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tv   US Senate  CSPAN  May 20, 2016 12:26pm-2:27pm EDT

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forward have the opportunities we have created through a fruit and vegetable growers, specialty crops, whole foreign policy for small growers, small farmers and so on, how we can continue to expand those opportunities for small as well as large farms so that they have a risk management tool. i think it's really a board. let me ask -- >> could i respond to that as well. >> please spent the first panel was asked what are some of the differences going into potential crisis, the farm crisis this time as compared to the 1980s. i became a banker in 197090 that was my first experience was to expend the '80s, but that's one of the primary differences. there some real differences i think the producers are much higher capitalized and lower leverage vendor were going into this come into the 1980s.
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the farm credit system is higher capitalized to the community banks are higher capitalized going into this. one of the real fundamental differences is crop insurance. in the 1980s probably less than 5% of all crops were injured in the united states. that number is reversed and there's 95% that are. that makes a huge difference not only for our industry but for the producers to ensure that they will be around for the next season. we do thank you for that and it is a very critical part of what we do. thank you. >> i appreciate that. as we go forward, and i hate to start talking about the next farm bill, i get a headache thinking about all the challenges we have, but this would be either import debate. we will need your voices as we are talking about the increased importance of crop insurance as a critical risk management tool. mr. wolfe and mr. barker, i wanted him a talk on the more, i apologize i was not here for
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your testimony, but just described what other institutions to support the rule food agriculture business. it's not just farmers but more broadly sort of rural communities, food industry. could you talk more about that? >> locally we have a lot of growers in the farmers market type of area. those are very popular in the state of iowa in our area. we have converted many producers to organic production, and those were some trying times. they are not profitable at first appeared it takes several years to get to the level where they are sustainable as organic farming. some of the challenges that we face come from other states. i was a part of an egg production facility, and the laws in california required that chickens needed more space in
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their cages. if they've met with agriculture they would realize that the more space the chicken has come a more violent they get with each other and actually are hurting those chickens. but it created a much more expensive operation. and so those are the things that we are facing challenges now. we've had to loan more money to that facility to increase their buildings and the capacity to produce. >> thank you. >> we are located in north-central northeast and located in north-central northeast and canada would end up transition between claims and good, dark farm ground. we have we as a primary grow crop in the western part of our trade area, and that transitions to corn, soybeans. we also have a lot of dairies, hog operations, these cattle. so we are very diversified --
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beef cattle. we are the largest tag linda in kansas. that's not all that large. probably ranks number 50 in the united states but we do our part to take care of our local producers. we've been around for a long time, and we relish the opportunity, even the downtimes to be there for our customers. >> thank you very much. i am going to step away to vote out and senator thune it just came in. i'm going to pass the entire power of the senate agriculture, nutrition and forestry committee. i'm a little nervous about this but i'd be happy to pass it to the senator from south dakota. >> well, thank you, madam chair. yeah, kind of a crazy day. i would've liked to bid ask questions we of the previous panel but we had the administrator of the tsa. to talk about weight lines at airports. so as i was chairing the
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meeting. but i appreciate the updated on what's going on in agriculture, particularly with regard to limit. i do want to conclude for the record, since i'm the only one year i will say this will be included without objection. [laughter] a story from the mitchell daily republic in which he talks about a study that looked at farm income. i know it's only been mentioned a couple times today but least in my state in 2015 we saw a drop by $100,000 on average last year in which is a 77% decline in net profit in 2015, compared to the year before. so it goes on and elaborate think it's that into the specifics and goes down to the numbers a little bit about what that means in terms of our economy. i think it puts a fine point on how important it is that we are focused on agriculture making
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sure we do everything we can to get our producers through what are some pretty difficult economic times and hopefully when we get a better price structure. but i know that we are planted in south dakota. some of it is still going in, but we are hoping for a big crop crop. we need a big crop at the prices we are dealing with today. i would be tree tuesday not jusm the lenders standpoint. i know that, for example, mr. barker, you've got a small-scale community bank with a portfolio of 35% agricultural loans. could you talk about what you greatest challenge is today in terms of looking at the outlook for your agricultural borrower's? >> as far as our borrowers, our biggest challenge is the cash flow coming in. we are in times where the most of our borrowers have equity to survive a year or two year going
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forward, this equity is being used up with the low prices, with production roughly 1 dollar below cost. they are sales price for both corn and beans. it doesn't take long to fit any size at all to get used up in the equity. we are going to need the farm credit, the rural development loans guarantees. we would ask the senate to really beef that up, the program, because we really will need those guarantees going forward to keep them in business, and patients is virtue in this thing. many examiners were not around in the '80s when we went through this crisis before. they are young and they are being told that this is maybe a panic situation, and patients will be a virtue in dealing with all of this. >> i would direct this to you and others on the panel as well, but do you believe that your
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banks and other aba banks coordinate more closely with the usda farm service agency that does ses to obtain guaranteed loans for someone's eligible borrower's? >> from my personal picks brings the banking community does but, in fact, i've had a few local small borrowers come to us because their credit was shut off at farm credit services. and we try to look at getting a guarantee for those folks but our experience is that the loyalty has been to the larger borrowers by the farm credit services, and the smaller folks may be in our area we're not taking care of his will because they are a lot of are a lot of are a lot of work but it's easier to book a $5 million loan. >> any examples of how farm credit system neglects young, beginning a small farmers and ranchers in your area? >> personally i don't seek it. i don't see the farm credit system doing that. i know they talk about that, and from a report 2014 which i could
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enter into the record if you would like, the numbers show that those young, beginning, small farmers are quite stagnant. and one of the photos i thought i wanted was if you qualify under each of those categories they can be counted on each of those categories. so i'm not sure the numbers relate. i know in theory that's what they would like to do at the regional levels. but on the local level i just don't see it happening. >> mr. welder, you are a farm operator and when you're talking to other local farmers, have you noticed competition in ag lending driving down interest rates for borrowers? >> from my perspective, in my personal operation i have not seen that, senator. we are getting competition from other large corporate farms and maybe have other lending
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resources, not that my love, no, not at all. interest rates are staying pretty much constant what we need to do for opera does. >> and from your perspective -- operating loans. >> farm credit system and fsa played a role in ensuring that could exist for borrowers? >> again i can only give a very bike with respect in my love. but the banks in my area don't deal with farmers as much other than checking and savings. the last farmer that had operating loans with other local citibank was my dad 20 years ago. at this point because 800-1000 acres you might be talking a quarter million dollars loan for operating loans. most of that go to the farm credit system as opposed to going to a banking system. >> okay. and, mr. barker, back to you.
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would you say your bank is consistently more competitive loan rates and loans available in, particularly as we talked about earlier some of the younger, smaller, newer borrowers? >> we could be as much as we can. i cannot compete with the farm credit services as they have a funding structure that is very enviable. for example, on a $1 million loan if i charge 5%, that's 50,000 in interest. i pay my tax bill at about. inet $30,000. the farm credit system is its tax-exempt can only charge 3% on that single. they don't have to change -- charged appraisal fees and there are other local thieves in some states that they do. so we tried to stay competitive as much as we can and make use of anything we can as far as federal home loan borrowing, something to that extent. but i just can't seem to touch
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the whole array of benefits that the farm credit services has. >> and you indicated 14% of your portfolio consists of loans range from 1000, two to under $40,000 which is 76% of your portfolio by total number of borrowers. and since many of these are likely young beginning to small farmers and ranchers, do you believe that your portfolio of borrowers, assuming we have the present state of circumstances in agriculture for the next couple of years is going to be negative impacted much worse than the larger scale to borrowers that you and your portfolio speak with i think they will be hit harder quicker than the larger farmers, yeah, because they've not had a chance to build up the equity that the other larger farmers have. >> senator speak with yes. >> mr. welder brings up a great point because his area is what i
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foresee if we continue to down the same path, that the local banks can't compete any longer so they have given tha the markt should we do if given a way, quit competing and that's what i'm afraid we are heading. just to give an example, mr. barker used a similar example in iowa but in my state i pay 34% federal income tax and 4.38% state income tax. so asked mr. berger says, on a 5% long they can charge 3.1 about and start at the same place we do. my point is that when we go down that path is the farm credit is not passing if i were a bar work of margaret today i would be angry they are not passing the entire savings along to them because they couldn't in fully taxed and they still, this don't make money like the banks. that's the point i would like to make. >> thanks.
