things you are aware of, needs a change in mind set, that the peace corps needs to have a mind-set different about when crime is committed against the peace corps volunteers somewhere in the country or somewhere in the world and rather than say don't say anything, we might hurt our diplomatic relationship with his third world country, do we need a much that in the peace corps change? >> the peace corps needs a change in mind set and a change in culture from victim blaming
7:51 am
to supporting victims. we are fond of talking about the peace corps family and we need to act like a functional family in which one of us is hurt family comes to our support rather than treating us like criminals. >> miss marsh, do you think we can fix this problem internally? change policy in the peace corps? do we need legislation? >> i believe we need legislation. as we mentioned before, because of the appointment turnover, we heard in our meetings with the peace corps about programs or policies that may have been done previously but it was unclear who is responsible for them, the people who were responsible for them have since left. i think the legislation is the best way to guarantee these practices state permanent and institutionalized through all
7:52 am
layers of the peace corps and along with that notion is the training not only a first responders, country directors but anyone in the peace corps who may coming to contact and the training should be layered throughout the peace corps experience. not just one singular training on this issue. >> without objection i would like to introduce three other statements from peace corps volunteers who have come to my attention that they want to keep their names anonymous and submit their stories for the record. >> without objection. >> i yield back my time. >> miss wilson of florida. >> thank you, madam chair. my question is for miss marsh who is representing the peace corps. i have a mat in front of me that sort of outlines the places
7:53 am
where these rapes have occurred and rape is a horrible crime tantamount to death in my opinion. it is the killing of the spirit, the soul of women. i am just wondering about the local government. is there any thought about a compact or contract between local government and the officials, especially those highlighted in red or purple where most of these rapes have occurred? some of them are not that far from the united states. i am looking at the dominican republic, haiti, jamaica, they are in red. if these places are this dangerous, what about the local law enforcement and local
7:54 am
elected officials in those countries that are responsible for law-and-order in their respective provinces or countries? is there ever any communication with these people pressing charges just as if these people were murdered? >> i would like to clarify that i am not representing the peace corps. i am representing rainn. i am going to they fer that question to director williams and agree with you that rape and sexual assault is a horrible crime. according to the fbi it ranks only to homicide in terms of trauma. >> i will defer to director williams to talk about
7:55 am
arrangements in different countries. and that mentioned in my testimony there are three things that can be done right now. stop the video they are showing, serving safely, that blames victims for their assaults and end the major and minor distinction of assault which is victim blaming and i would like. definition of a minor sexual assault. they can provide care and travel companions for survivors. bose our immediate things that can be done now while we're deflation deal with local law enforcement is very important but long term more complex.
7:56 am
>> a followup question. i am trying to ask about prevention. these countries, we are not sending women to be raped. this doesn't stop, we will pull all of our peace corps volunteers out. is there any thoughts of threats or anything level that these countries and i am talking about the purple and the red. if you have this map in front of you, it is unconscionable that these many people are being victimized in these countries. is there any warning that this is a dangerous place to send peace corps volunteers who are women? that is what i am asking. prevention. i understand what you mean about intervention and what is happening after these rapes occur. how do we help prevent some of
7:57 am
this? >> in terms of prevention, what we talked about, what rainn talk about was bystander intervention training volunteers. the video are talked-about cooling is part of their prevention training. the best prevention is the peace corps can start treating victims of sexual assault with respect and set an example in these countries of how the u.s. expects its volunteers to be treated. how to we demand people in this
7:58 am
country -- >> the courage of these volunteers is astoundingly dull have never been so incensed and enraged at an agency. my rage began your testimony when i had a constituent of few years ago who needed to come home to her sister's wedding. her father had died but the inflexibility of the peace corps does allow her to come home and she quit the court. optimize self, really need to get a grip. it is a major grip. not a minor grip. every woman has a right to say no. when you go overseas you're not just representing american rights and values but
7:59 am
human-rights and values. incumbent upon the peace corps to understand its own mission. i applaud you for wanting the peace corps to continue when you were so violently attacked and no one came to your aid. parter koenen, i applaud what you are saying. changing this video needs to be changed today. there is no difference between major and minor assault. when it does happen you have to go back home to a personal sometimes 15 hours overseas you need a companion with you right there. those are easy fixes. i want to work with you on legislation to put the peace corps on the right track to protect you. what do you want from us here
8:00 am
today, doctor puzey? >> protection rights, legislation. >> whistle-blower right lead and the protection rights. i think we can work and that. i yield back my time. >> thank you so much. mr. connolly. ..
