tv Politics and Public Policy Today CSPAN January 8, 2016 1:00pm-3:01pm EST
working with afghans to improve their lives through agriculture and economic development programs. we've reached 2.5 million afghans in trying to help improve their livelihoods and security including food security. we work in the north and the east and the south of afghanistan including kandahar, helmand and kunduz. and we use what's called a community acceptance model of security and community mobilization implementation approach which is development speak for we work closely with communities to make sure that we're hearing their needs and working on the projects they think will improve their lives. it's also working with communities -- security or helps ensure that we're able to be safe and work in some difficult and challenging environments. so i agree with vanda's assessment.
the economy has been taken a downward turn over the last couple years in afghanistan and jobs and unemployment have -- jobs have decreased and unemployment has increased significantly and it's increasing the drive for afghans to make a difficult decision to decide if they want to stay in afghanistan or travel to europe or other locations. and some of this stems from a lot of the levels -- the numbers of millions of afghans living below the poverty line and the thought and feelings that the economy isn't getting better with security being so difficult investment climate is difficult in afghanistan right now so we're seeing another wave of human migration of afghans. until last year, 2014, afghans were the largest global refugee population. the syrian refugee crisis has now put syria in the lead of the
number of refugees around the world but that's 10% of the afghans' population is a refugee and they're about 50,000 afghan refugees in europe last year which i think is close to the second or third number of displaced people that have moved to europe from other countries and one of the things that we'd like to focus on is not just refugees that are the problem. one of our afghan staff made a poignant point that it's the rich people that can move to europe which we don't normally think of refugees as being wealthy and most going to europe are not but relative to those in afghanistan and have become what's called earnly displaced, or idp, the situation of idps within afghanistan is difficult. children are not in school when they've been displaced and have to move and we're looking at one
in 30 afghans is internally displaced and most of that displacement is caused by conflict but as you know afghanistan is a country prone to natural disasters so we'll see spikes in conflict-related displacements as well as natural disaster hits people are forced to flee to other parts of the country so just sort of an example of this, there's an increase in idps. we have a vocational and training program that kandahar and it's supposed to help refugees from pakistan who are returning to afghanistan, help them get back up on their feet again but we're seeing more need and more idps knocking on the door saying we need help, we need jobs. and we're seeing more applicants for these position that have higher literacy levels than average. literacy levels are very high in southern afghanistan in the first place but it speaks to the
situation of the economy when you have folks who have gotten levels of education coming back and trying to get vocational training and secure a job in this sort of increasing pressure cooker that afghans are feeling where they've -- they have less job opportunities and don't see a hope for a lot of job opportunities so while we see this massive flow of afghans both externally and then also internal internally it sounds like a humanitarian crisis and that's what's on the newspapers. but we ngos would agree that we're looking at a long-term development crisis. people are leaving because they don't see there's possibilities within their communities. and with idps we see a lot of rural internally displaced people moving from rural areas into urban centers and something
we'll see is this change shift to urbanization including large pockets of poverty within urban centers where we have folks fleeing from the country side trying to make a wage within cities so we'd argue and push for in afghanistan and donor capitals around the world for sustainable solutions for all of afghan bus for displaced afghanistan. we need to pay more attention not less on the systemic problems which is making afghanistan an unattractive police for young people to live and grow up and work and some underlying issues, even if we had security fixed 100% tomorrow, knock on wood, god willing, if security was fakesed we'd face three major development challenges that need to be addressed for afghans to be able to have development and
further prosperity and that would be addressing, one, depleading the -- working on addressing the depletion of natural resource base. droughts in afghanistan are increasing, there's land erosion, bad land management making it harder for people to stay on their farms and earn a living and feed their families i would recommend for folks interested in this, there was a summary put forth in the paris climate talks of what afghanistan is facing, so looking again the droughts and how we do sustainable development in the more agricultural areas of the country. so addressing the t depletion of natural resource base and recognizing the afghan population will double by 2030 so we have a youth bulge, high unemployment and need to think about creative way to get jobs and deal with the security insecurity that will increase with the growing number of afghans and lastly something if
you talk to your average afghan is the frustration and annoyance with chronic energy problems that hamstring economic development and make life more difficult on a daily basis for afghans depending on if you're in rural areas, but the rural areas, it's some of the worst saturation of electricity in the world which makes it hard to study if you're a child trying to go to school so something mercy corps and other ngos are looking at is how to address these issues. how to support afghans if-to-support their goal and quest to develop their country further. we spend a lot of time, working on technical and vocational training. we had a program in helmand that trained over 22,000 men and women in helmand and it's something important because i know we'll get a question about why are we throwing more money at afghanistan, it's a black hole pit of money but if we do development right, get this right and go back to basically development best practices and
working with communities and not just throwing money at a problem but looking at sustainability that means you can charge more for people participating in vocational training. pay your dues to keep these technical training centers open past when donor dollars are there. you want to work closely with the government ministry to make sure you have the right curriculum. and most important, we need to take a market-based approached to interventions so so don't just train somebody in handy crafts or weaving. it's what does the market need? so you a market assessment and say there aren't enough cell phone repair folks. everyone in afghanistan has cell phones. how do we fix that? should we train folks in motorcycle repair activities? you make sure, okay, there's a gab in employment in these areas and you train to fill that gap to so people can have a job and don't have the expectation going in spending their time and money training and coming out on the
other end without a job. that would be even more frustrating so looking at that market-based assessment is important and what this means for real afghans and people working and benefitting from these programs is we had one female beneficiary who came from the west of afghanistan about four years ago and she's gone through our training program in kandahar and within just a couple months is now having a living wage and able to support her family. she's married to -- bringing in more money sometimes than her husband which is kind of exciting. and be able to support her family and she doesn't want to return back to where she is so she's been resettled and you can do that through smart economic development activities. looking at the energy sector, again, very marginal access to electricity in the rural areas. one of the reasons mercy corps -- and we'd encourage others to pay attention -- is that economic development and electricity are intertwined and there's been a lot of talk about
pipelines and things along those lines that are developing, broader grid systems in afghanistan but we're just real pleased that the afghan government i think in october or november adopted an afghanistan renewable energy policy which calls for by 2032 that 95% of its energy comes from renewable sources. so that pushes for innovative programs and creates more job opportunities and helps get people plugged up to leg tristy. we've started working with a university in helmand which we selected through a competitive process and we piloted with them to get what's called a pv system to reduce reliance on diesel energy. so while the price of gas is low here, it's incredible expensive if you're making $4 a day to spend $1 a day at your house or university. so with savings avoided, the university will pay back their cost to mercy corps so that we
can invest and do similar projects and create a virtuous loop inn cycle of investment and while the investment opportunity in afghanistan may not be on the top of your favorite wall street banker, there is some openness and could be some interesting opportunities for sort of social impact investing to help increase both the livelihoods and development goals for afghans. and, again, i'd -- i'm sure we'll get a question on why throw good money after bad but to remember in afghanistan and from the ngo perspective and having been there for several decades we recognize that with the dumping of billions of dollars into development programs, there have been a lot of mistakes. and one thing our team has looked at and seen is that people need to get their roles straight. there's a role for the government, a role for the private sector that needs to be
fosters and a role for the ngos to reach the last mile, help the most vulnerable. help those suffering from ptsd. we talk a lot about syrians and the no loss generation and how we can help afghans -- excuse me syrians with post-traumatic stress. afghans have been at war for decades and this toll is a serious toll on people's psyche so where can ngos play a role? how do we build up the capacity of other service providers to make sure to have a sustainable transition? so ten years from now we're not talking about the underdevelopment of afghanistan but that we've seen actual strides being made towards more sustainable development and not have to have afghans make a difficult choice of deciding if they want to stay in their country with no job and insecurity or having to migrate which can be a dangerous trip. so thank you. >> thank you, anne. we join you in thank youing your colleagues and all of the folks who work for mercy corps and different ngos who have been so
dedicated in afghanistan, not least doctors without border. jason cohn is the executive director of doctors without border in the united states. ji son, to you. >> thanks, mike, and thanks for having us. doctors without borders works in about 70 countries worldwide. we're an international medical humanitarian organization. we've worked in afghanistan starting in 1980 through 2004 and in 2004 five of our staff were assassinated and we left the country for five years, returning in 2009. i think, as many of you know, one of our trauma hospitals in kunduz province was bombed by u.s. forces on october 3, that led to the death of 42 of our staff and patients. at the time of the bombing we had shared our coordinates with the u.s. nato and afghan forces. the gps coordinates. we'd also worked in that hospital for four years and it was a well-known structure.