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mr. stark? >> i delighted to respond to this comment. it's an unfortunate disporting due to allegations by consistent with so many farmer on customers support and feel so strongly about them when they i say what it was all down to the bottom line is what's been laid out at this point is the respective of our business structures when he gets down to the bottom line to the fact of matter is we are just different that's good as imagine opening remarks that was intended as a farmer owned cooperative. we have a different business structure. frankly, community banks enjoyed some of the same or similar accesses and backing by the federal government that the farm credit system does and the federal deposit insurance them access to the juicy to farmer back and the federal home loan bank, have access to a subchapter s. corporations. we could compare and contrast our business model for hours today. the bottom line is we look at it over the last figures they have 40% market share.
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we have 40% market share. by the testimony this morning our colleague mr. burkett did hd the over half of the farm loans in their community. if you look at the data that is present even in their own testimony they grew 7.9% last year. uighur 8.5% when you look at the facts there's no evidence to indicate that the pendulum has swung in favor of our credit system. thank you for the opportunity to comment. >> could i agree but that? sorry, mr. stark but there are a lot of gses at the but on any of the gses that directly compete with me that try to steal my loans. when we are not allowed to make a $5 million real estate loan, for example, that's a big part of my loan portfolio. that goes to the farm credit services no matter what. is just a way to compete and it will be undercut no matter what great i've quoted come and msha
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every community banks in the nation can say the same thing. that they rates just are not the same. they will pick those. the young farmer that comes in that has a quote from the farm credit services it's a rate that is higher. they might get a rate that is six or 8% compared to the 3% rate. so does that really mean you are taking care of those young farmers? with high priced below two young farmer that is the same whether a multimillion dollar farmer or they are a young farmer that's really struggling and trying to get out there. we can help them no matter what but we don't get competition from the other gses. >> i would just say, and i appreciate having to sing things i think that's a important one d it's an issue we need to pay close attention to, particularly over the next couple of years because i think as in production agriculture, if we don't see some improvement in the prices for commodities will have more and more stress and it will be a
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real need on behalf of the lending committee to work with borrowers and figure out ways to get into. i'm deeply concerned about the young beginning and small borrowers and what this means for them to people perhaps are not as established or don't own the ground and are making kashmir payment from the source of think that it's going to be increasing i think difficult given the current price structure which i said i hope it improves but i think that the ability of credit and be able to work with and had all the various people who represent the committee today i think is really good because it gives us an opportunity to explore a little bit more in detail what the various dynamics and who is lending to whom and we are sort out the weak spots or. if there's anything this committee can do in the days and weeks and months ahead, i hope
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you all will communicate that to us as well because we want to make sure that we're being as responsive as possible when it comes to a fair bit of credit for agriculture. chairman, i think you and i think our panel today for being here. >> senator thune, thank you for the excellent statement. i share your concern with new, young, what was the other group? oh, beginning. i'm concerned about the older, established producers who produce most of the food for this country, as well as everybody else. it is another vote pending, i would tell the gentleman very quickly, and about 10 minutes year, so we're going to have to a german this. i had a question for the three lenders on the panel, your answer of course is, if this does not occur the question i'm asking, we will be writing the
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sequel to the "grapes of wrath" in farm country. when you are considering whether to issue a formal of how important is the role of federal crop insurance program but let's just go down the line. mr. barker. >> yes, sir. is a truly important. it is just absolutely critical to the survival of the farmer out of there and stability in financial services. and i think i speak for me as well as the farm credit services. >> mr. stark. >> well, we totally agree and we think the committee and to support, mr. chairman, in what you do to get the last farm bill through as well as the provision of the crop insurance program. it's imperative for this industry as we go forward. >> mr. welder? >> as a producer i maintain crop insurance as do most of my peers to its and a portal as we move from a subsidy based to a more market-based to stay with a cup insurance and i thank you for your support.
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>> center? >> if you were in service that was always faithful, semper fi and chose to go army strong -- >> yes, sir. >> you could be strong but i'm not sure always faithful. [laughter] why on earth did you switch speak with sir, i was offered a scholarship and i didn't have money for college and is that i could jump out of perfectly good airplanes like took them up on it. [laughter] >> wellpoint. leonard speak with yes. i talked about this earlier, but a question was asked of the first bill sublette the major differences as we head into what potentially could be a downturn in ag and the differences compared to the 1980s. the primary difference as far as the producer protection is crop insurance.
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in the 1980s i saw statistics that said less than 5%. i was there, you were there, less than 5% of all crop tortured at that time. today that number is now 95% and its possible because of actions that this committee and you specifically taken, and i think that's going to be paramount going into any downturn whether this is it or not, our records have been predicting this for seven years so if the final happens i think they are take a certain level of glee from that but -- >> we are ready for it. >> crop insurance is one of the things that is prepared us for this if we do have it. thank you spent i appreciate your answer. it is what it is. every time, we are now doing appropriation bills, which is a very good thing. we are going back to constitutionally congressionally directed funding. and that's a good thing we're doing it at record pace. when you open up the bill a
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self-declared secretaries of agriculture wanting to change something. and crop insurance is usually a target. each one of you and everyone other organizations as a pretty loud megaphone. the valley of crop insurance today means either by the naked or not, are specially with all of the climate change that we are experiencing your let me just ask all of you, i note the somewhat different, differences of opinion with regards to what the farm credit system has at its disposal as opposed to what our community banks have come a special with dodd-frank which was not, dodd-frank was not supposed to touch you. it was the big banks. obviously, i don't know whether it's a touch or a massage or whatever it is, but it's not good.
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if come especially the three folks here that are representing our community banks, if there is one piece of legislation that could address your concerns, that would probably fall to the finance committee, have to be on time. but what would that be? let me start with you. i note you want holstered things but what's the one thing we could do to make your life easier? >> boy, that list is endless. dodd-frank is a huge thing for us right now, and i think our topic of debate is over the big concern for me locally and for all the community banks that have the farm credit system. but both of those topics are extremely important to us right now. dodd-frank is a mess, sorry. >> don't be sorry. i agree with you. quite a few people would now
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agree with you. mr. starr, we'll give you an opportunity. i don't want to leave you out. >> i think even though we are not subject to the same regulatory impact as the counterparts year under dodd-frank, farm credit system does whatever it can to comply with the spirit of those laws because in most part make good financial sense. the first panel talk about that specifically with regard to the credit, or the capital requirements and the farm credit system after the sca has adopted the regular guidance under basel iii agreement in new capital requirements. the answer to your question is continuation of the crop insurance program would be first and foremost. as we are about to bring order of our farmer owners and that is first and foremost on their minds. consistency and particularly around the businesses in this time of all till it is as critical as we could imagine
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that will do more than anything. the second we betrayed. casual no and we talked about the critical item for our producers, and depending on commodity, a majority, the majority of crops are big percentage of crops and almost all our segments is traded overseas. the u.s. production of agriculture is extremely efficient and we need trade on behalf of our producer customer. >> i thank you for your comments on trade and especially ttip and tpp. today unfortunately unwelcome it's just been this way as long as i've had the privilege of all trade agreements are criticized the altered agreements are oversold. but the absolute essential. and i thank you for that. let's just keep going down the line. mr. welder. >> senator, the one thing from my perspective would be certainty. farmers don't like change and we don't like change from
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washington if we can help it. when we go to our local ssa office and is by far the of what i'm coming for crop insurance, generally they have no idea. if the more certain we can have at my level for the farm bill, for crop insurance, the better off we're going to be. >> let me just interrupt biasing we're not going to hold up the farm bill, period. so you will have the stability of the hip -- especially if the program, and more specially crop insurance to i'm not saying that is going to be an easy job because it's always folks who want to do that. but providing consistency and stability i think is paramount. leonard, what do you think? >> since you can't do anything about the weather, because that is the big -- >> i brought you the rain, man. >> now you need to make it stop. [laughter]
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dodd-frank is a monster hanging over community banks today. i mean come is threatening our model for a lot of the things threaten our model but as mr. barker says, frankly in my bank, the biggest threat to me, seriously come is farm credit. if we could somehow, mr. welder mentioned that there do. that's all he's looking for is a fair deal. if we could just get to the point. there's a real misconception that banks want to eliminate farm credit system. no, that's not correct. i'm not an advocate of epic we have to coexist. we have to find a way to do that. it's funny you mention appropriations because have to take this opportunity to talk a little bit about last call when we used a tax on banks to pay for the highway bill. we have something writer hanging in front of us that's $1.3 billion tax preferential