8:01 am
>> we can't make everybody 100% safe everywhere. it's not that kind of world. and, frankly, the work of the peace corps puts people in much riskier situations. i mean, i have a daughter at a university here in america, and sadly what you described is, sometimes occurs on u.s. campuses as well. but there is counseling. there are training and awareness programs. there are prevention programs. and i guess what troubles me the most about your testimony was that there was, frankly, lacking a standard of compassion. when somebody signs up as a volunteer, and their family
8:02 am
supports without effort, understand the risks, and god forbid something goes wrong, it seems to me that we drop everything as a peace corps family. and we respond. we take care of the family. we do everything in our power to make sure the system of justice in the host country is working on behalf of the volunteer, and his or her family. and that everybody in the chain of command, from the medical director to the country director to the people back here, is clued in, is a genuinely compassionate and sensitive and working on your behalf. that's the standard we have to reach. we can legislate, and it sounds today like we need to. but at the end of the day inculcating that capacity, that empathy, that understanding, as
8:03 am
was said, rape is never the victims fall. we can never accept that. has to be clear from our minds and the proper perspective adopted always. and zero-tolerance or any variation from that standard. i know we are going to year later from director williams about reforms and measures his put in place. and i've heard the appreciation of ms. puzey, for those efforts. and i know that we can't and will have to go further, but i just want you all to know that on a bipartisan basis we continue to support the peace corps, as did each and every one of you. but we're also going to make sure that, god forbid -- first of all, we're going to do everything we can to try to make sure that we are cognizant of risks and dangers, and we're going to minimize them. the goal being try to get to zero risk.
8:04 am
we know that's an elusive goal but that ought to be what we're always pushing ourselves toward. and then should something happen, the full force of compassion and resources of the peace corps, and, indeed, of the united states government are behind you and your families. thank you for your testimony today, and i yield back. >> thank you very much. ms. buerkle. >> thank you, madam chair. and i would like to thank all of our panelists today from coming here and for sharing your testimony as a woman and a mother of four children, grandmother of three, granddaughters, it's appalling to me and it breaks my heart care what you have gone through. and ms. puzey, my deepest condolences on the loss of your daughter as well. i would like to join with my colleagues here. it will be a bipartisan effort to get the legislation in place to do what we need to do to make
8:05 am
our volunteers safe, and to change what's happening within the peace corps. i spent over 14 years with pro bono advocacy in domestic violence. so i have a keen awareness, as my colleague just stated, rape is never the victim's fault. and it cannot be that mentality in that mindset must never be accepted. so i will work hard with my colleagues to get this legislation passed. i would like to ask doctor godin with regards to healing and recovery, is that possible and what can we do to help the victims who are suffering? >> healing is absolutely possible, and as is recovery. i think you can see that from
8:06 am
the women, the testimony of the people here that were able to be here and to testify as part of our recovery. in terms of what we can do, putting the things in place to support a victims recovery starts before an assault even occurs. stop the victim blaming, change the mentality of the peace corps to one that is support victims, one that blames victims. and the distinction between major and minor sexual assault again which is victim blaming. set and protocols so people know the confidentiality will be respected and that we have control over who our stories are told to. provide support persons to travel back to the country, provide adequate support once the victim is back in the country. the victim's advocate to coordinate services across all these complex systems. so, all those things can aid the
8:07 am
recovery and a national response is key to the. the recovery, i want, one of the things i want to assure him when, just peace corps volunteers, but who expresses sexual assault is recovery is when a person possible. >> i just want to comment i understand your commitment to the peace corps and i understand your desire to not to see the peace corps disrupted, but as my colleague, jean schmidt, said, this has to stop. this legislation and our efforts need to start today, now, so that we can make the changes required to prevent any more harm from being done. again, thank you very much for your courage for being here today. and we will look forward to working with you. i yield my time. thank you, madam chair,. >> thank you. mr. payne. >> let me thank all of you for coming. i was not here personally to hear it, i would like to commend each of you, and as a very
8:08 am
strong supporter of peace corps, i visited many sites. i've been to graduations of the ceremonies when a new class had their graduation, and so much euphoria and pride, in some countries they make outfits that reflect that particular country. and so, i've been a tremendous supporter of the peace corps and the tremendous amount of work you have done. really commend all of you. i think that part of the problem, you know, and i hear talk about we're going to get this legislation going, part of the problem basically has been in my opinion the u.s. congress, u.s. senate, the house. because this is not the first time that we've had these kind of hearings. back in 2001, there was a 20 month investigation of peace corps. one lady found in have to do
8:09 am
something that happened in 1979 from this series run by the dayton news. and it was going to be reaction, we were going to deal with it. in 2001. and in 2004, senator dodd had legislation that was going to go to correct some of these and it passed the house but it died in the senate. 2007 where the same thing. so, you know, when we look at the problems and its, there's probably others who might want to see, you know, the program ended, might've been a hidden agenda because we are having tough times at home so we can't afford to spend a single penny a broad philosophy that i've are a lot from some newcomers. but i certainly commend you all for your support of the peace corps. first of all, to be in the peace corps you have to be unique in the first place. so i'm not surprised how you feel about it.