and general campbell after the u.s. investigation into the bombing acknowledged that we, in fact, were on the no-strike list in the u.s. military system. so this panel comes at a time where we're incredibly concerned about the deteriorating security situation for which vanda has talked a lot about. we operate hospitals in helmand specifically in lash a gar province and kabul. and those facilities treat about 26,000 -- sorry, 16,000 people a month, admitting people and about 2, 700 deliveries of newborns. as we've heard from vanda, the security situation deteriorated in kunduz. at the time of the bombing in the hospital we had treated over 100 war wounded in that facility, the situation remains quite difficult in helmand province where we have teams in
lash a gar working in a hospital there as well. what we've seen and i think what has been outlined quite clearly by vanda is there's growing deterioration over the last two years in terms of security in contested areas. this increased conflict has heightened the lack of public services, in particular health services to populations in rural areas, particularly those in those contested areas i was just talking about. and so in 2014 as the drawdown has begun, we had issues an access to health care survey that had conducted a number of provinces where we're working and having been in touch with my teams the feeling the s the figures remain relevant if not the situation quite worse so we revealed that, in fact, 1 in 5 of the patients we interviewed had a family member or close friend who died due to lack of access to health care so you had people unable to reach health
care and were dying as a result. and for those who reached our hospitals in the four locations that i mentioned 40% of those patients faced real challenges in terms of fighting, land mines, checkpoints, being harassed on their journey to reach the hospital. our testimony also exposed a wide gap between health care, the health care services that existed on paper and those that actually were functioning in the areas that they were and that -- i think some of those findings have been reinforced by the special inspector general for the afghan reconstruction where you find that there have been hospitals that have been developed over the years for which the gps coordinates for those facilities didn't match anywhere. in fact, some of them weren't even in afghanistan. one of the three main barriers that we found that resulted in the death of some of these patients were lack of money. particularly access to both private and public health
structures, the long distances people had to travel and the impact of the armed conflict that is on going in the country, a lot of the patients bypass their closest public health facility. during a recent illness because they didn't have the confidence that that facility had the supplies that were needed that could have been based on past experience and those facilities and for those who managed to reach a health facilities, various obstacles had to be overcome and the main obstacle for one and two of our patients was related to the conflict. so i think it just illustrates and we can see this again in places like helmand and kunduz where the situation is obviously probably just deteriorated that much more. and with the bombings of our facilities and the destruction of our hospital in kunduz we see that there's no access to surgical trauma care, they have to go to places like mazar shariff, there are about 300,000
people that have lost access to health care, it remains to be seen what happens in the coming weeks with the intense fighting in helmand province. we not a lot of areas have been taken over by armed opposition groups and we now how difficult it has been to provide health services in those areas, not just for msf but other organizations as well. cost remains to be a huge barrier for patients. two in five people have been forced to borrow money or sell goods to obtain health care during recent illness. there's about 44% of the patients and just overall findings sort of quality of care in these facilities has been quite challenging. as i said, those have been reinforced by other studies as well. so we here in a situation i think here particularly in the last couple months as has been outlined as well by vanda and you see the chronic issues ann has talked about from an economic standpoint. this context of escalating violence and armed groups, not
just the taliban but other groups that are involved and heavy fighting between government and international forces. it's all the more important that humanitarian organizations, i think, provide impartial assistance and that arms group respect the basic rules of war. i think there's been a lot of challenges with respect to the blending of both humanitarian aid and development programs since the real intervention started after 2002, 2001, after bombings and the engagement there is. this blending of efforts that are meant to stabilize the country, so to speak and support the afghan government that provides assistance to areas not controlled by the government. those services are not trusted by the opposition forces so -- and we have offices -- i eluded to the bombing of our hospital in cube dues, we have serious concerns about the use of force by coalition forces in
afghanistan and for that matter of coalitions operating in places like yucatan peninsula and syria as well. in terms of what decisions and who processes are being followed to distinguish between civilian and military targets. and as there's an expanded footprint of unconventional forces, special forces in many different places, both afghanistan and elsewhere, i think there will be questions and challenges for humanitarian organizations operating in areas that are front lines in terms of the rules of engagements that are applied in those areas, particularly when they're calling in air strikes that's an ongoing concern for us not just in kunduz, we have those similar concerns as well in the lashkagar area as fighting intensifies around the city. i think it's critical and we said this a lot since the bombing, it's critical for all armed groups to understand that treatment of the wounded is not providing materiel support to the enemy. this is the responsibility of health care workers under the laws of war and it must be
respected by all parties of the conflict. that's the basics of 101 geneva conventions you should international humanitarian laws, medical facilities retain protected status as long as they're exclooursively devoted to the care of the wounded and sick. so the laws of war bind both sides. they make it responsible that armed groups have to respect the sanctity of those facilities, not enter them with weapons, something we enforce not just in our facilities in afghanistan but around the world and it makes it incumbent on the health care workers to make sure they treat everyone based on need and based on their medical needs alone not because of their political or religious affiliation. so with the deteriorating security conditions it underscores the need again for humanitarian organizations, i think, to get back to basics in terms of reinforcing impartial and independent access to care. it's going to be very important in the coming year if not years and this is not only important for their security on the ground, i know it's incredibly important for our teams on the
ground but also for their capacity to provide assistance and care across the front lines not only in government-controlled areas but other parts of the country and it's really critical as we see in the next year of the ability to access victims of the conflict we know will be found not just in those capitals where there are islands of assistance that we see in afghanistan but across the front lines where there are armed oppositions and other forces in heavy fighting. >> jason, thank you very much. i'm going to turn things over to you now, jay. i know there's a lot to respond to. just to set the context, of course, we have had this terrible tragedy and general campbell has taken responsibility and clearly there's an on going investigation as well. we have a situation where u.s. and nato military personnel have been trying perhaps harder than any previous war in history to be care informal the use of force and it was a controversy at the time when general skre mcchrystal stepped down and
general petraeus replaced him. people questioned whether mcchrystal had put too many restrictions on the use of force by nato personnel. not, obviously in the context of a hospital but when they could fire at a location where taliban were suspected. how do you look at the overall conflict from a tactical perspective of kunduz and what might have happened there and these tradeoffs but more broadly the state of the war in afghanistan. >> thanks, mike. first, good morning to everybody. i have to thank jason because i think he may have felt sorry to me because all the discussion prior to this was development and things outside the military and otherwise my purpose would be pointless. i have to say first off i'm a fellow here, not representing anybody in the department of defense in any other capacity other than i'm an active duty officer so these thoughts are mine. i've had free license to kind of think intellectually which is also a bit of a misnomer because i'm a marine. [ laughter ] but with respect to some of these issues that have been
brought up, afghanistan represents a lot of different challenges, particularly from a military perspective but it's not unlike a lot of areas we operate in today across the spectrum because the challenge of the ungoverned spaces makes it difficult to applies the laws of armed conflict, to apply to the geneva convention, when you have a set of challenges that don't necessarily fit the conventional state-on-state actor type of scenario we're familiar with throughout history. but in cases like that kunduz strike i can tell you from a firsthand experience that, a, it's very, very unfortunate and thoughts and prayers go out to those were victims of that but i can also say that it was almost unkw u unequivocally not intentional. as air crew, one of the first things we consider is collateral damage that's going to happen. again, not being an apologist, i can tell you when a lot of people refer to the fog of war
but i'll say the fog of chaos and going back to that ungoverned space. when things are very ill-defined it's very difficult in the spur of the moment to decide to act in the manner that will have such finality as an example, when i was in afghanistan -- and my information is dated because i was there in 2010 -- i had dual responsibilities, one being a planner and the other being combat air crew and the one strike i participated in in 2010 took two and a half hours. so for people who think these things happen without thought or preparation, i will tell you that you're mistaken or misguided. in this particular case it was looking for one individual and the information that was coming in was from a variety of different sources in disparate places so you have to decide what information is correct and accurate, what is incorrect. i won't do into kunduz because i don't know enough about it. but i will say general campbell
has probably spoken the most directly and said it was a mistake and there were errors, both human and mechanical. but, again, it goes back to when you're relying on human beings to make decisions like this we are -- depending on who you talk to or deal with, we're beings of organization. we don't thrive well in chaos, so when there's lack of clarity as to what's happening it makes it difficult to make the right decisions sometimes. the situation in afghanistan i can say i'm ambivalent. and not to be cruel or callous, i don't know what to expect. a question was asked earlier do i feel good about afghanistan or bad? i don't feel either because it's a chaotic situation and there has to be some type of order that comes out of that chaos. the combination of having non-governmental organizations and international community showing an interest in afghanistan is promising. the problem is there has to be a buy-in from afghanistan and in
situations where you have the afghan national security forces and afghan national police responsible for providing stability and security, you have to question how much buy in the afghan people will have. if they don't feel safe, they won't buy into these things and they'll take the services provided by by various non-governmental organizations at face value -- it's here today, it could be gone tomorrow. that doesn't provide them any impetus whatsoever to provide information when someone who is there under otherwise nefarious circumstances is in their midst. so you find things where you have a bad strike. and all that information is just not known. and hopefully -- i kind of demonstrated with the one strike that i participated in that all the information isn't available until after the fact. so one of the things i feel is incumbent upon any military organization when they go into this area of ungoverned space is they need to find out who's out there doing the work. until i was a mid-level officer, i knew very little about
non-governmental organizations, any job was learn how to fly an f-18 and fly it well. learn how to fly an unmanned aircraft, fly it well. it hasn't been since i was a staff officer that i learned about the vitality and presence of these organizations and what they represent so i guess one of the things i'll close with is that everybody needs to remember that in a place of ungoverned space, stability and security is probably the first thing you need to think about and that's not always a military solution. it's also not the responsibility of non-government organizations to do so, it's the responsibility of the people of the place and what they desire in their future. and before i get into the rambling aspects of it, i'll ask a question back to some of the other participants in this case is when you go into an ungoverned space like that, how often do you put at the top of your priority list to coordinate with those who provide stability and security to hopefully avoid