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treatment that's given to farm credit that could be used to pay for some of the critical elements of agriculture, which is crop insurance, things of that nature. this can be done in a lot of different ways but there's more than one way to do this. we could rather than tax they would also eliminate taxes on all agricultural real estate loans, whether they are originated by banks, by individuals, by insurance companies or even farm credit. you could level the playing field in that way. we all have different models. even banks have much different models as mr. stark points out. we recognize the difference between us and the farm credit there's a great deal of differences across the board. so thanks for the opportunity. >> i want to thank all seven other witnesses. my staff is informed i-4 managed to squeeze gavel -- to skedaddle over there. thank you for taking the time. you're willing to testify. i know you're very busy people. testimony provides timely, great
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babel to hear firsthand. i'm asking additional questions that they may have be submitted for the record. submitted to committee clerk five business days from today or by 5 p.m. next thursday may 26. now, mr. barker, i have to say that mr. grassley, senator grassley, my senior colleague, basically his question was with regard to dodd-frank. i think you covered it. >> yes, sir. >> i want the record to show that i have asked -- [laughter] it was a very timely response to more specially from his constituent come and with that the committee stands adjourned. thank you. [inaudible conversations]
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[inaudible conversations] the cdc released a report that 279 pregnant women in the u.s. have tested positive for the zika virus. earlier members of the president public health team briefed him and the vice president on the efforts to fight the virus to the president spoke reporters at the white house after that briefing. let's take a look. >> i just had the opportunity to get a full briefing from secretary burwell, cdc and
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director friedman as well as tony fauci from nih about the zika situation and i want to give the american people a quick update on where we are. as has been explained repeatedly but i want to emphasize, zika is not like ebola. this is not a human to human transmission with one exception to talk about. it's primarily transmitted through mosquitoes. any particular type of mosquito. but what we do know is that if you contract the zika, even if you don't appear to have any symptoms, it is possible for zika to cause significant birthday facts, including microcephaly, we are those gold casing is -- ahead of the if it is significantly smaller. we think there may be other
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neurological disorders the art because of the consequence of zika, and we don't know all of the potential effects. we do know that they are serious. right now we seem is little over 500 cases of the zika in the continental united states, and all appeared to be travel related, not mosquito transmitted. meaning somebody from the u.s. went down to an area that has zika, got a bite and came back. we have seen at least 10 cases in which an individual went to one of these areas and got infected and then sexually transmitted zika to their partner. a more significant immediate concern is puerto rico where we know that there's over 800 cases that have been diagnosed. however, we suspect that it could be relatively high. the reason is that for most
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people you may not have a lot of symptoms when you get zika. the you are not pregnant or the part of somebody who is pregnant or trying to get pregnant, then you may not even know that you end up having zika. and that means that people oftentimes are not affirmatively going to the doctor and getting tested on these issues. now, here's the good news, is that because of the good work that's been done by the department of health and human services, by the cdc as well as nih, we have put forward a plan, we've got a plan over the next several months to begin developing a vaccine, and to continually improve our diagnostic tests. we are also working with all the states so that they are properly prepared if we start seeing an outbreak here in the continental
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united states during the summer when obviously mosquitoes are more active. and what we are also trying to do is to develop new tools for vector control, meaning how do we kill mosquitoes and reduce the populations, particularly this kind of mosquito. that's a tricky piece of business because we've been using a lot of insecticides for a long time that have become less and less effective. new strains of mosquitoes become resistant to the insecticide that we have. and so we are also investing a lot of time, research, logistical support, states and local communities to start improving our ability to control mosquitoes. puerto rico's most urgent in some of the characters but we're also spending time in working with the states so that they can be better prepared. all of this work costs money,
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and we have put forward a package that costs $1.9 billion in emergency funding in order for us to make sure we are doing effective mosquito control, to make sure that we are developing effective diagnostic tools, make sure we're developing vaccines that ultimately will prevent some of the tragedies that we have seen for those who have contracted zika and end up having children with significant birth defects. we didn't just choose $1.9 billion from the top of our heads. this was based on public health assessment of all the work that needs to be done. and to the extent that we want to be able to feel safe and secure, and families who are of
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childbearing years want to feel as if they can have confidence that when they travel, when they want to start a family, that this is not an issue. to the extent that that's something we think is important, then this is a pretty modest investment for us to get those assurances. unfortunately, what we have right now is the senate approving a package that would fund a little over half of what's been requested. the house so far has approved about one-third of the money that's been requested, except that money is taken from the funds that we are currently using to continually monitor and fight against ebola. so effectively there's no new money there at all that the house has done is said, you can rob peter to pay paul. and given that i have at least
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pretty vivid memories about how concerned people were about ebola, a notion that we would stop monitoring as effectively and getting with people in order to deal with zika doesn't make a lot of sense. and i don't think he will make a lot of sense to the american people. so here's the upshot. this is something that is solvable. it is not something that we have to panic about, but it is something we have to take seriously. and if we make a modest investment on the front end, then this is going to be a problem that we don't have to deal with on the back and. every child that is something like microcephaly, that may end up costing up to $2 million over the lifetime of that child in terms of that family providing a child support they need. that set aside the pain and the sorrow and the challenges that they're going to go through.
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add that. it doesn't take a lot of cases for you to get to $1.9 billion. why wouldn't we want to make that investment now? so my hope was that we would have had a bill that i could sign now. because part of what we're trying to do is to accelerate and get the process going for vaccines. you don't get a vaccine overnight. initially, you have to test it to make sure that any potential vaccine is safe. and then you have to test to make sure it's effective. you have to conduct trials where you are testing on a large enough bunch of people, that you can make scientific determinations. so we've got to get moving. ..
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and we have to sustain the work to finish the job. congress needs to get me a bill, get me a bill that has sufficient funds to do the job. they should not be going off on recess before this is done. certainly it has to get done over the course of the next several wakes to provide confidence to the american people that we are handling this piece of business. if i am a young family right now or someone thinking of starting a family, this is just a piece of insurance i want to purchase and i think that is true for most americans. understand this is not something where we can build a wall to prevent, mosquitoes don't go through customs. to the extent we are not handling this on the front end we have bigger problems on the
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back end. for those of you who are listening, tell members of congress to get on the job on this. this is something we can handle, we have confidence our ability to take care of it. researchers who are in the process of getting this done but they need support from the public to accomplish our goal. thank you very much, everybody. >> we will hear more about zika and other issues in the white house briefing today with deputy press secretary eric shultz. we have it live when it gets underway on c-span. the president makes stops in vietnam, japan tuesday, he will
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deliver a speech in hanoi before traveling to japan wednesday. thursday the president participate in g7 meeting and is expected to visit memorial and wreathlaying ceremony on friday. he may deliver remarks in that city. the president returns to washington a week from saturday. you can check or all of our coverage plans. lawmakers looked at commercial air service between the us and cuba. members of house homeland security subcommittee, heard from representatives from the tsa and homeland security and customs and border protection on the security challenges involved in establishing flights to the island nation. the hearing is an hour and 15 minutes. >> the committee on homeland security will subcommittee on
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transportation security will come to order. the subcommittee is meeting today to examine the risks involved in resuming us commercial air service to cuba. i recognize myself for an opening statement. february 16th, us and cuban officials sign an accord which will allow 100 daily round-trip flights between the united states and cuba. as has been the practice of this administration, dealing with minimal confrontational input from congress, countless attempts by this committee to obtain information about various aspects of the negotiation and requirements begin regularly scheduled commercial service to cuba have been stonewalled. despite having been briefed by components prior to this hearing i learned only yesterday from a press release that on may 5th, deputy secretary signed a memorandum of understanding with the cuban government that has far-reaching implications for the department of homeland security. the administration's lack of transparency on this issue is
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unacceptable and leads me to believe the administration is either hiding something or were simply negligent of security concerns associated with this policy. immediately following the signing of the february 16th agreement the department of transportation opened application process for us air carriers on routes for regularly scheduled commercial or service to alter cuba's international airport. after a 54 year freeze in diplomatic relations the administration is attempting to designate these cuban airports as points of departure to the united states as late summer this year. only seven other foreign countries in the world have 10 or more healthy airports including the closest allies and trading partners such as the united kingdom, canada and mexico. china with 1.3 billion people and the third largest country in the world by landmass has only 11 airports to the united states but the administration wants to
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designate in airports to cuba. a country that could fit into china over 127 times. and the population is 1% that of china. a briefing on march 17th officials from tsa stated their intention to certify 3 additional airports to cuba by late december. the picture of tsa paint and the security situation in cuba's airports is indeed bleak. cuba suggests no explosive detection equipment. the bomb sniffing dogs, it is described as street dogs. the only two body standards are in havana that will not have bodies. the scanners are chinese made and security women cubans possess, we have no idea whether they work at all or how well they work.