8:10 am
but i guess my own point is that if we're really going to do something, then the congress has to act. i mean, you can't just blame it on an agency that would probably like to have somebody -- some of these enforcement. they could do things on their own but it is backed by the congress, by law, signed by president then you might see something happen. so once again, they haven't done a good job which is true in some instances. i just hope that there is going to be the will on the part of the people are saying how and dignity are that this is happening, for the last 11 years i've heard what we ought to do and we haven't had one single piece of legislation. so, i really don't have any questions. i don't know if any of you would like to comment your yes? >> there was whistleblower
8:11 am
protections in the 2007 dodd bill. if you passed it, the possibility that my daughter would still be alive. so i do urge legislation at this time. >> thank you very much, and i hope that we can pass the house and once again, it languished and died in a senate. that's the story of our lives. i really appreciate that. i will yield about. >> ms. schmidt? >> thank you very much, madam chair. i want to specially thank you for calling this extraordinary important hearing, and for the bravery of the women who have testified here today. hopefully this hearing in each of your instances, each of your trialist should've been the game changers and those of us have suffered like you have. but it is hearing isn't, i don't know what else could be. the legislation is important i'm sure by the distinguished gentleman from florida will take the lead on this. i know she will and we will all do our part. but i hope the peace corps
8:12 am
itself or realize that deploying young and very vulnerable young women and men, but mostly women obviously, to places where there is enhanced risk, unlike state department personnel who are deployed who have access, to the compound, they are much more likely to be in a protected state. hazardous pay if they are any more vulnerable deployment area, peace corps volunteers and the chart survey shows and i agree with my colleagues there are areas of the world that are much more dangerous to women when deployed there. and that ought to be a serious factor to find some other area and locale with these women could be deployed. let me just say, your testimonies are absolutely chilling. i know every member of this committee, and those who will follow this transcript, perhaps they're watching on c-span, will
8:13 am
be moved. we need a zero-tolerance policy, and that goes throughout the entire process. training, the assessment of risk. i thought ms. smochek, failure to prepare, failure to protect, the issue of the failure to respond adequately to end in the aftermath of course, the worst fears realized. vig will be testifying shortly, and she points out the fiscal year 2004 the office of inspector general visited 66 posts you made many recommendations. and 85% of the posts were visited, and yet 38%, 25 out of 66 were found to be deficient in some aspects of their site development. and that she points out, inappropriate site development increases the risk that volunteers, community safety net will be compromised if a threat
8:14 am
arises. the conclusion of the oig is, and i would appreciate your comments on this, while some important oig recommendations remain open, the agency has made substantial progress in recent years in developing a comprehensive safety and security program. do you agree with that? and finally, on the issue of harassment, usually an act or acts of sexual assault are preceded by either verbal or some other harassing behavior that is clearly a harbinger of what may be headed towards the individual or individuals win. did the peace corps personnel to be reported to, those who have been so horrifically victimized, did they take seriously your concerns about the harassment? we know in related issues of sex trafficking of the violence against women where there's a culture of impunity, very often it just works horizontally to
8:15 am
all women, not just those who are bought and sold and turned into commodities under sex trafficking. but when it comes to women who are standing up and going out as ambassadors, as one member said, angels to the world, it seems to me that we have to work, we have to zero-tolerance with regards to that risk. so if you could -- >> yes, i concerted spee-2 the second part. i know from my experience i was placed at a site with two other female volunteers. and we all received extensive, verbal and physical harassment and sexual harassment. from the very first day. we kept reporting incidents, to the medical officer, to the safety and security officer, and just got the same reply of, just
8:16 am
toughen up and just deal with it. i believe that what happened to me, i believe that, i mean, i was targeted by a group of six men. i believe that my ultimate gang raped by them and near death could have absolutely been prevented. my site was absolutely unsafe. if anyone had absolutely come to a look at all of the reports that were being piled and taken seriously, i mean, we asked. we specifically said we are not safe. we do not feel safe. we are going to be harmed. and we were not taken out of this dangerous site. and so, i mean, that's just a case in how even, even the buddies being, you know, minor sexual harassment or assault,
8:17 am
you know, it can lead, and most of the time can lead to much greater crime. and so, i think that they're deathly has to be more accountability and response for all reports that are submitted. and they need to definitely be followed through every single, every single report needs to be followed through. or to really ensure that safety is their. >> thank you. >> thank you, madam chair, and thank you to the witnesses were testifying here today regarding some horrific circumstances, and particularly, ms. puzey my condolences to you and your family. thank you for coming here today but also thank you for the service that you desire to give to your country and to other
8:18 am
countries, to mankind. i can't imagine, the ones you entered, your service in the peace corps, particularly says as has been mentioned the peace corps has been an integral part of assistance around the world that we provide to other countries, but at the same time i hope the entire world is listening. but in particular those that can make a difference with respect to your circumstances, that they are listening as well. it's quite concern to many of us that you all have mentioned many instances i believe where perhaps the agency has dragged its feet in implementing systematic reforms with respect to safety. and that's very troubling to us here, and i'm sure to those who are thinking about volunteering with the organization in the future. i think the peace corps should
8:19 am
be held to the highest standard of accountability when it comes to the safety and protection of the volunteers. and we need to make sure that that plan is brought forward. and if it hasn't been thus far, it needs to be, particularly after today's hearing. i would like, i believe since i am the last questioner on the panel because i don't see congressman chabot here, i'm very interested in moving forward in hearing from the agency with respect to what you all have been talking is not going to ask any questions. i want to get right come help the chair move forward and get to the next panel, but i will give you all come usually witnesses do not get closing statement. i will give you all my last minutes. i've got about three, maybe each of you could take 30 or 45 seconds, just let us know your final thoughts, what do we need to do, what do you want to see done. >> i'll go ahead and start.