instances like the kunduz strike or operations or times where mercy corps is not able to go someplace because it's not a safe situation. is there an active dialogue with some of those to provide for those services? >> thank you, che and jason, ann, and vanda, i'll give each of you a chance to respond if you wish to che's very interesting and provocative question and anything else you've heard. i won't try to play any other role at the moment. let's give each person a chance to make a brief response then go to all of you. we'll have a little more than a half hour for your questions. i'll start with ann and work down, please. >> thank you for that, appreciate it. i'd just like to stress that one of the concerns that we have in operating in ungoverned spaces as you said is any look -- any per spepgs that we are working at all with the military or security forces could put our staff and beneficiaries at risk
so we have to be careful about open dialogue. i was with usaid in afghanistan in kandahar city from 2011 to 2012 and we would not -- we would push back on the military and say "you cannot roll up to a school, that puts the school at risk, then there's a target on the back of the school." to answer your question, there's a said of guidelines. i think they're actually called guidelines for engagement between security forces and non-governmental organizations. they were bless bid d.o.d., state department and interaction, the umbrella ngo organization that lays out instead of as someone working in kandahar city i won't call or show up at a military base but work through a chain of command so i am not in any way kohl colluding with security forces because that puts my staff and beneficiaries and mission at risk. so that set of guidelines has been something we as a -- the international ngo community has leaned heavily on. it's a bit old, from 2006, i want to say, or 2008, and take a long time to put together but
it's an invaluable pam let to make sure we are not further put at risk by looking like we are engaging with the members of the mail te military. >> jason? >> hababout half of our program are in conflict zones and a big part of our security and risk management is being in touch with combatants and explaining reasons why we're there. in the case of kunduz, when the fighting restarted earlier that week, in the last week of september, we reshared the coordinates of our facilities, kind of reiterated that we were remaining an active civilian hospital in those situations and i think the challenge is that we're seeing more and more kind of coalition forces with a multiplicity of different forces, sometimes either non--state actors or state actors with different chains of
command, different planes flying in different places. we see this in syria, in yemen with the saudi-l.e.ed coalition. two of our facilities were bombed since october in the area. it's a huge concern of the so-called ungoverned spaces of how to retain the safety of humanitarian organizations on the front line, in particular, obviously, the patients. the vast majority of our staff working in these areas are afghans and they're taking incredible risks to do this work and they lost their lives in the case of kunduz but continue to work on the front lines. i know mercy corps you have people in kunduz today so i think it's the constant challenge of security and management of the risks and i would say -- you "gq" about being a marine but we engage a lot with u.s. forces at the different acodmies, probably would like to do more of that to have those debates because i think there are strong and
intellectual and ethical debates about the use of force in the context of the current wars of today and the geneva conventions and that's a real question we have about what rules are being applied i think they pertain not just to u.s. forces but forces around the world in terms of ar r those conventions being adhered to in the context we're living in today with the kinds of conflicts that we have. i think it's important for medical facilities to know whether those rules still apply and one of the challenges we face as much as general campbell has been very aggressive in the investigation of this incident is that today and probably for until we know otherwise we don't know what rules of engagement have been changed or broken in this case so it leaves us with a lot of questions but also the desire for direct dialogue they have to those discussions because they are essential not only in afghanistan but anywhere else humanitarian organizations are operating today in conflict.
>> thank you, vanda? >> so a couple things that came out of that. for those of you familiar with general petraeus he likes to use the term pen tat leet. so we are finding ourselves in spaces that we were not -- i didn't sign up for, if you will. but out of necessity so i have contemporaries that have been mayors of cities in a variety of different places. i'm not a city governments type of a person but what that leads me to say is, ann, you mentioned you tried not to give the appearance of colluding with security forces. first off, security forces are not always military but by virtue of necessity it may be that anybody interested in helping someplace like afghanistan or any other ungoverned space as i call it has to learn to become somewhat a pen tat leet as well in that the singular focus of your organization may not be enough. because in a place like afghanistan or the other places
where we are, there is a need for people to understand that stability and security is not someone else's responsibility. so what i would leave you with is that the association may not always be a bad one. if whoever you're trying to serve is -- their greatest need may seem to be health care or resources but in reality it's the security and stability that can be provided by by someone with their help it might be that your organizations need to think about branching out from the one singular missions that they're there to provide. >> we have a lot on the table and i'm looking forward to your thoughts to -- what i'd like that request is please wait for me to call on, you make for a microphone, identify yourself, ask just one question and if you wish you can target it towards one of the panelists, that would be helpful where possible but not essential. so two questions at a time and the two gentlemen here in rows three and four and we'll respond as a group. >> my name is fred hayward, i
work for university of massachusetts. i've been working in afghanistan for the last seven years with the ministry of higher education. i want to pick up on the point, part a point, part a question, about buy in. i think one of the things you see in the press all the time is the failure of afghans to buy in and i think that's not the case. i mean, i've been working with the ministry of higher education in afghanistan for the last seven years. it's one of the few success stories, probably, fortunately, it hasn't gotten much press but higher education has been transformed in the last five years because people have bought in to making changes in higher education, have put their lives on the line and been threatened in the process of doing that and have gone about their duty in 30 years of war. 40% of the students are suffering from clinical levels of post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health. nonetheless, the system is transformed. i think it's important and i
think ann you seem to understand that there are a lot of afghans everyday putting their life on the line to make the system better and although the problems of corruption and chaos are tremendous, on the other hand they're -- none of the kinds of improvements happen happened. in moving in higher education, for example, from a system where it was the old boy's network on who got hired and promoted to a system in which it's now based on how good you are and similarly accreditation has been put in place and a number of other things. so these are the things that don't make the press because they're not exciting but they've been phenomenal transformations in higher education in afghanistan in the last eight years. >> thank you, not a question but still a worthy comment. >> happy new year to you. i'm the president of the national coalition for the tribes of afghanistan. i'm an african-american.
i work in afghanistan for the last 14 years. i start with you, mr. bolden. i first would like to pay my condolences to the 2,000 plus lives that have been lost in afghanistan from my heart and from the hearts of my tribes i would like to extend that sympathy to you and the government but you always put stability and then security. in afghanistan it's a diverse -- security then stability. the question that our people and the tribes that i represent, they ask and they are very concerned about is what happened to the friendship between afghanistan and the united states of america? why is the united states of america after pushing the government to sign the psa agreement is not doing anything to protect afghanistan against outside invasion of the country. afghanistan is not at war with pakistan.
afghanistan is not at war with iran. afghanistan is not at war with anybody. there's a war, there's a batting being fought by foreign forces, by foreign individuals, by foreign terrorists in afghanistan, using afghanistan as a battlefield and this is what is driving the people of afghanistan out of afghanistan. i want to thank you for your sacrifices, ms. vaughan. i work with the people, every single tribe in afghanistan. my grandfather ruled afghanistan, 36 wives, 62 children and i'm related to every tribe so when i say this my question is why is the united states not doing more to stop pakistan and to -- from interfering in afghanistan. >> i'm going to take one more question since the first was more of a comment. in the front this gentleman. >> thank you. thank you, my name is peter gluck. as i listen to everybody's comments i they wantkying to
myself what you're saying about afghanistan in terms of political corruption, dysfunctional government, economic underdevelopment lack of security, lack of local buy in, you could be saying the same thing about iraq. so my question is this, what does that tell us in the united states about the very limited capacity of an outside government to affect meaningful change in these societies? >> vanda, do you want to begin with the pakistan question and then we can -- if you wish and then we can go to others. >> sure i would like to respond a little bit to the second one as well. the comparison of afghanistan and iraq. i do think there are meaningful differences and that's one of the reasons why the united states should persevere. i was pleased by the president's decision not to reduce troops. i welcome to german decision to in fact increase the number of
troops. nonetheless, both countries highlight -- iraq and afghanistan -- precisely the difficulties of affecting changes in governance and political mind-set and here is where it links also to the questions of pakistan afghans favorite explanation and excuse are pakistan and there is no doubt pakistan has been responsibilitying and continues toport both the haqqani network and the taliban. however, much of the reason why the different armed groups, including the taliban, have so much traction is because of misgovernance by afghan power brokers and politicians, the united states, the international community for broadly has been very ineffective in demanding accountability. the past year being a prime example of a country in dire need. a lot of trends going badly. once again the international community has not been able to refocus afghan politician, not just the government but many on
the outside on focus on governance or else your country is going under and the in fighting -- the political infighting has gone on and i think that involves making some tough decisions of cutting some aid that will be meaningful, we often talk about setting red lines, whether it's in development or the political processes and when the red lines are violated over and over we all say okay, next time along we'll mean it. it's time we start meaning it now for the good of the afghan people. the reason why i would say affidavits and pakistan are different -- sorry, that afghanistan and iraq are different is that as mike said at the beginning, there is buy-in into the afghan army, the afghan army is much more pan afghan and afghan police than iraq. both countries suffered the fractionalization problems, much of the reason why kunduz went
down is because of corruption and political patronage and ethnic politics in appointments of mid-level officers in the province that have gone on for a number of years prior to the fall of this year. but there are more of a sense of cohesion, buy in, much more of a wherewithal to fight and we need to appreciate that and help the afghan military and people to maintain that wherewithal. with respect to pakistan, pakistan has been the most difficult foreign policy nut for the united states to crack over the past decade. the u.s. government has gone through many efforts to kuj l, persuade, appease, pressure pakistan in into behaving differently in afghanistan and it has failed to do so both because president interest in afghanistan continue to be different than ours because of their expectations of what will
happen in afghanistan but because of also pakistan's inability. now, we need to continue working with pakistan both because of our other interests, far more important interests than afghanistan but also crucially because of afghanistan. but we will not be able to radically alter pakistan's behavior and we need to accept that in afghanistan needs to accept that. i think president ghani did accept it and was very cranes you in putting online tremendous -- putting on the table tremendous amount of his political capital, much of it burned in ashes, by the continuing haqqani attacks in reaching out to pakistan. but at the end of the day, knowing pakistan will continue to be difficult and the cold war -- modern cold war between iran and saudi arabia will start impacting afghanistan more and more, afghanistan's politicians needs to focus on governance in