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to make matters worse it is not clear whether federal air marshals will allow them to be on these flights. tsa could offer no information on security training if any that airport officials receive and unaware of airport workers are vetted for potential links to terrorism. given the continued us embargo, the administration prohibits from supplying security equipment or offering training to the cuban government. additionally tsa predicted with the introduction of commercial air service, increased exponentially to a level cuban authorities and airport infrastructure are unprepared and perhaps unable to handle. the status quo remains the same, the cuban government would not allow us airlines to hire personnel to perform basic functions such as ticketing and check-ins or more complex functions like airline security operations at airports in cuba. the cuban government employees
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instead of commercial airlines may be the ones doing these tasks. even though earlier this year lieutenant general stewart, director of the defense intelligence agency testified before the senate armed services committee, quote, cuba remains a critical counterintelligence threat. but the administration is telling us we shouldn't for safety and security of american citizens to the cuban government, a country that was just renewed from state-sponsored terrorism list one year ago on may 29th, a country whose leaders have repeatedly derided the values and principles for which our great nation stands. this is to say the least unsettling. historically flights from cuba have been attractive targets for terrorists and hijackers and in 2007, two i'm cuban soldiers went awol, hijacked the airport perimeter in havana and attempted to hijack a plane bound for miami. two cuban passenger flights were hijacked in the united states within two weeks, 2003. other examples, i could go on. these incidents which have
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occurred too many times in recent history raise serious concerns about ability of willingness for cuban officials to take airport security and passenger screening seriously. to make matters more concerning on april 17th the washington post published an article on increased flow of individuals from afghanistan traveling to cuba. the article states, quote, travel agents in kabul have been surprised by afghans showing up at their offices, suspected of having been issued in it ran, required on the black market. it is suspected they used cuba as a gateway into the united states or canada. without objection i ask unanimous consent this article be entered into the record. what this article reflects is frightening given that cuba currently has a 0 document verification machines at its airports. they do not have any electronic means trying to verify if any of the documents presented to them are in fact what they purport to
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be and authentic. there you have it. these are the concerns and they are multifaceted and serious. we are here today not to elaborate on the merits of the administration's approach to cuba but to take a serious look at the national security implications of a policy that has been pushed through at breakneck speed with minimal regard for the security and safety of the american people. the gentlewoman from new york for any statement she may have. >> thank you, mister chairman. i want to thank our witnesses from tsa and the state department for coming here to discuss the decision to allow scheduled commercial air travel between the us and cuba. the state department made a important role in civil aviation party ship with cuba and secretary can give some insights to the process which led to this agreement. as we know only chartered flights operate between the us and cuba.
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and american air carriers, 100 scheduled flights each day in addition to the chartered planes. before that can happen tsa, cdg and other relevant agencies must verify cuban, security standards and prepared to screen passengers bound for the us. from all of our witnesses how they would have sent cuba's airport security right now. how to enhance security at cuban airports and concerns about cuba security capabilities and looking forward to hearing how tsa is working with air carriers and what regulation will be issued to further enhance security. what mechanisms are in place to ensure they know exactly who was on board a flight bound for the us, how to ensure we are obtaining accurate information from passengers traveling to the us, how they intend to verify
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travel documents and determine whether or not certain individuals can enter the us, those are the questions that need to be addressed in this discussion. allowing scheduled air travel between the us and cuba has the potential to benefit both of our countries but also unique security challenge. i hope our conversation today will help clarify what those challenges are. thank you for convening this hearing. i yield back the balance of my time. >> i recognize chairman of the full committee from texas for any statement you may have. >> thank you for holding the support hearing today and your leadership on aviation to kathleen rice, ranking member, thank you as well. i believe this issue of security, last points of departure. critical importance, i let a congressional delegation overseas. and had the opportunity to visit egypt and examine security measures in place at cairo
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airport. egyptians were making progress. what i saw was concerning when we compare it to our own airports. they are not using full-body scanners. airport workers are not fully vetted against up-to-date terror watch lists. the last point of departure to the united states, the administration is rushing to open regularly schedul commercial air service to cuba and designate 10 new airports as last points of departure to the united states. i fear the security situation at this airport in cuba is much worse than places like cairo. there are only five direct flights to the united states each week from somewhere like egypt the administration's proposal calls for 110 daily flights between the united states and cuba. i hope to visit cuba in the near future to evaluate airport
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security situation myself. the administration's plan to open direct commercial air service to cuba is in my judgment unnecessarily rushed. serious security concerns here that seem to be taking a backseat to a legacy building effort. cuba has taken steps to liberated economy in recent years. the country is still being led by a communist dictator. and a more open and democratic government. to soften the castro regime's hateful rhetoric to the united states or compel the government to loosen its tyrannical grip. it is the opposite. by rewarding bad behavior, they give no indication it is acting in good faith or has the best interest of the united states
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for citizens, accordingly we must do all we can to ensure the safety and security of americans to choose to visit the island. so far i remain entirely unconvinced the administration has done its due diligence. the obama administration may be willing to put the security of americans at risk to appease a dictator today's hearing will show the united states congress will not and with that i yield back. >> thank you, mister chairman. i recognize ranking member of the committee mississippi, for any statement you may have. >> thank you, mister chairman. earlier the obama administration and cuban government, and we have a committee with jurisdiction, security measures,
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have great responsibility of ensuring transportation security administration, department of homeland security customs and border protection and other relevant agencies are doing their due diligence to ensure the flight departing from cuba to the united states are secure although not the last point of departure, the recent bombings of planes, which one, one was killed, tragically killing everyone on board serves as a stern reminder that there are those who wish to do us harm doing commercial aircraft. there are 300 airports around the world that serve as last points of departure. foreign airports fly directly to the us. the standard is always other relevant entities perform, investigation and mitigation
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measures necessary to ensure that these flights are not able to be targets by nefarious characters. as i understand it agencies efforts to inspect and prepare the cuban airport, no different than stringent inspection efforts and regulatory schemes in place at the last point of departure airports. the time of this hearing flying blind would lead you to believe nothing has been done to assess these airports before they schedule commercial service to and from the united states. tsa informs us that they are inspecting and evaluating airports even as we speak. these airports must have a level of security at least on par with international civil aviation organizational standards and ensuring this now. tsa also has the power to implement regulatory schemes
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that compel airlines to perform additional security management beyond standards. i look forward to hearing from assistant secretary paul fujimura, head of the office of global strategies, on what his teams are doing to ensure security in cuban airports and what additional mitigation he plans to implement. also look forward to hearing from deputy assistant ragnar -- wagner who will talk about the role cpp plays, in document detection efforts. i think assistant secretary stodder for agreeing to speak on broader aspects of policies in these matters. the deputy assistant, secretary kurt tong has a hard stop due to other engagements. we just had votes called.
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i hope you are with us for a while. i yield back. >> do 2 votes on the floor the subcommittee stands in recess subject to the call of the chair, for half an hour or so. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
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[inaudible conversations] >> thank you for coming back from that break. sometimes we can't control the women's of the voting process. other members of the committee reminded opening statements may be submitted for the record. we are pleased to have with us 5 distinguished witnesses to testify before us today on this important topic. for businesses from the deferment of homeland security include larry mizell from the caribbean region that includes cuba. mister paul fujimura, assistant administrator for the office of local strategy and transportation security administration, john wagn, deputy assistant commissioner for customs and border protection.
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that is a big title. mister stodder, assistant secretary of homeland security for border, immigration and trade policy of the department of homeland security, thank you for being here today. i recognize mister stodder for a joint statement from the department of homeland security. >> sorry. good afternoon. ranking member rice, distinguished members of the subcommittee. i am assistant secretary of homeland security, border, immigration and trade policy. on behalf of my colleagues who sit beside me today thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the department's role in aviation security as it relates to -- as it pertains to commercial air service between the united states and cuba. i will provide a brief statement on behalf of myself, and my three colleagues and look forward to answering any questions you might have. let me begin by discussing the role of aviation security generally and get to issues more specific than cuba.