8:20 am
one thing that -- >> a little closer. >> sorry. one thing that definitely needs to be considered in legislation and has not been really addressed by the peace corps in their latest movement forward is the health care services, and health care providers within country, but also within united states. and that is really key because they are against the first responders. and, you know, not only making sure that there are trained people who can work with the survivors, but after service, how difficult the issue is to navigate the workers conversation system when you are still in trauma mode. and what you're separated from the peace corps, that's it. no one is there.
8:21 am
there is no liaison. there is nothing there. you are just left to navigate it completely on your own. some people get information, others i did not, and it really, you know, and further harm the survivor. >> thank you very much. ms. clark. >> one thing i'd like to point out is that even if this week we've received reports of women who have had similar experiences. i think that as women fill the support of congress, there will be a spike in reports. i would like that not to be used as an indication that peace corps should be disintegrated, but rather that peace corps has taken the chance to reform. with that in mind i would say
8:22 am
that apologies without action are useless. i have had apology from the peace corps. i haven't seen the action. my goal is that we have long-term, not short-term, but long-term action that can be provided through legislation. >> dr. koenin. >> i would like to conclude just by saying what we all want is a better, stronger, safer peace corps. and we will come forward with our stories at great personal cost, to ask congress to cement the changes that we request in legislation, so that future generations can serve in the peace corps and be protected. >> thank you very much.
8:23 am
ms. march? >> i'd like to reinforce what the women who spoke before me said, and also go back to my testimony and suggest the peace corps follow best practices recommendations and reiterate that i feel as though they are taking steps in that direction, and i believe that this hearing will help them to further that process. >> and ms. puzey, finally. >> as has already been said, i think that legislation needs to happen now at this time. if reforms are going to be consistent over time. and also, from the peace corps i would like to see them beat as sympathetic and compassionate and get the support of victims families, because things are going to go wrong. so when there is, the family should also have that support. >> thank you very much. thank you for excellent testimony. thank you for your courage in
8:24 am
appearing before us today. and we will work on legislation to move forward. thank you very much, ladies. we made good use of our time, didn't we? thank you, mr. williams. you are recognize and feel free to summarize your statement. thank you very much, sir, for appearing before us. thank you, sir. >> good morning. thank you, madam chair, ranking member berman, members of the committee. thank you for the opportunity to testify about the steps the peace corps has taken to improve the safety, security and support and care of our volunteers. i am a retired peace corps volunteer so i am a part of the peace corps family. it's an honor to lead this agency that has meant so much to me throughout my life. the health, safety and support of every member of our peace corps family is my number one priority.
8:25 am
peace corps volunteers represent the best that america has to offer and we owe them nothing less in return. we make a commitment to every volunteer that we will support them during and after their service in the same on every volunteer makes 27 month commitment to serve us overseas. unfortunately, the peace corps has not always lived up to its commitment. the powerful assessment of the courageous witnesses today shows us that the trauma and pain that they experienced in the acute and lasting. we sincerely regret that we do not fully appreciate this in the past. it is not intent to victimize our volunteers a second time. want to do everything we can to help them heal. the brave women have come forward has shown us that the peace corps has not been sufficiently responsive, compassionate or sensitive to victims of crime in their family. it's heartbreaking to learn that.
8:26 am
and i apologize for any additional pain the agency has inflicted on our volunteers. the victims of sexual assault deserve nothing but compassion and support. each volunteer is a treasured member of the family. a crime against one is a crime against all of us. says peace corps was founded 50 years ago, more than 200,000 americans have served in 139 countries. we are all enormously proud of the service both to united states and to the host nation. today with 8600 volunteers in 77 countries. volunteers embody compassion, a dedication to our mission of world peace and friendship. it is these qualities that deepen our pain when there is a loss. we care profound on the welfare of our volunteers, every life lost and every act of violence against volunteer is a tragedy. i have personally met with the
8:27 am
parents of the outstanding volunteer who was murdered in march of 2009. i assured them and their son david at the peace corps the nazis government has united with him in seeking justice for kate. lowest, harry and david have shown incredible strength, and i'm deeply grateful for them to help us improve the way we handled sensitive information and support the families of fallen volunteers. i regret that the peace corps did not do a better job early on in supporting and communicating with them. my staff and i have also met with a number of returned volunteers who share personal expenses of rape and sexual assault. i was like to thank them for their courage in speaking out and for helping us to make needed reforms. have enlightened us to get help us understand the lasting damage suffered by victims of crime. we do not want this experience is repeated.