afghanistan and not look abroad as an excuse for all of their problems. >> the first thing i would say is probably -- i've been educated in various places and one of the things they taught us about the power of analogy, they're bad. you can taken a analogy and make it worth whatever you want. the problem is no two places are the same. so to compare iraq and afghanistan, very much like vanda said, it's a difficult correlation. and, sir, to your point, i can't speak to policy. i'm a tool of policy, not a policymaker. however, what vanda was pointing at, one of the issues that i see from my perspective is you have to have a cohesive effort of governance in order to make a stand against something like infiltration in that manner. you mentioned -- and i'm falling into this mirror imaging trap myself. you said you represent a number of different tribes. but different tribes have different interests, afghanistan
a nation -- okay. i didn't say there was a problem between the tribes. >> afghanistan has been in existence for 5,000 years. in middle eastern countries you have got problems -- >> sir, i'm going to end this because for one thing there's no microphone to pick up your verier you diet thoughts so the audience at home will be frustrated but let's move to jason and ann. i want to have time for more rounds. anything you want to do by way of comparison, i know you operate in a number of areas. >> i would hazard to make comparisons. i know we have similarly problems of real lack of assistance in iraq, particularly in the areas affected by the fighting and the islamic state-controlled areas so in terms of lack of assistance where it's most needed, sure there's a parallel but i would not enter the fray in terms of
comparing the situations. >> on iraq and afghanistan, we're putting out a study tomorrow on research we've done inside iraq and that also looks at how civil society -- the importance of civil society in improving iraqis' feelings of working with the government and that civil society can play an important conflict resolution role that's important to look at and our investments in civil society in iraq have gone down dramatically and there's a need to keep supporting civil society both in afghanistan and iraq. in afghanistan we put out a report a year ago february called youth and consequences that looked at what was driving youth to violence and one of the biggest findings we found was this a lot was governance grievances. why isn't the government responding to the needs of what i as a youth feel is important? so focusing on those things makes sense for governments to look at and pay more attention to youth, especially displaced youth but youth throughout
afghanistan. so not parallel but research, quantitative and qualitative research that governments should be looking what the the youth are saying and feeling and a lot of times it relates back to gaps in governance. >> let's take a second round. this time i'll begin further back just to make sure i don't overlook folks in the distant parts of the room. i see a hand two rows from the very end then we'll come up two rows ahead of that afterwards. >> thank you, while you are appeasing pakistan, what benefit do you get from pakistan? my support is my brother to afghanista afghanistan.
>> i think we have to stay cognizant of the fact what is the real reason for instability or the root cause for instability in afghanistan before we can understand and appreciate and seek to approach a solution that would be really sustainable in the future? ? >> i'm going to take a quick crack at the first question and see who responsibilities to respond to that because vanda and che did a good job on the pakistan question. i'm going to frame in the the following way. we have a different set of options we could think about developing for the next american president because our dependence on pakistan for logistics is not quite what it was. i won't go quite as far as the two questioners and be quite as critical of pakistan but i share a lot of your concerns and i do think the next american president made be in a position
to basically offer a tougher relationship, a less generous relationship if we don't get more help and perhaps go for a higher standard of cooperation if we do. so options like a if we do. so a free trade equipment could be part of the mix. now, i hear von da's point, we better be realistic. but the next president of the united states could pry to frame this inda's point, we better be realistic. but the next president of the united states could pry to frame this in different terms. the last point i will make and in fairness to pakistan, there have at least been baby steps towards trying to put pressure on some of the extremist groups in the western part of their own country. now in many cases this is for reasons that have nothing do with afghanistan, that have not made any improvement orning in
term and i think there still is active collaboration and communication between pakistan's government and hakani network this particular. so overall i think the questioners have a valid concern and i would suggest that the next american president can think about this relationship in maybe fundamentally different terms than the last two were able to. that's my take. others may want to chime in on either one of these questions. >> i will add more comments on pakistan. from a national interest assessment, even global interest assessment, pakistan is a far more important country than afghanistan. pakistan is a country with nuclear weapons. it's the space where a nuclear war could break out more likely
than anywhere else. it is deeply challenged by chronic misgovernance, corruption and extremist groups that various pakistani governments hosted for a long time but now the government no longer controls. the united states cannot afford to push afghanistan -- to push pakistan to the brink. pakistan is cognizant of that and has often played the politics with respect to afghanistan of you push us to the brink, we will collapse, it will be really awful for you. and they are absolutely right. it will be really awful to everyone. so pakistan has had great power of the weak. perhaps making the united states yield too quickly at times. the u.s. could get tougher. but getting tougher will come at tremendous cost. and even though the logistics issues of access to afghanistan will be less acute, perhaps
eventually undone in the future, the broader issue of who is strategically more important, what is the fundamental significance of pakistan will not go away. now, this is the reality that afghanistan needs to work with. there will be limits to how much pakistan will alter its behavior, how much it can be controlled. so afghans need to look at themselves and ask themselves we are living in a very difficult neighborhood with many problematic neighbors, none more rob matt tick than pakistan. what can we do for ourselves. how can we engage international community as opposed to dream continually and throw under the rock internal problems with pakistan. >> thank you. any comments?
>> hi. i have a question. neighborhood is about to get worse, right, because of the iran/saudi conflict. and that's going to mean more displaced people, more people in need. so how do we protect the humanitarian space and how can the u.s. set an example because they're the forefront of all these conflicts militarily. so if -- they in a sense have to uphold the moral standard because we've seen that when saudi bombed yemen, and the russians in syria, they haven't been careful about avoiding hospitals. how do we protect keeping access to populations by the ngos safe
and secure? >> sir, over here. >> hi. so i guess time and time again over the last decade and a half, we've seen a lot of the u.s.'s and coalition's efforts to partner with community, partner militarily with a lot of local communities rebuffed because of the nature of them rejecting a lot of foreign intervention and foreign partnership. so i wanted to know how that has transformed recently, what the u.s. is doing to sort of try to partner with passion groups, et cetera, effectively and whether that still continues to be a limiting factor for development as well as military partnership. >> why don't we start with ann and work down. >> sure. thanks for that question. i think it's really important and something we'll need to look closely at in 2016. first the u.s. setting by example and as jason was saying, respecting international humanitarian law, too. but something in how we go about
delivering assistance is important. us aid is requiring partner vetting system that many of the ngos have serious concerns with because we think it hurts our security and so don't work with usaid right now. that's mercy corps and many of the other large ngos. so maintaining that trust and faith of the communities we work in is incredibly important. partner vetting system requires ngos or would like ngos to take all the partners that we work with and share that tore about partners that we work with with the u.s. government. we do a lot of vetting ourselves to make sure that we're working with trusted partner, but sharing that information with the u.s. government could make us look like we're collaborating with different parts of the u.s. government that we definitely do
not want to collaborate with, so we said no to u.s. aid funding that requires this type of vetting because we need to keep that humanitarian that jason talk about pure so we can access populations in good faith. >> yeah, so i think the u.s. definitely has taken important steps, one is accepting responsibility for the strikes something for which the saudis and russians haven't really done so far. committing to an investigation albeit really internal investigation and not allowing for independent and international scrutiny into that investigation, i think that would have taken things to another level because fundamentally when breaches of international humanitarian law, the way to investigate those should be held to outside scrutiny. i think we're in an environment in which we have no illusions about the dangers that workers
face in the field. vast majority are national health workers in places like syria that have been directly targeted. it's building part of the strategy of the war effort has been for really since the war started in syria and now we see many facilities also being structure directly or intentionally or otherwise during the coalition bombings both in syria and yemen. so i think we have real concerns. it's going to require a lot of dialogue with the different groups involved, whether their governments also pushing back on state actors to ensure that they respect the sanctity of medical facilities, that they don't mill tarrize them. and on the flip side, it requires medical groups like my organization to sort of announce when that actually happens. we can't just sit quietly when
our facilities are potentially turned in to used for military advantage. so i think the nature of war may change as men people aany peopl professing, but those rules are meant to simplify the action in areas of conflict, which is to ensure that as much as possible we limit the impact on civilians and those who are staying on the front lines to assist them. and that includes wounded combatants and that is something that is mutually ben if i recall to all involved on the front line. it's been contested quite obviously in afghanistan, syria, yemen, but it's still in other places around the world, but it remains something that we think is a viable framework that needs to work. and if we'll have any sense of humanity in the midst of war, it's important that the u.s. government and others reinforce those principles. >> thank you. vonda or jay. >> the issues of vetting
partners is a complex one. very important and very difficult in war. and getting the right calibration has been major challenge not just in afghanistan, in iraq, but also in somalia. narrow aspect is disclosing who the partners are. but we have on which partnered with very problematic actor this is places like afghanistan. we have embraced some of the most vicious abusive power brokers because they promise to till the taliban. and we made the tradeoff that they till the taliban in the short term, but in the long term, they generate a lot of opposition among the population toward their rule. now, sometimes the political power brothers may be effective in delivering stability for a while, but often that state then undermines governance and long term governance, poor governance, undermines
stability. we partner -- demanding that we curtail the siphoning of money is absolutely appropriate. very difficult as it is to do in an extremely opaque environment, but often the amount of interaction with local actors is insufficient and our ability to really understand the motives and actual behavior as opposed to their words must be quite limited. you might remember the huge controversy over the taliban taking essentially anything that moves includes nato trucks. and expanding all possible vetting was driven by u.s. political response to the fiasco the taliban was making as much money for a while out of taxing
nae nato trucks. it was obviously very problematic, but the response then should not necessarily be to demand vetting that paralyzes jobs that need to be done, including economic be jobs. so he natur so malia is another example. obama administration insisting on no material support some years back severely compounded the familine and cost many lies until they decided we cannot operate many, many hundreds of thousands as a result of the policy. so we need to demand accountability from our partners, but we should not become prisoners of demanding such restrictive rules that we have no capacity do anything anymore.