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since the 9/11 attacks and with the support of congress dhs has worked on a robust strategy aimed at securing aviation threats while facilitating the flow of legitimate travel and commerce across borders throughout the aviation system. as repeated incidents reminded us from 9/11 attacks to the recent destruction of metro jet flight 9268 above the northern sinai in october 2015 the aviation sector remains a target for attack or exploitation, terrorists, criminals and other bad actors. to meet this challenge the dhs strategy relies on the following elements -- first, under us law, dhs acting for tsa is required to assess security at all for an airport serving as the last point of departure offering service to the united states. pursuant to the law tsa has people on the ground working with foreign partners, air carriers, airport authorities and others to assess all aspects
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of security at such airports. only after tsa determined that airport meet international security standards may that airport offer flight service to the united states was one flight service begins, tsa continues to inspect, monitor these airports carriers, and the authority to take action if standards are not met. tsa suspend service entirely or can issue security directives and emergency amendments for carriers at lpd locations. bottom line tsa keeps a close eye on security of foreign airports and offer service to the united states. second, only those with valid travel documents are permitted to fly to the united states. those for national seeking to travel must possess valid visa for the consulate unless they are nationals in a country that participate in a visa waiver program they must apply for travel authorization through the electronic system for travel authorization. third, most tsa and cbp collect information from passengers and their carriers so we can
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identify security purposes all passengers seeking travel to the united states. through the secure flight program tsa has all air passengers against terrorist screening database including no-fly list prior to wheels out. the national targeting center gathers information from the air carriers to assess risk and conduct predeparture vetting of all passengers. if tsa identifies security enforcement issue dhs will coordinate with regional carrier liaison groups to prevent that person reporting the flight. on arrival all inbound passengers and luggage are suspected further screening by cbp before entering the united states. this bulky security enforcement strategy, all aviation's will apply with equal force with scheduled commercial aviation from cuba whenever it begins. with regard to cuba, dhs worked closely with interagency partners including state department and worked on
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bilateral relationships, dhs plays a key role by working to secure lawful orderly flows between or two countries and working together on law enforcement, maritime security and other issues most recently dhs signed a memorandum of understanding in the cuban ministry of the interior and condos focused on law enforcement cooperation. senior dhs leaders in cuba as part of the ongoing law-enforcement dialogue cochaired by the department of state, justice and homeland security with dhs delegation including representatives from us coast guard. with regard to the start of scheduler service between the us and cuba, all the security enforcement requirements in place for international flights to the united states will be
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applied with equal force, they are already in place for charter flights that for many years have offered service between our two countries. furthermore, tsa is working to finalize an arrangement with cuba for deployment of federal air marshals which will be in place before the start of scheduled commercial flights. 'll continue to work together and work with this committee as we work in general to strengthen ongoing efforts to secure international air travel and promote safe and efficient international travel and tourism to and from the united states. thank you for the opportunity to testify today. >> thank you, mr. stooder. i now recognize the assistant secretary for the bureau of economic and business affairs at the u.s. state department for his testimony. >> thank you, chairman, ranking member, distinguishes members of the committee, welcome this opportunity to testify on behalf of the
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-- regarding the process and rational for negotiating an -- the agreement between the united states and cuba on the international air transportation between the two countries, consistent with u.s. law the department of state leads u.s. delegations in negotiating with foreign governments on bilateral -- shortly after the president's december 17, 2014, announcement, that the united states would be taking a number of steps to work towards normalizing relations with cuba and after coordinating with all relevant agencies, the department of state approached the government of cuba to propose technical discussions on restoring scheduled commercial air service. for many years, all air travel between the united states and cuba has been via charter service. charter flights have adequately
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served the relatively low levels of travel between the united states and tuba -- cuba, but amid the process of normalization, the administration aimed to expand authorized travel and people-to-people contacts between the united states and cuba. by expanding people-to-people ties we believe we can more effectively support the aspirations of the cuban people for a better life. the administration therefore concluded that restoring scheduled air service would be necessary to accomplish those objectives. the cuban government accept our proposal to fold technical discussions about the modalities for restoring scheduled air service and the department informed u.s. industry about our plans and received the airline industry's full and enthusiastic support for this effort. the united states and cuban governments held three rounds of technical discussions, in march,
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september, and december of 2015, and the u.s. delegation comprised officials from five federal agencies, the departments of state, transportation, and commerce, as well as the transportation security administration and the department of treasury's office of foreign assets control. they simultaneously also amended its cuban assets control regulations in january 2015, to allow by general license u.s. carriers to off ever scheduled service between -- offer scheduled service between the united states and cuba to authorized travelers. at the third round of consultations in washington, the united states and cuba finalized the text of a memorandum of understanding which was signed in havana in february 2016 by secretary of transportation anthony fox, and assistant secretary of state, charles rivkin, signed can for the united states.
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this is an informal, nonbinding arrangement delineating between the two countries. the mou provides for u.s. carriers to operate 20 daily round-trip frequencies to have van and other cuban cities with an international airport. it also provides for charter services to continue to operate without limitation. u.s. carriers, the reaction from them, they are very eager you offer scheduled service to cuba and the universally welcomed the new mo and have committed applications to the department of transportation to operate flights on specific routes to havana and other cuban cities. in the case of havana, applications for u.s. carriers far exceed the mous limit of 20 frequenciesber -- per day. the department of transportation
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is conducting a frequency allocation proceeding to determine which u.s. carriers will receive frequencies. that procedure based on the public interest. we believe this new mou will support the objective of promoting authorized travel between the united states and cuba and people-to-people contacts. the mou will also generate new business opportunities for the u.s. aviation industry, and help create american jobs. if i could anticipate a couple of questions. with regard to the u.s. of an informal arrangement at this time, the reason why we had a limited negotiating objective, dissimilar from the usual approach with such bilateral negotiations, which is to aim for an open skies agreement, fitting our open skies mod $ -- was based upon our understanding of, if you will, how much the traffic would bear in terms of
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demand, given the ongoing restrictions on travel and trade between the united states and cuba. throughout the negotiations with cuba, the u.s. negotiators carefully articulated to cuban counterparts the aspects of u.s. regulations affecting cuba that have changed and those that have not changed. for example, the mou does not effect or change current u.s. travel restrictions. it does not change persons subject to u.s. jurisdictions who travel to cuba must still be authorized by a general or specific license under one of the 12 categories of authorized travel. while negotiating the mou the u.s. and cuban governments re-affirmed their commitment to strengthen their already close cooperation on aviation safety and aviation security matters. they re-affirmed their commitment to abide by the provisions of international conventions relating to aviation security and to act in conformity with aviation
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security standards and appropriate recommended practices established by the international civil aviation organization. as noted a representative of the transportation security administration participated in the u.s. delegation throughout the negotiations and provided valuable advice on tsa's ongoing cooperation with the cuban government to strengthen aviation security. thank you. >> i understand you have a hard stop at: 3:30? >> guest: i like to honor that i don't want to create a diplomatic issue with a japanese colleague. >> i understand that. think we can dismiss you now but mr. tong, thank you for your testimony and members will provide you 2005 questions in writing and we appreciate your responses within ten days. >> i look forward to responding. thank you. >> i also want to ask unanimous consent that the gentleman from pennsylvania, mr. perry, be able
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to participate in the hearing and without objection, so ordered. i now recognize myself. i doubt i will get through everything i income the first round but we'll see. i appreciate brief and concise answers to the best of your ability. and i'll start with -- what is your title currently? >> my current title is tsa representative. i'm based in nassau, bahamas, and covers cuba, haiti and the a bahamas. >> have you been asked to review the airports in question in cuba? >> i don't necessarily review them. i'm not an inspector. my goal is to -- my job is to work with the foreign government, the government of cuba in this case, and ensure they meet all the security requirements that currently exist. i share with them best practices, lessons learned, and one very important aspect of my
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job is to ensure that once the inspectors have identified a deficiency, if any, i work closely with the government ensure that the deficiency is corrected. >> have you visited the ten lpd airports. >> there are only currently seven. >> how many have you adviced. >> all seven of them. with respect to the ones you visited, do you recall speaking with us prior to coming in here today and giving us general findings from the visited? do you remember telling us your general observations? >> yes, sir. >> now, tell me, in those seven airports you visited, how many of them have explosive trace detection equipment? >> the last time i spoke with you, sir, we were in a closed session, and i spoke frankly about what we had and did not have within cuba. with this open session i'm reluctant to get into exactly what equipment they have.