8:28 am
the peace corps of today takes the issue of sexual assault, prevention and response seriously, we are dedicated to providing compassionate victim centered support. since i became director in august 2009, the peace corps is put in place new policies and practices to reduce the risk faced by volunteers and to ensure they receive our full support when a tragedy occurs. me tell you a little about the things we have done. we've issued peace corps subeditor sexual assault victims instead of corps principle to assure we provide timely effective and compassionate support to victims of sexual assault. we them the minute and train our staff on new guidelines for responding to rape and sexual assault, the guidelines are victim centered with specific procedures that all of our staff around the world have to follow to respond probably, provide the best possible support. the agency sexual assault working group is developing a comprehensive sexual assault prevention response program. this group by the way includes
8:29 am
returned volunteers, survivors of rape and sexual assault, as well as our staff which has expertise in response. since last june we've been developing comprehensive new training for volunteers before and during their service and sexual assault prevention and response. we will be rolling this out this summer. we have signed a memorandum of understanding with the rainn, the nation's largest organization on battling, combating sexual violence. that is going to be a very important part of our response. also at the response of the brave women of first response action i heard it nationally recognized leader a victims rights to be our first agencies victim advocate. she's here with me today. she will make sure that victims of crime get emotional, medical and legal end of the support they need. at the suggestion of congressman poe, and thank you, sir for your suggestion, i create a peace corps volunteer sexual assault panel made up of outside experts
8:30 am
and returned volunteers who were victims of sexual assault to help us design and implement our sexual assault and risk reduction response strategy. madam chairman, we are committed to reform agenda. we've improve the agencies global safety integrity program by working to implement the recommendations by our inspector general that was made in 2010. i believe these reforms will better protect our volunteers around the world. more needs to be done, and i look forward to working with you and others to ensure the continued success of our volunteers. their willingness to serve our country is an inspiration. thank you very much and i look forward to the questions you might have. >> thank you very much, mr. williams. we thank you for your service. ..
8:31 am
>> they're treated far more, in a far more serious vein than before. not a perfect comparison, but as it relates to the peace corps, i was just jotting down what we've with heard from the victims, um, and the, the common denominator is to change the focus from a culture of blaming the victim to not blaming the victim. so i'm curious to hear about how you are shifting -- not you as a person, but the culture to the peace corps and the folks that you have in country, to shift their focus to blaming the victim and trying to downgrade the crime -- and it is a crime -- to be more supportive
8:32 am
and helping the victim to report the crime, making it easier to report the crime and not blaming the victim. and some of the notes that i was taking down, training for in-country personnel on how to respond to sexual assault survivors. the doctors that you have in country, that they need training in postrape exams so that they get the evidence that they need in order to present the case in court. needing advocates in d.c. and throughout, in different cities of people who understand what the survivors are going through. worker's compensation deadlines to eliminate that deadline, peace corps should facilitate interaction among assault victims instead of trying to separate them or down play the crime that has been perpetrated against them. having whistleblower and training procedures in place. also many of the survivors
8:33 am
shared with us either verbally or in their written statement, talked a lot about the training video that is still being played and whether that is adequate, that really focuses on the problem or whether it's still blaming the victim and trying to make it sound like they might be the ones responsible for the crime. also reporting and making that reporting public which has been a very important part of the college campus change in their culture, is mandating through legislation that they have to report the crimes that are committed on campus. where are those unsafe places? is the peace corps reevaluating where volunteers are placed? and also the annual volunteer survey, if that is shared with others so we know are where the sexual assaults are taking place. so i would just share those with you, and perhaps you could
8:34 am
discuss how that, how that blaming the victim more than anything else is changing in the peace corps. and the country selection, whether we are making sure that we have evacuation procedures in place to get those victims out of, out of harm's way. so, um, let me ask you the following questions. the peace corps is summit to the fife- subject to the five-year employment year which effects the tenures of hires including regional hires, country desk officers, etc. , and the gl noted, quote, one factor that may contribute to the peace corps' difficulty in implementing safety and security policies is turnover among key managers. do you think that this five-year rule makes it more difficult for the peace corps to protect its volunteers? would you support legislation eliminating this, this five-year
8:35 am
rule? >> thank you, madam chairman. regarding the five-year rule, it was put in place of course, by the legendary sargent shriver in order to make sure the peace corps had a continual flow of flesh blood, return volunteers from the field to help design and continue to implement peace corps' programs worldwide. i think there's always a need for fresh blood in any organization, especially, i think, in terms of an agency that focuses on young people around the world volunteering. but at the same time i'm more than willing to entertain the aspects of the five-year rule that might have a direct bearing on our safety and security. >> thank you so much. in response to the survivors' testimony, the agency's frequently asked questions bro sure of safety and support assures, quote, volunteers can expect to receive extensive support as it relates to their safety, medical and psychological care, legal options and continued service
8:36 am
with the peace corps, end quote. however, the testimony presented to this committee and testimony that i have gotten since we've posted this hearing indicated that volunteers in general are inadequately trained on sexual assault issues, are often placed in dangerous situations that the agency's in-country response frequently fails to meet the survivors' need, that upon return to the u.s. volunteers often receive hostile rather than supportive treatment and that institutional obstacles often prevent sur siefers -- survivors from receiving long-term care. how do you explain the discrepancy between the bro sure, the video and what has been presented before us. >> madam chairman, there is no doubt that what these courageous women have done has opened our's ice to a problem --ize to a
8:37 am
problem we need to correct. i'm going to replace the video immediately because i've listened very carefully to victims and their view of the video. we have been over the past few months designing a revamped training program, and so we're going to have state of the art. one of the, i think, important things that we're doing right now is the fact we're going to be listening and working closely with r.a.i.n., a preeminent organization. i was listening carefully to the testimony this morning. i think she's provided a road map, if you will, of things we immediate to follow as we move forward to revamp the peace corps. rest assured that this type of thing will not continue in the peace corps today. >> i thank you so much for your attitude, and i am very confident that those changes will take place. thank you, mr. williams. mr. berman. >> thank you, madam chairman.