>> i'll try go in ordto go in o. protecting ngos, they were established when we had civilized warfare. we had laws of war, if you will. when you have one of the combatants that don't abide by those laws of war that requires a change on our part. so i think on the ngos case, if they don't want to have an affiliati affiliation, they have a hard choice to make. that's an fopinion. there are a couple of things we do in the department of defense. first is the overarching language regional expertise and culture. that's where we're focusing money, time and effort on he had indicating military folks on the different aspects of going into different areas around the world. we put some money against it, we can always put more money against it, but that's up for
congress to decide. and then strict cooperation and that involves exercises to try to have indiaformal and formal vetting. and the last is the foreign internal defense. and these are all things that we try to empower. special operations command has a term by through and with, where they try to put indigenous force front and center to make it their fight or their -- it's their responsibility to provide security and stability in that case. those are the four lines of effort that i'm familiar with that kind of goes to your question. >> i think we'll have to just go down our row here with final comments because we only have about five minutes left. i'm keenly aware that c-span is probably getting ready to cover the redskins victory parade and many of you are seeking to spontaneously participate. so again, thanks to all of for you starting your new year on these very important topics that really reflect a lot of patience
and commitment from you, as well, because this war has been going on so long and we're also concerned about the well-being of the afghan people and the effects on our own security. so i wanted to thank you forring here. now let me please turn to each of the panelists for maybe a minute or so wrap up individually. >> thanks again to michael and brookings for putting this event on and just to take one major takeaway is continued support and partnership with the afghan people i think is very needed and the afghan people are looking for a innew year where u don't have to leave your homeland behind. so continued international support for that is extremely appreciated. and we have to be doing development and looking at the root causes for so much poverty in afghanistan and that there are relatively low cost and smart ways of going about doing that including just to quickly comment, many of the ngos are
not armed. we depend on our relationships with communities for our security. and we'll continue to operate that way and partnership with the afghan people for the next couple decades, too. thank you. >> jason. >> i think as an organization that has been around for 40 plus years working in conflict, we're not naive to the dynamics that are there and the dangers that are incumbent of working in those areas. i think that it's important, though, that we don't sort of set expectations based on behavior of certain groups that don't respect the laws of war. for us part of our dialogue is reinforcing first and foremost the fact that we will treat anybody. as a medical organization, either the's very much recognized by the u.s. government and something reiterated very strongly. in fact when general campbell said they would never
intentionally strike a hospital, that's an important statement. when taliban took control, several commanders came to the hospital. they didn't enter, they allowed us to continue working. and that is i think through a dialogue that happens with different armed groups that is required and the community as well to operate in these areas. and will continue to be. it's based on some sense of trust, albeit a very, very with sort of -- take it at face value when you're dealing with very difficult and violent individuals. but it has to be on the basis of that and we have to continue to work that. and i think in afghanistan specifically, as the situation continues to deteriorate in many parts of the country, it will require ngos and medical workers and others to really step pack from the sort of stabilization efforts that are there and keep things separate in order to maintain that respect and that neutrality and partiality that is required of health workers
operating in conflict zones. >> thank you. vonda. >> i have been a supporter of the efforts in afghanistan for many years. i believe that many of these efforts need to be improved, need to become smarter. there is much accountability in many different decisions that the united states, the international coalition and nonstate actors need do in how they operate. there are many crises coming in afghanistan in 2016 and i think we should anticipate them better, think about them, think about how much will rock the boat. i'm often asked by my friends and family members how i can continue supporting the effort in afghanistan despite the blood and treasure and franklydedeter very little product that things will improve. it's a tough answer to give. and just saying the commitment
we have made is not sufficient. we need to remember that we still have vital interests in the country including the rise of terrorism once again. but also commitment that we have made to the afghan people. at some point a president will need to make the judgment call. and i very much hope that the afghan politicians and the afghan people will enable the president the call to be -- the urs president t u.s. president the call to be to continue engagement because they will improve governance and focus on the key national interests and the interests of the afghan people. i cannot guarantee policy improvements that i can suggest and have been suggesting in recent pieces that the solution will come about. however, if we just decide to call it a day in afghanistan, we
will fail. >> i'll close with two things. first is i recognize that it may come across as being offensive when i call it ungoverned space. but i have to call it what it is, the fegts so when i look at problems that are facing us in afghanistan and other places of those ungoverned spaces, one thing i would leave you with, there are many elements of national power, the military being just one aei think we rel too heavily on the ability of our military to solve these intractable problems. and i would encourage everyone to think about organizations like doctors without borders and mercy corps and other ngos that can do a lot of really good things in the vein of other elements of national power where we as the military are not the first choice and are more importantly we're probably the last choice. >> i'll add one final word which is as i look down this panel and recognize the sacrifices and
contributions of these four and also the organizations they represent, i want to say a final word of hopefulness because as bad as things have been in afghanistan, the degree of managing and containing humanitarian travesty has been remarkable. and i don't mean to disagree about your earlier point about the origins of red cross, but frankly when a lot of these organizations grew up, war was far worse and was handled in a far less humane way than the u.s. marine corps or mercy corps or others have been handling recent conflicts. and if you just look at the numbers of casualties in these conflicts, they're way too high, but they are so much lower than in most of the brutal wars of history and it's because of the kinds of efforts that your organizations, everybody on this panel, and many others in this room have been carrying out. so i'm sorry to get on my soap box, but i'm impressed by the
sacrifice. and as this event was partly motivated by doctors without borders asking to speak with b. konduz and we know they lost 14 of their satisfy in a terrible tragedy, i just want to salute as i'm sure many of do you the sacrifice of so much who have been work and who have given some enduring hope to this forelorn land, but a land that is a lot better off than it had been. so thank you for being here today and please join me in thanking the panelists. president obama has vetoed hed legislation to repeal his health care law. it's the first bill to clear both houses of congress and make to president obama's desk. it would also cut funding for planned parenthood. it's unlikely congress will be able to override the veto. this was the president's eighth veto, the fewest in the modern
presidency according to this graph. john kasich is campaigning in new hampshire today. and this afternoon he will be holding a town hall meeting in the town of exeter. c-span will have live coverage starting at 5:15 eastern. and coming up tomorrow, governor kasich will join six other candidates in south carolina, they will be divided in to three panels and be interviewed by paul ryan and senator tim scott. the questions are expected to focus on the candidates' ideas on how to handle the country's issues and c-span will be there with live coverage starting tomorrow morning at 10:20 eastern. as president obama prepares for his state of the union address on tuesday, he released this video on twitter. >> i'm working on my state of the union address. it's my last one. and as i'm writing being i keep
positi thinking about the road that we've traveled together the last seven years. that's what makes america great, our capacity to change for the better, our ability to come together and pull ourselves closer to the america we believe in. it's hard to see sometimes in the day it day noise of washington. but it is who we are. and it is what i want to focus on in this state of the union address. >> c-span's coverage starts at 8:00 p.m. eastern with a senate high scho historian and congressional reporter looking back at the history and tradition of the president's annual message and what to expect in this year's address. and then at 9:00, live coverage of the president's speech followed by the republican response by south carolina governor nikki haley. plus your reaction by phone, facebook, tweets and e-mail as well as those from members of congress on c-span, c-span radio, and cspan.org. and we'll reair our state of the union coverage and the republican response starting at
11:00 p.m. eastern, 8:00 p.m. pacific, also live on c-span2 after the speech, we'll hear from members of congress in statu statue area hall with their reaction to the president's address. the house oversight and government reform committee heard yesterday from representatives of several federal agencies as to why their departments are failing to allow documents pertaining to the oversight and investigative responsibilities. speaking were officials from the departments of state, justice, homeland security, office of personnel management and the white house office of management and budget. this is about three hours. the committee on oversight and government reform will come to order. the chair is authorized to declare a recess at any time. thank you all for being here. congressional oversight investigative work does not need
to be an adversarial activity. we expect, require and need cooperation. for this to happen it takes effort, communication and good faith. mr. cummings and i have worked together quite well. we have taken each other's views and ideas into consideration. we don't always agree, but we try as best we can to not be disagreeable. a cooperative approach to oversight has yielded results. the committee has come a long way in a year. last month we adopted a 195-plus page joint investigative report on the secret service. together, we have written roughly 200 joint letters asking for documents, information and testimony. generally when we send a letter, it's not a thank you note or a christmas card. generally, a letter from the oversight committee is a little bit more -- a little tougher than that.