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>> let me pause for a moment, please. [inaudible conversations] >> so just for the record, are you saying that the information you provided to us in nonsecure setting is considered ssi information? >> yes, sir. >> okay. then we'll probably have to move this to a secure hearing. let me -- one second. [inaudible conversations]
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>> i just want to make sure the record is clear. have to make a record. with respect to the k-9 discussion we had with respect to the seven lpds, is it still your position those are also ssi? >> yes, sir. it's a level of security that -- so again, ssi. >> okay, with respect to discussion about body scanners, you're saying that is ssi as well? >> all the equipment. >> with respect to the training we discussed, or lack thereof of the cuban airport personnel, is that also ssi in your opinion? >> we don't conduct training so there's nothing to discussion really. >> let's discuss that, then, if there's nothing to discuss of a sensitive nature. do you know how the cuban authorities train their airport personnel? >> no, sir. >> do you have any idea what type of background checks are done of the cuban employees entrusted with scanning documents and bags that come into the airports.
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>> i do not. >> does anybody in the united states government have any idea what that is? >> sir. yes, sir. >> yes. >> thank you, sir. if a foreign airport assessment program is -- operates under the authority of title 49 u.s. code -- >> i'm sorry. we have a limit period of time do you understand if there's any training that -- what type of training the airport personnel have? >> standards require that airport personnel who work at the airport are trained and undergo background investigations and are cleared according to the national authorities, operating cuba. our inspectors have gone to cuba and ascertained that cuban cuba follows the standards with background checks, et cetera. >> i think you mentioned document version -- the travel documents -- i know we talked about the document verification capabilities or lack thereof
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with respect to cuban airports. do you consider those answers you gave us in that meeting to be ssi as well? >> yes, sir. >> okay. all right. we mentioned -- somebody mentioned the federal air marshal service. mr. stoddard? >> yes. >> with respect to the federal air marshal service is it your testimony there will be no flights from the united states -- from cuba to the united states unless a federal air marshal service has been a i lieud to be on the flights like elsewhere in the world? >> yes. >> you just don't know what the time frame is? >> yes. that agreement is still under negotiation but it's being negotiated now. >> so there will be no flights until the federal marshals are allowed to be on the flights. >> correct. >> when do you and expect the commercial flights to again between the united states and cuba. >> it's a question for l for the department of transportation.
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>> what do you anticipate? >> we don't know. >> now, mr. mizell and others handling the ssi inquiry, apologize. did not understands the matters of importance because you did not delineate them when we spoke. we simply sat down and had a conversation in a nonsecure setting. forgive me for raising the questions but we're going to submit questions to you and i want you designate which ones you believe to be ssi. now, is it fair to say during that meeting you had some pretty significant concerns about some of the security aspects at the airports? >> the concerns i had that i shared with you was over a five-year period. certainly i had concerns at the beginning, which i don't have now. >> you don't have any concerns right now? >> right now the government of cuba airports that have been assessed and inspected by the
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inspectors meets the standard. >> i'm talking about you based on your personal or sir vacation, do you have concerns? you certainly enunciated those to us in that meeting. >> i shared concerns with you from what i saw early on. which was quite different than the situation we have today. >> so it's your testimony here today you have no more concerns about any of the security aspects at these lpd airports? >> my testimony is they meet the standards required dish. >> that's not the question, sir. >> as long as they meet the standards required, if there's anything elves i can do to improve security i will do so. >> i'll try to ask one more time. do you have any concerns about the security aspects of the airports based on your own personal opinion? >> my same answer applies, sir. the concerns i have are very minor compared to five years ago. >> so -- but you're still not going to answer the question whether you have concerns or not. >> sir, they meet the standards. >> okay.
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we'll move on. >> one question. any of the gentlemen can answer this question. the question is: why the rush? why the rush to open ten airports, which is an awfully large number of airports, from a country that we have had very little relationship with them in the past five decade. why the rush in getting this done so quickly? why not start with a few and see how it goes? >> that is a question best directed to the department of transportation and the state department with regard to the u.s. -- broader u.s. policy on opening commercial aviation with cuba. >> you don't have any opinion on the matter? >> i don't have an opinion on that. >> anybody else have any input?
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>> if note that as mr. tong pointed out. charteres have been operating for some time and they're operating from six current last int of departure airports airpod they fully meet the standards and we are comfort able with the security standards on the flight. >> with deor you're talking about 100 more flights a day. is that correct? >> i think the number of flights is a deng of transportation question. >> assuming there's 100 more flights, which we have been told perhaps as many as 110 a day, isn't it fair to say the infrastructure at those airports is such it may put stress on the infrastructure capabilities quite a bit? >> i want want to speculate on the capacity of the cuban infrastructure. i would note, however, that flights from europe involving many of the major european carriers are flying into cuba every day as well as regional traffic is coming in and out of cuba. a very heavily trafficked airport.
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so i would note that and there are -- they are currently meeting all standards and major aircraft operators are comfortable flying in and out of cuba as well. >> have you been to cuba yourself and observed the airports. >> i have not been to cuba. >> mr. mizell you have been there and observed the havana airport. >> that's correct. >> is it fire say it's going to put a stress on the airport when they have increased -- large increase in the passenger travel there? >> i know the cubans have been working on terminal three where the international flights come into. they are -- the number of flights into each terminal has not been determined. that's something which will be worked out between the cubans and the air carriers sock whether or not there's a crunch remains to be seen. >> do you have any observations based on what you have learned so far? you expressed them to us before. >> the only observation is observed that were of concern
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was the fact that they lacked a couple of buses so when it was raining we had delays getting off the aircraft. >> no other concerns? >> no, sir. >> okay. thank you for your time. i now recognize mr. rice for five minutes of questioning. >> i just want to assure all of you this is not a criminal inquiry, much to the -- the tone the questions have taken. like to think this is an information-gathering hearing that all of you would clearly feel you have some information that would be good to see exactly how this whole process is being set up, and one of the question is have for you, mr. mizell, which you can answer is, is it -- is there -- has there been a statement on behalf of the cuban government they are going to be investing in infrastructure to be able to deal with the increase in
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tourism and flights and cruise ships and everything else in terms of now the -- there's this new relationship? >> the investment into the cruise ship industry, i'm not familiar with -- >> just talking about in terms of what chairman katko was just asking about. can the infrastructure handle this? has there been a commitment to the best of your knowledge by the cuban government to put money into the infrastructure to be able to handle the increase in flights if they -- it comes to that point? >> as i mentioned they have a project underway at terminal three, with the international flights come into, other than u.s. flights, whether or not the cuban government plans to divert some of the u.s. flights to terminal three, remains to be seen. >> i have a question for you,
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mr. mujimora. so, there are seven airports lpd airports in cuba that we're talking about here. the number ten has been thrown around. we're talking about seven airports. >> there are currently seven lpd designated airports but only six are active at this time. for charter flights. >> we'll work with the number six. so, with the inspection of these six lpd airports by the tsa, any different than any other airport operating as an ltd airport anywhere around the world? >> no. our tsa assessment program is very standardized. we have the cadre of 150 inspectors who work around the world, and they follow a very clearly articulated job system in conducting seeingsments. it's a very regular process we operate around the world. >> now, how regularly is the tsa going to be inspecting the six
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lpd airports in cuba? >> we'll be there annually to look at the airports on a regular basis. if we're talking about any kind of startup service where changes, our tsa inspectors there are before service starts up, while service is starting, to ensure that everything is going smoothly, and they will be there after a 30-day period to make sure operations are running smoothly and orderly and accordance with the standard. >> so, now in your opinion, how secure is flying to and from cuban airports compared to any other lpd airports in the world? >> i would be very comfort able flying from cuba myself. they meet international standards. >> so, we were talking before about the inspire -- the most recent issue of "inspire" magazine. if you think you can answer this, can you talk about where you think cuba fits into the larger threat picture that tsa
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and all of us are concerned about, not just here but other lpd airports abroad? >> thank you. so, the "inspire" magazine ill still being eval bait the intelligence community, but it clearly articulates a focus from al qaeda on the arrayan peninsula on targeting aviation. recent events including metro jet, which you talked about, the aircraft in somalia, brussels, paris, these indicate to me a focus for us on africa, middle east, and perhaps the foreign fighter issue in europe being a major concern for aviation. >> now, so, that's not to say that cuba could not become a focus in the future, expect but is tsa working towards ensuring that all of the databases available to us here and other countries especially lpd airports, are going to be accessible to the cuban
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government when they do their assessment before -- >> absolutely. we'll not take our eye off the ball of any lpd airports. the value add that tsa puts on the lpd traffic is we know who is coming our way. through security flight we have master crew lists, crewman tests, passenger manifests that we partner with, with our colleagues and we have a very clear idea who is coming our way, whether there are on any kind of watch list. so on top of the physical security undertaken at the last point of departure airport, we have a very good idea of the identity and kind of person coming to our country. >> is anyone on this panel been asked in their duties and responsibilities vis-a-vis opening up travel between the u.s. and cuba, to cut any kind of corners in terms of security or anything like that? have you ever been asked to cut
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corners to ensure this gets done in a timely manner? >> not at all. >> no. >> okay. thank you. i don't have anything further. >> thank you, miss rice. i must take issue with your comment about criminal injury. when we met with mr. mizell previously not once did he say the information was of an ssi nature, and not once this hearing today did anybody at homeland security or tsa make any mention that the information was of a sensitive nature, and wife that information is so important is because the information m-mizell offered serious concerns bottoms the nature and quality of equipment at the airports throughout cuba. >> my understanding -- >> let me finishing, please. we had a very robust discussion, i thought a vary helpful discussion, very fruitful discussion, and i also encountered two weeks at least, my staff did -- at least two weeks of back and forth, trying simply to get mr. mizell to come
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here today because it was resisted repeatedly for two weeks at least, and my staff spent a good part of a full week just trying to get been, without a spine, to -- a subpoena to produce the witness and when you've get here today for the first time we hear that the stuff that you talked about in an opening setting was considered to be ssi. if you did that earlier we wouldn't have had the back and forth and wouldn't have had to have the tone of the inquiry we had today. >> why do you have to take that tone anyway? just ask him the question. we're all adults -- >> with did ask the can he. >> we are all professionals. there's no reason to adopt- -- with all due respect to everyone here and everybody can adopt whatever tone you want but we are not a prosecutors anymore. we're not. no one here. mr. radcliffe is not. mr. katko is not. neither am i. >> but we have a solemn duty to our country to make sure that we do proper oversight of the tsa. >> then don't play politics.