8:38 am
i'd like to continue down the line that the chairman started in terms of some of the specific suggestions. one, when one reads the e-mail -- or not reads because i didn't, but listens to the show and heard ms. puzzi talk about the e-mail from her daughter to the country director, my -- i reached the conclusion that unless there's something i don't know, such a high level of recklessness to allow the perpetrator's brother to somehow have access to it, it's almost beyond comprehension. because that was a sophisticated e-mail that warned of the dangers. it laid out a road map of what not, should not happen, and it
8:39 am
seems to have been ignored unless, again, there are facts i don't know. whistleblower protection, in that case, i think, means two things. one, as a general principle, no retaliation against the victims who are, who are filing complaints regarding what happened. but secondly, the issue of confidentiality. and is that something that through practices or legislation you could support? >> thank you, congressman berman. without a doubt, we would be open to looking at legislation that can strengthen the peace corps in terms of providing enhanced safety and security for our volunteers, no doubt about it. i'm prepared to sit down with any member of this committee or anywhere else in the congress and discuss this. we have already been engaged in
8:40 am
conversations with senator isaacson -- >> you're open to a legislative approach to deal with the institutionalization of the reforms that you are embarking upon? is. >> yes, sir, i am. because referring back to the question from madam chairman, the five-year rule is an issue, obviously, that we need to take a look at. and so to the extent that we can codify these important best practices policies, that's no doubt something we need to give serious consideration to, working in conjunction with the congress. >> second issue, this issue of the role of the peace corps with the victim who is separated from the peace corps in terms of, very specifically, the worker's comp situation. there's issues of ongoing medical attention, counseling, other benefits under the law. going through that is not such an easy process in terms of the forms and the procedures for
8:41 am
utilizing the worker's comp system to get compensation for those costs. am i -- i was led to believe from the testimony the peace corps sort of eliminates its involvement once the volunteer has separated. why does that have to be? >> congressman, i think you're absolutely right. we need to take a serious look at that in terms of our ongoing support for members of the peace corps family. just because a volunteer has been separated from official service doesn't mean there's not an ongoing need for care and support, and i want to work out an arrangement whereby we can do that. one of the things i've asked my new victims' advocate is to sit down with me and the department of labor to see how we can coordinate to provide better support to volunteers so they won't have to navigate the bureaucracy on their own. i think they deserve that, and i'm prepared to look into how we
8:42 am
can do that in an efficient way. >> a third, another suggestion i heard coming from the testimony was while what you've done in terms of the advocate in washington is a very important first step, at least until the training has so taken hold that each country team can provide those services on their own, isn't there a logic in having some group of roving advocates who can go on site and make sure that the best practices are, in fact, being implemented? >> i think that is a good management practice across the board in many of our operations, and certainly i want to, certainly, entertain that and determine how we can best move forward. i think it's an excellent idea. >> thank you very much, and i do appreciate your openness to legislation because i do think a pretty compelling case has been made that it's important for us
8:43 am
to institutionalize this and, obviously, we want to get your reactions as we go along to the work about of what we're talking about. >> thank you very much. because we want to cooperate to the extent we can with the members of this committee. thank you. >> thank you so much. judge poe. >> thank you, madam chair. mr. williams, good to see you again. thank you for coming by and letting us vet this issue and your response. i believe we have about six, eight weeks we're going to meet again on some of the things we talked about earlier. but i look at this, this issue as a human rights issue. you know, america, we are the human rights country. we go throughout the world promoting human rights in a whole bunch of ways. and i think it is important, though, that we return and focus on the human rights of americans that go abroad in the peace corps. and thank you for your service in the peace corps. that's a great organization.