the fact that we have more than 200 of these joint letters speaks a lot to the approach that we're trying to take. but we also need cooperation from the agencies themselves. it might be helpful to clarify our expectations. we're different in the united states of america. we are open and transparent. we are self-critical. that's why back in 1816 or so, the congress actually formed this committee. it was under a different name and it has grown and expanded and contracted and gone through a variety of different names along the way. but the function of oversight has been here since the foundation of our nation. and a long, long time ago people felt it wise to look at every expenditure made by the federal government. so when the committee sends a request, we expect an honest effort to identify and collect the records that are responsive. we expect communication. we expect to be kept informed and to be straight with us. we expect you will work with us in good faith which basically means when you make a
commitment, do what you say you are going to do. republicans and democrats share the goal of more efficient and effective government that serves the people. we have to ensure that every tax dollar is spent responsibly. we do that by conducting oversight of the executive branch and examining government programs of policies that affect every american. mr. cummings and i are and our predecessors here at the committee didn't invest the concept of this oversight of the executive branch. it comes from the constitution. it comes to the right of accessing. it comes from the need to be responsive as we represent the people of the united states of america. today we're going to hear from a group of senior legislative liaisons from five different agencies all of which have troublesome track records when it comes to cooperating. i'm sympathetic to the idea that they get bombarded not just by us but from so many different committees not only in the house but in the senate as well.
it's a large task, particularly with agencies that you represent, that are so massive and so big, spending literally billions upon billions of dollars of taxpayer dollars. at department of homeland security has been invited to discuss a request related to the secret service and the tsa. tsa has consistently failed to meet our production request and has ignored requests such as appearing. on april 17th, we invited the administrator to appear. the day before the hearing, the administrator backed out. yet, we had a month's notice. we invited the justice department to address a position on withholding the memos that guided its investigative personnel when dealing with gps tracking devices. we hoped to get an update on our request about the complete lois lerner files. an official with state
department is here to address problems in securing documents for our embassy investigation. when state doesn't produce materials, it almost always in a halfhearted way with a smattering of documents for one or two requests, and usually none for most. there's a story out today about providing inaccurate information as it relates to hillary clinton and her e-mails. we're going to ask you questions about that. the office of management and budget is here to address its response to a subpoena i sent for materials from its oira office. related to the rule making. it's an office created by congress. its job is to review draft and proposed regulations. to create the appearance that it's cooperating with the committee, it reflectively offered the number of pages of documents that is produced. to my fellow members, here is a flashing signal that maybe there's a problem.
when they want to talk about the number of documents they produced, i'm not interested in that. i'm interested in the percentage of documents that you produced. it's a little trick to say, we provided 100,000 of this or 50,000 of that. tell me what percentage of the documents we get. because if we want 100% of the truth, we are going to need 100% of the documents. until we get them, it makes us think that you are hiding something. the office of personnel management has been invited to discuss its efforts to investigate the data breach investigation. it has unexplainable redactions. publically available information has been repeatedly redacted by opm. in some cases our investigators have found answers more readily by reviewing the fed website. the lengths opm has gone to keep basic information from the committee leaves us with the
conclusion that perhaps they are having a lot to hide. if something is embarrassing, that's not a reason to keep it from the congress. a successful working relationship between the congressional committee and the executive branch agencies require effort, communication and good faith on both sides. we need transparency. we need to work together. you have a lot of good staff and a lot of good people. we're not here to disparage any one person's reputation. we are here to get answers. we need to make sure we get those documents so we can do our job serving the american people. and we need your help in doing so. with that, i would now like to recognize the ranking member, mr. cummings. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. i strongly support the authority of this committee to obtain necessary documents as part of our investigations. documents are a critical tool to
investigate waste, fraud or abuse. eliminate unnecessary duplication and prove the effectiveness and efficiency of government and determine whether congress needs to change our laws, improve the lives of the american people. of course, we rely on other sources of information such as hearing testimony, witness interviews and informal briefings and meetings. but documents are unique. they give us the ability to understand what happened on the ground over a certain period of time. without having to rely on hazy memories or the self-serving recollections of those being investigated. i support the committee's authority because i have been in the chairman's seat. i know firsthand how oversight can be stifled by slow walking documents or withholding information to which congress is entitled.
i remember very well the fights we had with the bush administration over their refusal to provide documents we needed. and i remember how those actions impaired our ability to do our work. so i support the chairman in his efforts. unfortunately, i have also seen how investigations can be used as a form of political attack rather than a search for the facts and a search for the truth. i've seen how massive repeated and overwrought document requests have been used as a partisan weapon. i've seen how they can grind down agencies, force them to divert personnel and waste millions of taxpayer dollars in the process. for today's hearing i believe it's important to recognize the
difference between these two purposes. we need to recognize not only the significant demands that have been placed on these agencies but also what they have provided to date, which is substantial. for example, the state department has just experienced one of if not the most demanding years in its history in terms of congressional inquiries. the state department is currently reporting to nine different committees, including the benghazi select committee. and it has been inundated with requests unlike any previous year on record. in 2015, the oversight committee alone launched nine investigations relating to the state department. in response, the department provided more than 21 gigabytes of information. just as part of our investigation of embassy construction, the state
department produced more than 160,000 pages of documents. the committee wants additional documents. in fact, i've signed on to some of those document requests myself. but it is inaccurate to suggest that the state department has intentionally withheld documents we need. the state department is notorious for its extremely poor records management systems. this problem dates back several administrations. as i said earlier, i've been incredibly frustrated in the past with the state department's inability to run the most basic document searches and produce documents in a timely manner. in my opinion, the solution to this problem is not to shame the legislative affairs office. many of the officials worked in congress previously. they fully understand our needs and our rights to the information.
and they are among some of our most effective advocates within the agencies. instead, if we really want to address this problem, we can take two key steps. first, congress can conduct sustained and detailed reviews of agency information and management processes, including document preservation, collection and production. we can support long-term efforts to upgrade and improve their systems so they take less agency time to implement and provide congress what it needs more quickly. i'm talking about efficiency and effectiveness. this work will pay dividends to congress, the press and the american public. the second thing congress can do is to take a closer look at itself.
put a mirror up to our faces. we can end the politically motivated requests that design to generate headlines rather than improve effectiveness and efficiency. we can eliminate duplicate requests for multiple committees and streamline our oversight efforts. we can ask for only what we really need rather than everything under the sun. and we can work with agencies to understand the legitimate interests in protecting certain classes of information while pursuing accommodations that give us what we need to do our jobs. that is the balance that we should seek, that is the balance that we should work towards. and so in closing, mr. chairman, i hope we can explore some of these issues here today. and i look forward to the testimony of our witnesses. and with that, i yield back. >> i thank the gentleman. i will hold the record open for five legislative day for any members who would like to submit a written statement.
pleased to welcome the honorable julia frifield assistant secretary. and the attorney general at the department of justice. the honorable assistant secretary of the office of legislative affairs at the united states department of homeland security. associate director for legislative affairs at the office of management and budget and the director of office of congressional legislative and intergovernmental affairs at the united states office of personnel management. thank you for being here. all witnesses are to be sworn before they testify. if you will please rise and raise your right hand. thank you. do you solemnly swear or affirm that the testimony you are about to give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the
truth? thank you. you may be seated. let the record reflect that all of the witnesses answered in the affirmative. you know the drill here. we were trying to keep you to five minutes. we will give you latitude. try to keep your comments to five minutes if you can. we will obviously insert your entire written record -- your written statement into the record. >> thank you. i appreciate this opportunity to testify on the state department's response to congressional requests for documents. the state department is committed to working with congress on congressional investigations. secretary kerry spent nearly 30 years in congress. he believes strongly in the importance of congressional oversight and led investigations when he was in the senate. since he arrived at the state department, his clear instruction has been for the entire department to be responsive to congressional investigations and requests. i share his commitment. before joining the department, i
spent my career as a capitol hill staffer. i have great respect for the congressional role in conducting oversight. today's hearing focuses on request for documents which i will address at length. however, it's important that -- to underscore our commitment to working with congress is not limited to requests for documents. in 2015, the state department's legislative affairs office provided over 2,500 briefings for the hill. we worked with consular affairs to respond to over 5,000 cases for members of congress. everything from lost passports to missing constituents overseas to helping with visas. we arranged over 500 congressional member and staff delegation trips abroad. and we have appeared at 168 congressional hearings. we have responded to 1,700 congressional letters. with crises occurring around the world and congress intently focused on foreign policy, we're working hard to meet our responsibilities. we recognize that cooperating with congressional investigations is one of them.