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ask a question. and ask for an answer. >> that's right. >> that's it. >> there's no politics going on here. weapon simply are trying to get -- >> then don't sound like it. it sounds to me like we're playing politics here and there's no -- >> i'd like to -- take my time. we are trying to get to the bottom of what we concern to be grave concerns bottom the opening of these airports before the rest of the inquiry is done. >> if you were really worried you wouldn't do -- >> we're expecting fully to have mr. mizell tell us the things he told us because we flood idea he was going to claim this stuff was ssi. that was the nature of the inquiry, so i if you take issue with my tone, let me apologize for that but i have the interests of cower country is the biggest think at stake to us and making sure the airline is safe and people are safe, and overlaying this is an aural in the "washington post" that came out talking about afghanistan individuals trying to use false cuban documents to get into cuba
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and ultimately into the united states. so there is serious concerns. i'm not saying that anybody here is involved in malfeasance. we're trying to get the facts out. so mr. mizell if you took issue with my tone, let me apologize for that but let me understand the interests of the country and making sure that before you open air travel to a former communist done k trupp tri -- there is testimony about major concerns be their counterespionage activities and make sure we dot our is and cross our ts and i hope you understand that. >> if i could just interject, and i'm sure as rankening member you give me that opportunity to do that. let's not make it us versus them. no one has a corner on the market of national security there isn't a democrat or republican in this congress who doesn't have a priority of keeping this country safe. and if you want to really get to the bottom of whether or not the proper analysis is going forward before we open up actual travel, again in normalizes this part of
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the normalization of relationships, then do it in a private setting. where we can get the real information instead of putting on a show and asking questions that people can't answer. that's all i'm asking for. take the politics out of this, clear live politicized issue, and get to the heart of the matter here. >> we were attempting to do that today, miss rice. thank you very much. the chair now recognizes the gentleman from georgia, mr. carter. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you for being here. i apologize for my tone. have any of you ever been to cuba? you have been to cuba? raise your hands. i have. and i think this is the most ludicrous thing i ever heard of we're going to open up commercial travel to cuba. when i visited cuba, i was really excited because we had dinner one night with an 83-year-old and a 23-year-old and i kind of enough what to expect out of the 83-year-old but the 23-year-old i was interested in knowing what that
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person would have to say. i was appalled to learn that the person actually believed the united states of america had dropped the atomic bomb on japan after they surrendered. hobbits -- honest injun. i heard that. once the commercial service to cuba begins, how many passengers do you anticipate having come and go to cuba? -- come from cuba from america and go to cuba from america? >> sir, the scheduled commercial service you're referencing would be a department of transportation economic estimate -- >> okay, okay. i've heard that. i got three minutes and 41 seconds left. let me tell you again about my trip to cuba. they hate capitalism. they head everything we stand for. i learned that in my trip to cuba. i can tell you that.
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they hate america. they do not hate us as americans but they hate america and what we represent. they blame us for all of their economic woes. everything. and this was not just the 83-year-old and the 23-year-old. everyone i had the opportunity to speak to over there felt the same way. i took great offense to that. great offense. i love america. think it's the greatest country ever in the history of the world. i can't for the life of me understand -- tell you another story. we had the opportunity to visit with some journalists and i asked them -- i had the opportunity to ask them. said, are -- is the regime still taking political prisoners? on a stack of bibles this is their answer: they're still taking them but not keeping them as long anymore. there you go. that's progress. what do you think is going to happen ? i want to know your personal opinion as americans, your personal opinion, that do you think is going to happen whenever we open up travel between these two countries,
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their economy starts doing better, you think that's going to suppress the current regime over there? do any of you think that's going to suppress them? do any of you think that that's the only going to empower them even more than they are now? i'm interested to know. anyone. anyone. mr. stodder? >> i can't opine on that. we as representatives of the department of homeland security are focused on the security of air transit between cuba and the united states. >> i understand that and wasn't asking you as representative of whatever you said. was asking you as americans. >> i'm here testifying as a assistant -- >> not as an american. >> as an american citizen, certainly. >> that's what i was asking, as american citizen. >> that's -- i'm testifying as a representative of the department of homeland security, and the focus is ensuring the security of commercial aviation and other aviation between yuba and the united states. >> okay.
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then, let me ask you. help me out here. help me understand the difference between what international requirements are for checking and for going through security and what american tsa policies are or requirements are? are they the same? one in the same. >> with regards to international aviation from last points of departure for flights to the united states, tsa enforces and inspects airports to ensure they meet international standards. so, that's one piece of it as i discussed in my opening testimony. so that's one piece which is ensuring the security of the airways themselves and also cdp and tsa have a roll with regard to vetting -- >> its thought i asked you were they one in the same? >> the standards -- >> are they the same standards? >> i can take that one. >> good. >> so, the difference between what tsa standards are and what
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the' -- the standards are performance-based. what just happened. what tsa does is when we assess, we assess how well those performance measures are being carried out. those standards are being cared out. in the united states the tsa's team are much proper proscriptive. >> let me ask you this. straightforward as i can be. are you as comfortable with someone coming out of cuba as you would be for someone coming out of america? >> sir, of course i believe that the tsa we have a gold standard -- >> is that yes or no? that's yes or no. >> yes, sir, i'm very comfortable with traveling -- no someone who has gone through security in cuba and is now coming over to america, are you as confident that they have been vetted as someone who is leaving america and going to cuba? >> sir, they meet international -- >> okay. i can see where this is going.