8:44 am
i don't want to see it disappear. i think we ought to, you know, encourage it, make it better. i see this issue as kind of several parts. first, when a crime's committed, we have the victim. and then we have the peace corps response which is what we're going to work on legislatively, i hope. but also the peace corps response must, i think, include two other avenues that haven't been talked about today, and that is the peace corps' interaction with the country that the victim was in. and what is their response? how are they going to deal with this crime committed in their country? and then, lastly, the perpetrator. there is a criminal involved in these criminal actions, and how do we see our interaction with some foreign country going after the outlaw that committed this crime? and so those are the things that
8:45 am
we need to work on. we don't have time to verbalize those now, but i would hope as we proceed with legislation, with your help and r.a.i.r. and all of the victims that are here that we can figure out a way to make the country that we are trying to help, these angels are helping, be responsive to the crime that was committed in their country as well, and i just hear some short comments on you on that issue if you care to make 'em. >> thank you, congressman poe. and thank you, also, for the care and concern you have for the peace corps. you've supported the peace corps, and i have appreciated our conversations. we'll follow up, as you say, in a few weeks to continue that. regarding care of victim, this is going to be first and foremost in our response. we're going to make sure that it's a victim-centered approach. we're going to be compassionate. all of our medical personnel have been trained in how to work with victims of sexual assault. and it's not just going to be at the country or the post, it's going to be a continuum when
8:46 am
they return back to the united states, and it's a team effort. we're all going to make sure all of our staff, our senior management is focused on this. we are committed to making this changing the culture that these courageous people have encountered in the past. we're going to change that. regarding the host country, the host countries around the world, as you know so well, want the peace corps to stay there. and so we find in working with the country team w the ambassador, with the regional security officer, each of the embassies that the cooperation we get from local law enforcement has been very good. they're very interested in finding the perpetrator, the criminal who attacked a peace corps volunteer no matter what the type of attack is, and we've seen a lot of good cooperation from them working with our local safety and security coordinator in each of our countries. and that will continue to be the case, and we'll do everything we can to pursue that. but, again, it's also something that the ambassador or the u.s. ambassador also has been very,
8:47 am
very -- in just about any country that you can think of where we've had issues, they have been determined and have been a willing ally in this fight, sir. >> okay. i'm going to yield back the remainder of my time. >> thank you, sir. mr. payne. >> thank you very much, madam chair, for calling this very important hearing. and let me welcome you, mr. director williams. it's good to see you again. i appreciated the meeting we had early on when you took over the responsibilities as the head of the peace corps. as i've indicated, i think it's one of the greatest organizations that the u.s. back in the early '60s created, and i think they really do an outstanding job, and i think that this year rather than having this kind of hearing, unfortunately, we should be really celebrating the 50th anniversary of the peace corps. and, hopefully, we can really come up with the corrective work
8:48 am
that we can deal with the problems and, once again, highlight the great achievements that the peace corps have made. i visit many developing countries, and one of the first things that's asked if they don't have a peace corps is can you send in the peace corps. and the u.s. ambassadors and the heads of countries, many of them -- as a matter of fact, many of the leaders of countries today had experience with the peace corps. they either learned english at a peace corps school, and they really want the peace corps there. so i know that the problem is not with the host countries, but there has to be better, better coordination between the host country and the peace corps. as i mentioned before, i've been to the graduation ceremonies after new peace corps members come, usually a whole group. those who determine they're
8:49 am
staying and usually 98% of them go through the training, and they have their celebration and their graduation. i've spoken at a number of those in be sub-saharan africa in particular. so i have a very strong feel for the peace corps and what you've done. i wonder this, number one, if -- in certain countries sexual assault is, is more prominent than in other countries as we know. they're all different. is there any special kind of precautions or inculcation with the volunteers to assess them of the fact that culturally in some places sexual assault has not been prosecuted by that country? have, does that come into play, and do you do anything special
8:50 am
in those areas? >> thank you, congressman payne. and thank you, sir, for your historic support of the peace corps. i know you take every opportunity to visit our volunteers and to learn what they're doing. i think that we have seen very -- we've had very good success in host countries in the following -- finding the perpetrators of these crimes and prosecuting them. because, again, this is crucial to them because, as you know, they want the peace corps to remain in their country. so when there is a crime committed against a volunteer, we have had very good cooperation from local authorities. and the other thing is that we make sure when a victim has made a decision to pursue this with local authorities, that the victim is accompanied and supported by the peace corps every step of the way. but we have seen good support from local authorities, sir. >> thank you. now, there's -- i know you have a $26 million budget cut coming
8:51 am
up in this fiscal budget, and the programs that you're trying to put in, is there any way you can preserve the protection for the peace, some of these new initiatives we're trying in spite of the cuts that you're going to, evidently, receive. could you insure that you still work on these issues that have been raised here today? >> we, i'm committed to making sure that whatever resources are provided by the congress, whatever level of budget we have we're not going to compromise on the health, safety and security of our volunteers. we might not be able to go into a new country, might not have as many volunteers expanding in certain countries, but what's first and foremost for us is the health, safety and security of our volunteers. we're going to use every dime we have to make sure we support
8:52 am
that. >> just finally, as you know, we've talked about the death of our volunteer, kathy, certainly concerns us all. and while we're waiting for the final report of her investigation, we have great concern for the safety of peace corps volunteers who report violations of other peace corpses workers. can you lay out what protections are in place to insure volunteers are protected so that we don't have a similar situation occur? >> yes, sir. thank you. um, we want to be sure that we protect the confidentiality of any information that any volunteer provides to our staff. so we have trained overseas staff in the how to respond appropriately when volunteers bring allegations of wrongdoing to their attention. this policy which dates to early 2009 requires any staff member who receives or has knowledge of
8:53 am
a volunteer's allegation to treat the allegation with utmost discretion and confidentiality, to take appropriate measures to insure the volunteer's safety, and to insure that the allegation's given serious consideration including referral to our inspector general. that's our policy, and more than the policy, that's the way we're implementing this, and we're going to provide oversight. i've traveled to ten countries in the past year and a half as i've been director, and my senior staff travels extensively. these are the kinds of questions and concerns we express and look into deeply when we do that. not only do we have a policy we're going to implement, we're going to follow up and provide oversight. >> thank you. >> thank you. ms. burkle. >> thank you, madam chairman, and thank you, mr. williams, for being here this morning and giving us this opportunity to question and, also, for your willingness to sit through the very difficult testimonies we heard earlier. i have several questions. i'd like to begin by both the
8:54 am
bush administration and the obama administration have encouraged and talked about doubling the number of peace corps volunteers. do you think that given what has gone on and what doesn't seem to be under control at this point, that that would be a prudent objective for the peace corps? >> i think that right now we are in 77 countries, congresswoman, and that is, that is a very effective footprint worldwide. i believe that we could grow and still manage our responsibilities in a very sound way because we are going to take the reforms, we're going to implement those reforms, and we're going to get the best possible expertise that we can bring to bear to help manage this as we go guard. i'm confident we could continue to grow, but all of this is, of course, going to be dependent on our budget. >> you talked about training for the volunteers, and that's not been been implemented yet.