yet frankly, we at the state department have struggled to keep pace with the increasing demands of congressional document requests which have expanded in numbers, scope and complexity. we're responding to investigations by nine different committees for hundreds of thousands of pages of documents. this is approximately twice as many as we had last year. while some of the investigations are focused, others are broad and complex involving many different bureaus. let me be clear. we know it's our responsibility to answer these requests. we are working to improve both the way we respond to make it more useful for congress and the pace of our response. historically when responding to congressional requests, we followed a process similar to responding to foia requests relying on the same department infrastructure and technology as both foia and congressional requested increased, we found they were competing for the same resources.
to compensate, we have pulled together adhoc teams from functional and regional bureaus to respond to congressional requests. pulling people from the work of diplomacy to respond to congress. clearly, the system was not sustainable. we realized we needed to institutionalize the way we speed up the pace of delivery. we had to upgrade. this past year we have been transforming the way we respond to congressional requests. i worked with my colleagues at state to create a congressional document production branch which involved additional personnel and acquiring new software to facilitate document review and production. we're grateful congress enabled us to shift funding to establish this new entity to provide additional personnel and new technology. as a result, we have been able to process more quickly requests from this committee, from the select committee on benghazi and multiple other committees. not every committee may be completely satisfied, i can state with confidence that our new unit is enabling us to respond to more than ever before. because the congressional
document production branch is only a few months old, its impact may not be fully apparent yet. going forward, this committee should see the results of the enhanced resources as we work on your requests. we have made tangible improvement to the way we produce documents. we heard from staff, including yours, who had concerns that we had been providing documents in a way that was not as user friendly as they would like. we used to provide documents to congress on paper without coding that enabled you to find and organize them. we would hand over boxes. after meeting with your staff and others who told us how hard it was to use documents in this format, we changed the way we give you documents. we provide the documents electronically with searchable numbers. we can now provide documents organized by date or custodian and at built to review e-mail documents is expanded. the department moved to electronic document processing has improved our ability to
review and provide documents quickly and in volume. it makes it easier for you to review them. with respect to this committee, i would like to summarize where we are and where we hope to go. currently, we're working on nine investigations for your committee. to date, we have provided over 160,000 pages to the committee for its investigation for embassy construction and have participated in four hearings in 2015 and many meetings and briefings. though i do note i did hear what the chairman said about using numbers. i understand what he is coming from on there. we have been collecting documents for the five requests that you outlined in your december 18th letter. we're committed to producing thousands of pages of documents to your committee along with providing requested briefings on the matters described in the letter. in closing, while we have implemented significant improvements to respond to congressional investigations, we are striving to do better. the obstacle to responding is not one of commitment. fundamentally, it's a question of balancing resources in response to multiple large scale congressional requests from a number of committees. we're trying to find innovative ways to respond better and faster.
i look forward to working with you and your staff to ensure that the state department and the congress work together to provide the transparency that should be the hallmark of our government. >> thank you. you are now recognized for five minutes. >> good morning. >> if you could -- >> is that better? >> thank you. >> i appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss our continuing efforts to respond to the committee's information requests, including those requests specifically relating to the department's policies on geo location and other surveillance technology in the wake of the supreme court's 2012 decision. i want to begin by assuring the committee that we value the role of congressional oversight. as the attorney general and the deputy attorney general have stated, department is committed to accommodating the information needs consistent with our law enforcement, national security and prosecutorial responsibilities.
the department appreciates that oversight is a critical underpinning of the legislative process. consistent with the value we place on congressional oversight, since the beginning of the 114th congress, the department has testified in close to 60 congressional hearings and provided extensive information at more than 1,800 letters responding to inquiries from committees and members. in every instance, we strive to provide congress with as much information as possible without compromising our law enforcement and national security efforts or our prosecutorial responsibilities. in addition to the law enforcement and national security sensitivities, the department also has an obligation to protect certain executive branch institutional interests, including the confidentiality of attorney/client communications, attorney work product and internal deliberations. we are committed to working in good faith to accommodate legitimate interests and we hope the committee will like wise continue to engage in good faith with the department in a manner that recognizes the important
law enforcement and confidentiality interests. in particular, we trust the committee recognizes the importance of ensuring the department's investigative and prosecutorial decisions are made without regard to political considerations or even the perception of political influence or pressure. such political influence and indeed the mere public perception of such influence could undermine significantly our law enforcement efforts and in criminal matters shake public and judicial confidence in the integrity and independence of the criminal justice process. we recognize it's difficult when the interests and prerogatives of the legislative and executive branchs come into conflict. that's why the constitution envisions they will engage in a process of accommodation to avoid such conflict. this longstanding and well accepted approach has been employed by administrations of both parties for decades and has been supported by top department officials both democrats and republicans alike.
consistent with this approach, department has made efforts and will continue to make efforts to respond to the information requests regarding our policies on geo location and other surveillance technology. as the committee is aware, these specific information requests implicate significant confidentiality interests as the particular memo you have requested includes sensitive law enforcement related confidential work product prepared in anticipation of litigation. specifically, these memoranda include internal deliberation of department prosecutors about the legal, investigative and strategic issues we face and our law enforcement efforts in light of the jones decision. our disclosure of this work product would show the assessments and analyses that are essential to sound decision making and law enforcement matters and prosecution. in addition, discloser could jeopardize ongoing and future investigations and prosecutions by prematurely revealing the
government's investigative and litigation strategies. such discloser would afford criminal targets an opportunity to preempt the tools, evade law enforcement and obtain information of how our agents operate. we know the committee understands and appreciates these very real risks. the department has undertaken efforts to work in good faith to accommodate the committee's interests in this matter. we were pleased to brief committee staff last september on the forms of legal process the department uses for obtaining geolocation information. we hope that our briefing on these matters was helpful to the committee. and as we have offered previously, we would be happy to provide additional briefings and answer any remaining questions in our ongoing effort to accommodate the information requests. in conclusion, i emphasize that the department recognizes the importance of congressional oversight.
at the same time, congressional oversight that implicates ongoing law enforcement efforts and investigative techniques, sensitive attorney work product and internal deliberations presents unique confidentiality challenges. despite the challenges, we remain optimistic that by working together cooperatively, we will be able to satisfy the committee's oversight interests in this matter while also safeguarding the independence, integrity and effectiveness of the department's vital law enforcement efforts and prosecutorial responsibilities. the department stands ready to continue this effort and to accommodate your information needs and we hope that you will work with us towards that goal. thank you again for the opportunity to testify. and i would be happy to answer questions. >> thank you. we look forward to hearing your testimony. as you know, committee rules require that you submit your testimony 24 hours prior. that was highlighted in the invitation. perhaps as you give your opening statement, you can explain to this committee why you failed to
provide this committee with your testimony prior to you giving it right now. you are now recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. ranking member cummings, distinguished members of the committee, i appreciate the opportunity to discuss the considerable efforts, time, resources and money that dls devotes to complying with oversight requests. during this hearing, secretary johnson pledged transparency and candor with congress and committed to respond to congressional inquiries in a timely fashion. since his arrival in december 2013, the department's responsiveness to oversight requests has greatly improved. indeed, last year the department examined its responses to congressional inquiries and found that it had cut its response time in half. we therefore appreciated
the chairman's statement when you recognized that the production and response to congress had become much better and thanked the secretary for that. we are determined to continue to improve on that record. prior to coming to dhs, i served as an officer in the u.s. army for almost 30 years. as a senior colonel, i was assigned to the office of the assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs. at that time, we were still involved in combat operations in iraq and afghanistan. these two operations as well as the detainee mission generated a significant amount of congressional oversight. i was involved in that oversight process which at the time i thought was considerable. however, upon my arrival at dhs, i was surprised to learn of the depth, breadth and quantity of congressional oversight that this department faces. in 2004, the 9/11 commission recommended congress reform the congressional oversight structure of dhs. one witness told the commission, the number of congressional bodies that exercise oversight over dhs is perhaps the single
largest obstacle impeding department's successful development. with jurisdiction over both oversight and government reform, your committee is uniquely positioned to help foster efforts to implement this crucial 9/11 commission recommendation. in the 12 years since the commission issued that recommendation, the oversight structure of the department has grown only more complex and extensive. at last count, the department answered to 92 congressional committees and subcommittees, 27 other caucuses, commissions and groups. tom kane said think of having 100 bosses. think of reporting to 100 people. it makes no sense. you cannot do your job under those circumstances. but despite these challenges we are doing our job.