8:55 am
when do you expect that will be implemented? >> we're in the final stages of finalizing the new training. we're going to start rolling it out this summer, so, you know, in a couple of months we'll roll it out. and also we want to listen very carefully to our leagues at rainn because it's important to train, first of all, our staff, but also -- just as important -- the volunteers so we have an effective dialogue between staff and volunteers as we move forward. >> could you, please, let us know when that begins to roll out and keep us informed as to the progress of that? >> i certainly will. i'll be happy to do that. thank you for the question. >> we heard testimony this morning and specifically in the instance of kate, she was in an area, a remote area that didn't have internet or phones. how do you, how will you address that going forward so that these volunteers have a safety net, that they can have some mean of communicating any danger that they might feel? >> one of the things that we, that is our goal when we place
8:56 am
any volunteer at a site is to make sure they're place inside a community setting where, in fact, they're not going to be alone per se. they have counterparts they see every day whether they're health care workers or teachers, there's host families, we work with local law enforcement, we take careful attention, we pay careful attention to site selection. there's supervision by our staff and headquarters. also we listen very carefully to the volunteers. there's something we have in peace corps which we didn't have when i was a volunteer which i think is a wonderful new arrangement called an advisory committee. and they provide information and oversight, in many ways, to staff. i meet with them when i travel, and so we take a lot, spend a lot of time thinking about site selection. at the same time, if a volunteer feels unsafe, if he or she feels that this is not a safe setting, i want my staff to take immediate action to look for other places for the volunteer to work because we have other
8:57 am
sites in all the countries where we work. there's no need for one of our volunteers to feel unsafe in a situation. we have to listen to the volunteers. >> and so can you tell us what changes have been made? because we heard from a panel this morning that when they expressed their concerns to their superiors, they were ignored. >> well, i think, first of all, that we have established a policy of listening to volunteers. i've asked my, the regional managers for africa, asia, latin america to carry out these policies to make sure we provide oversight. i listen to the volunteer advisory committees, a very important source of information because they represent the volunteers. they're elected by the volunteers. and they are not shy about providing me we mails and calls to tell me about things that they believe need to be changed. so we're going to listen to the volunteers. if a volunteer feels unsafe, we have to take action. >> and so that makes the whistleblowers' provisions and concerns, that makes that even
8:58 am
more important that time is of the essence so that we can protect whistleblowers and protect those who are willing to call your attention to some situation and not feel or fear retaliation. the last piece is we see on the map over here, and we've been provided with those maps that there are areas that are even more unsafe than others. will those areas, will there be enhanced safety procedures, or will it be applied uniformly across the board regardless of the location? >> one of the things that's important to us is that we do not intend to put volunteers in unsafe countries. many countries want peace corps to enter their countries, but we have to make sure we have a permissive environment. we work with the ambassador in those countries, the regional security officers, we conduct a full country assessment before we agree to move into any country. and if a country is deemed to be unsafe at any level, we're not going to place volunteers there.
8:59 am
>> thank you. i look forward to working with you. this legislation couldn't be more important, and i think time is of the essence, so thank you very much for being here. >> thank you. and i look forward to working with you and your staff also. >> thank you. thank you, madam chair. >> thank you. mr. smith. >> thank you very much, madam chair. and, again, thank you for calling this extraordinarily timely hearing because i think it will get results. sometimes nobody pays attention, this one will, so thank you. let me just ask you, mr. williams, you said there's good cooperation with local authorities when there's an allegation made. you mentioned that these countries are, quote, very interested, closed quote, in tracking down the perpetrator. could you define exactly what that means? for example, how many arrests are have occurred? how many convictions have occurred as a result of rapes of peace corps volunteers? what, if anything, was required of our peace corps volunteer as that court case went forward? and i mean be very, very specific because one of the things we've learned with

130 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on