during 2015, dhs received approximately 700 oversight letters and countless more requests. of those, 70 letters came from members of this committee. we have responded to oversight inquiries on a broad array of topics ranging from the secret service's protective mission to victims of the cyber breaches. in 2015, dhs devoted more than 100,000 hours to responding to congressional oversight. today's hearing is to address the department's response to oversight requests and demands regarding the united states secret service. during calendar year 2015, dhs and the secret service received 12 letters, over 100 requests for information, testimony or documents and one subpoena from this committee. by our count, we have completed addressing over 90 of those requests. secret service has provided 13
briefings to committee staff, eight employees of the secret service participated in day long transcribed interviews conducted by committee staff and secret service leadership has testified at two committee hearings. at the chairman's request, we facilitated a visit to the secret service headquarters for members of the committee. in total, the department has produced over 10,000 pages of documents in response to the committee's request in addition to thousands of pages of classified documents. secretary johnson has made responsiveness to congress a priority. as his assistant secretary for legislative affairs, i'm determined to continue to improve on our past record. i apologize that our statement
was not forwarded. that was an oversight. but i would be pleased to answer any questions from you and the members of the committee. thank you. >> thank you. you are now recognized for five minutes. >> thank you. chairman, ranking member and members of the committee, i appreciate the opportunity to testify today. the office of management and budget is committed to working with congress and with this committee. omb believes strongly in the importance of congressional oversight and the value that congress provides in ensuring that omb and the administration are working in the most effective and efficient way possible on behalf of the american people. omb regularly receives requests for information, briefings, documents and we strive to provide information in a timely manner.
in addition to producing documents to the congress and the committee, omb works with congressional offices to provide information and analysis and to help respond to con continue again says and unforeseen circumstances. given omb's broad jurisdiction, we coordinate and respond to requests from over a dozen committees despite being a small agency of only 550 employees. in addition, given omb's extensive role in working with congress to reach agreement on the bipartisan budget act of 2015, enacted in november, and on the appropriations act of 2016 enacted a few weeks ago, we received and responded to nearly 1,650 budget requests over this last year with more than 600 of those requests coming in the last few months. omb's mission is to execute the president's budget, management, regulatory and legislative agenda and ensure that the federal government works at its
best on behalf of those it serves. omb works with and across federal agencies to improve management and create a government that is more effective, efficient and supports continued economic growth. omb's office of information and regulatory affairs is responsible for coordination and review of all significant federal regulations by executive agencies. it ensures regulations are based on sound analysis and serve the purpose of the statutes that authorize them in the interests of the public. it seeks to ensure to the extent permitted by law that the benefits of the rule justify its costs. it works under long established principals that have been implemented across several several administrations of both parties. the committee has asked me to testify today about documents requests relating to the review of the proposed clean water rule which was conducted between september 17, 2013 and march 24, 2014.
since this committee's initial request and subsequent subpoena, omb has acted in good faith to accommodate the committee's requests. in response to this committee, we have provided five sets of documents for the period in which the proposed clean water rule was under review. water ru review. we have made these productions to the committee without any redactions with the exception of e-mail addresses. we continue to review records potentially responsive to the committee's requests and we remaybe committed to working with your staff so we can produce materials of greatest interest to the committee. >> thank you. mr. levine, you are now recognized for five minutes. >> levine, mr. chairman. levine. that's okay. chairman chaffetz, ranking member cummings and members of the committee i'm pleased to be here to testify on behalf of the office of personnel management regarding the committee's request for information and documents related to the cybersecurity incidents at opm.
in the face of extraordinary circumstances, opm has worked to address the cybersecurity incidents, to provide information and services to those impacted and to respond to numerous congressional inquiries regarding the incidents through hearings, classified and unclassified briefings and document production and letters and town halls. during this time opm employees have worked hard to improve the services we provide for the entire federal workforce from resume to retirement. since i arrived in august i can tell you it has been my distinct every day to serve with these individuals. opm is a small agency with an important mission to recruit, retain and honor a world class workforce to serve the american people. to preserve and build upon that mission opm's leadership has made its highest priority responding to the recent cybersecurity incidents and bolstering the i.t. infrastructure and security capabilities. opm is committed to working with congress as well as our
interagency partners including dhs and dod and the fbi among others to continue to strengthen our cybersecurity posture in order to protect the federal government and the pool we serve. it is critical to opm that all of our stakeholders particularly those directly impacted by these incidents receive information in a timely and transparent manner. we undertook two notification processes regarding the identity protection and the monitoring services being provided. we are conducting outreach by our website and communicating directly with stakeholders. further to provide congress with necessary information my office has provided multiple sets of fact sheets and faqs regarding the cybersecurity incidents and related services. we established a phone hotline exclusively for congressional offices to contact us. opm has also attended town halls and conducted phone briefings with members and congressional staffers on the issue. simultaneously, opm has made
every effort to work in good faith to respond to multiple congressional oversight requests including document productions. since june 2015, opm has received and provided responses to every question in six separate document production requests, resulting in 19 separate document productions including tens of thousands of documents and internal reports, testified at four public congressional hearings, made hundreds of calls to members and congressional staffers related to the cybersecurity incidents, received over 170 letters from members of congress related to the cybersecurity incidents, made senior officials available for interviews, conducted 13 classified and unclassified briefings and expended thousands of staff hours in an effort to be responsive. opm has worked as quickly as its infrastructure and resources allow to be responsive to congressional requests opm has taken numerous steps to increase its previously limited capacity to respond to congressional inquiries of a large volume and sensitive nature.
this includes hiring additional staff, bringing on detailees from other agency to allow the agency to respond more promptly and efficiently with congress. we worked with committee staff to prioritize the requests and provide responses on a rolling basis to accommodate the committee's schedule and oversight interests. as a result of the extreme and ongoing sensetivities of information related to opm's i.t. networks and servers and systems, redactions were made so as not to provide a roadmap for potential adversaries and malicious actors. these are consistent with these employed by other federal agencies and based on security recommendations from opm i.t. security professionals and in consultation with psycher experts. additional reactidactions were for confidentiality interests. in the interest of accommodating committee's oversight interests, significant number of sensitive
documents were also made available for in camera review and opm's liaison here in the rayburn office building to provide ease of access for committee members and staff. opm looks forward to continuing to work with the committee and is a complete and timely manner as possible. thank you for the opportunity to testify and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you. i want to follow-up directly on that point that you just -- you just talked about. when we had our hearing about the data breach, donna seymour, the chief information officer, when we asked about the stolen materials, this is what she said, quote, some were outdated security documents about our systems and some manuals about our system, end quote. she went on to testify -- testified that the adversaries, quote, did not get specific configuration diagrams of our entire environment, end quote,
adding that, quote, our commercially available documents about platforms, homeland security went on to testify, quote, did not include proprietary information or specific information around the architecture of the opm environment, end quote. so, we're mystified as to what's true? is it as ms. seymour testified, or is it what you're telling us now that they did get very sensitive documents? we're not able to have these documents. they were stolen, we know the adversaries have them, but you won't allow congress to look at them and have them in our possession. you're offering an incamera review still with redactions. why do we have to negotiate this with you? why aren't you sharing this information with us? >> thank you for the question, mr. chairman. so, there were -- as i recall five separate requests from the committee on the specific topic to which you're referring, the -- all of the documents that
ms. seymour was testifying about were produced as part of our production. i don't know the exact date, but the response i believe that was to the august an18th but it mig have been the july 24th letter. all of the documents that were exfiltrated during that incident have been produced. you are right, they were produced originally in camera because of the categories of information that i described previously, system sensitive information such as -- >> she testified that they were outdated documents, they did not give specific configuration diagrams, they were commercially available. >> so, to be -- >> is that true or not true? >> to be clear, mr. chairman, when we looked at the -- all of the separate requests that have been made, which include information both about that incident and other incidents, our i.t. professionals recommended that we treat all of
the following categories of information the same way. things such as ip addresses, system sensitive architecture, system capabilities and tools as things to be treated carefully. >> but she testified that this was all commercially available and outdated information. so, she's leading congress to believe no problem here. i know they came in. i know they breached the system. i know they stole this but it's commercially available outdated information. is she accurate or not accurate? >> well, again, mr. chairman, what we tried to do is make available to you and your staff -- >> why aren't you giving you this information? the same stuff that was already hacked. we know the adversary has it but you won't let us see it. >> with all due respect, you do have it. >> do we have it all unreadacte? >> the only thing that remains redacted with respect to that production is a list of what we would consider unspogresponsive names. it's a list of every user name on the system with the last four
of their socials. but we're happy to -- that said, we're happy to make that information, continue to make that information available if your staff lets us know we're happy to come back and work with you on that set of responses. >> so, let me pull this out. we go in camera to look at it, this is what it looks like. >> that's the list that i'm referring to that is -- >> why are you redacting? we can go page offer page after page here. why all these redactions? i don't know what's under this. >> that's fair what we've explained to your staff what that is, is a list of every user name on the system. >> we're supposed to say you're fine. >> we're happy -- >> don't tell us you're happy to do it because as a member of congress with very high security clearances, you won't let us look at this material. >> it was nonresponsive. >> what do you mean nonresponsive? what does that meanwhilseen? this is what you give us in camera. then we finally have to
negotiate with you over months to get to this point where i can even hold it up. >> mr. chairman, we'll work with you. i think what we have tried to do -- >> here's the concern ms. seymour and testified to us and said it wasn't a problem because it was outdated publicly available information and you won't even in camera you still redact it. so don't tell me that you're responsive and that you're happy, we're in the happy. >> i appreciate that, mr. chairman. that information is certainly not publicly available. that's the last four of social security numbers -- >> that's what the adversaries got. that's what we're concerned about. >> sure. >> right? >> i'm not going to comment on what -- >> because the answer's question. and that's what we need is candor. the answer is yes. but that's totally dramatically and completely different than what ms. seymour testified. she tried to get us to go away by telling us it's all publicly available and it's outdated anyway. it was a lie. she misled congress, she's