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let me say again, y'all need to go to cuba. i've been there and seen it. and i'm not in favor of this at all. and i can tell you, not only am i not favor of it. think it's the worst thing we could do. the worst thing we could possibly do. >> mr. chairman, apologize color my tone and i yield -- apologize for my tone and i yield back. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i will do my best to leave politics out of this but we all have to acknowledge, my friend and colleague from across the aisle, miss rice, would agree with me, we have to acknowledge -- with the stroke of a pen, president obama did announce a dramatic shift in u.s. policy here, this time toward cuba, and we're all left to adjust to that, and i appreciate the witnesses being here and the department of
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homeland security. obviously we'll be task if with implementing and enforcing the in the trade and travel regulations as a result of the policy changes this administration wants to invoke. so i appreciate you all being here today to provide clarity regardless of tone we have a responsibility on this committee for oversight and that oversight responsibility is to protect the american people as they travel, and so to that point, let me start with you, mr. fujimura. want to make sure i understand the facts. the u.s. embargo on cuba prohibit tsa from lending airport screening technologies to cuba. correct? >> that's my understand of the -- we're not allowed to provide training or equipment to cuba. >> okay. likewise, the u.s. embargo prohibits the cuban government from buying these types of high-quality checkpoint
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screening equipment from the united states. >> that's my understanding as well. >> i know from mr. mizell's testimony there's some question whether cuba has or in fact lacks the equipment that the united states would be necessary to conduct some aspects, important aspects of screening, like explosive trace detection equipment and properly trained bomb-sniffing dogs. and i think it's been further evidenced the cuban government only has two full body scanners located in havana. is that correct? >> sir, it would -- we can't discuss in this open setting the specifics of what equipment or what capabilities are in cuba right now but i think focusing on technology is focusing on one element of a security system that involves people, processes
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and technology. >> well, that's why i'm including all of these different questions we have about what we know they're not able to obtain, what we know they can't purchase from america, what we're not able to provide to them, and so if the obama administration is looking to authorize -- i in other words it to be ten lpds or last points of departure airports in cuba. if they're lacking this equipment, to the tune that we believe that they may, what -- how does tsa plan to certify that cuba has the necessary equipment and personnel to detect potential threats to the united states? >> sir, we send down teams of tsa inspectors on an annual basis to cuba to look at the airports that are currently operating at last points of depast tour airports. they look at people, process, and technology against
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international standardment. there's professionals -- >> i heards you've say that before and they meet international standards and you send them down annually. annually meaning once a year, right? right? >> yes, sir. >> so, is tsa going to certify the standards of the cuban government is employing with respect to airport safety? you send inspectors down. are they going to provide some sort of certification? >> it's an assessment they meet international standards and the service can proceed. >> okay. let me shift to you, mr. wagner. according to the state department, cubans continue to favor land-based entry, particularly through mexico. what is the current policy for cubans that enter in the united
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states without proper documentation at points of entry? >> well, as per the cuban adjustment act we would parole them into the united states and if there's any national security derogatory type information, or any type of risk we have the option of having them detained until a hearing before a judge. >> okay. so what will the policy of the united states be if a cuban immigrant arrives at an airport without proper documentation? >> the same policy. >> okay. and so do you have any -- i'm from a border state, from texas. do you have an opinion as to what you expect to see in terms of the number of asylum declarations at points of entry based on the shift in policy? >> we are seeing the numbers increase from last year to this year. >> okay. i see my time expired. yield back. >> thank you. the chair now recognizes mr. perry for five minutes of questioning. >> thank you, mr. chairman, for
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indulging me and providing this privilege to sit on the panel. mr. mizell in an april 12th april 12th alert i sent to secretary regarding cube barracks asked about the goals of annual visits by cuban officials to the u.s., and to our airports which have been occurring since 2010. in its response to my letter dhs stated the visits involve the exchange of technical information on aviation security and best practices. exchange of technical information. my concern and curiosity in singing with you is about what we're giving to. the. not what we're getting from them but what we're giving to them. given cube bas history as a counterintelligence state that this is extremely concerning to me. as you know cuba is ruled by a government hostile to the united states, with close relationships to other u.s. adversaries including china, russia, and north korea, indeed, russia and china both have listening posts, some of the large nest the world
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if not the largest on the planet, at lourdes. i think it's outrage just that dhs is sharing our information with cuba when they know they will very likely share it or give it to ours a very serieses. my question is: what exactly, precisely, specifically, stuffs technical information that we shared with the cubans? was any information shared regarding security operations or security equipment? was any of this information classified, confidential, sensitive but unclassified, law enforcement sensitive, for official use only or sensitive security information and what assurance do we have as americans that this information won't or has not already been leaked to our adversaries? >> let me start by saying the reciprocal visits with the cuban government representatives began in 2011. we do it annually and part of
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the reason is because we have free access into cuba to conduct required airport assessments and air carrier inspections. without the visits i'm not sure we would have this access, so it's important to have the visits. as far as the visits go, we take them to different u.s. airports, normally in the south or east. we give them an opportunity to observe our checkpoints, and how we operate them, the through-put that occurs. we don't share any ssi information with them. it's a sharing of best practices basically. >> so, let me ask you this. would you -- if i were to ask you, since we're sharing, right, sharing is a two-way streit. if give you something, you give me something, that's sharing or exchanging which the terminology
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exchange is used here as opposed to share. would you be able to tell me what we as the united states have gotten from those visits that we wouldn't have known already? that we wouldn't know already? if you know, sir, please let me know. >> sir, one of the key elements of the flights coming to the united states involves security flight information. a data transmission of passenger manifests from all flights, including crew, coming from cuba. so, we get that information from cuba for the public charters coming to us. so this is information that we're getting that is fed into the customs and border protection and acted upon -- >> i understand that. but i feel like we have this reciprocal agreement where we should get something, and of course they want something, right? so, we should be able to be getting something that we can't otherwise get. what -- in other words, what is it in the for the united states? we're going to give up our information. best practices for me as i layman who used the system --
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never worked in the system -- but what best practices is cuba using that we need to get to use in the united states? >> cuba is a member of a 191 members. as a member of the international aviation community, we have a shared goal in security of our passengers around the world reaching their destination safely. that's a shared goal with the cubans and the 189 other members. >> i understand the shared goal. it says best practices and says we talked about technical information on security and aviation security and best practices. i want to know some examples. i want to know what we're getting we wouldn't get otherwise. we're giving them access to our airports. new york, jfk and miami, fort lauderdale and tampa, atlanta, all listed here, and they came to america. they're interested in collecting information. i'm not dumb and knee their are they. they know we're interested in collecting information.
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but we're america. we're the free country. they're the communist country. want to make sure that we're not giving them something and certainly when we are not getting anything in return, and quite honestly you haven't -- neither of you have allayed my fears and concerns that has happened and honestly, sir, mr. mizell i asked about classified, confidential, sensitive but unclassified law enforcement sensitive for official use only or sensitive security information. is this -- does this need another setting to discuss that? >> you didn't enumerate any of those. you didn't just say, no. none of those are included, which would be an answer that would be great to hear but i'm concerned it's not. >> none of those have been includes on their visits to the united states. >> none of those were included on their visits to the united states. >> yes. >> none of that information. >> correct. >> thank you, mr. chairman. yield. >> thank you, mr. perry. a couple quick followup questions.
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you mentioned that the standards is something that gives you some sort of comfort in the airport quality of their security, is that correct? >> sir, under 44.907 it's based in the statute this is the basis of? standard we begin our airport assessment prom from. so it's encapsulated in the statute. >> i understand that. so, just so i understand, do you know irsharm el-sheikh or mogadishu met the standards. >> they're not last points of departures so i do not know if they met them or not. >> now, mr. mizell i understand what you're saying you told news a secure setting was sensitive and of course i take issue with that. let me ask in a different way and see if we can't get to the inpour knee. how much of the last point of departure airports have you visited? >> there are seven last point of
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departure airports, six of which are operational. visit all of them. >> okay. and the seventh one that is not operational, did you visit that as well? >> yes. >> let me did you what you personally observed in going through the airports. the first thing is, in any of those seven airports did you observe any explosive trace detection equipment anywhere? >> again, you have asked this question previously sir about equipment that is available. it's not something we want to discuss in this setting. >> i understand. i'm going to ask it baited on your personal observation, not what is secure and sensitive. the question is, based on personal observations did you observe any explosive trace detect equipment as a these airports. >> again i'm not going to discuss that in an opening meeting like this. >> are you saying your personal observations are sensitive and secure, ssi? >> i'm saying that the question you're asking about that is sensitive.
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with regard to equipment. >> from a classified setting or anything just want to understand what security setting your saying security clearance you need to have before i can discuss this i'm not asking what you told news a secure setting. i'm asked based on personal observations. >> if if may. >> yes, sir. >> on those travelers mr. mizell would have been traveling on an official passport as a tsa representative, so ohio on sir verifications would be part of a government effort as it were, so, again, i would again ask that we could take this to -- if we could take this to a different setting and to articulate the more details for you. >> so you're not going to answer the question in this setting. is that correct? >> is that to me, sir? >> yes. >> yes, sir. >> now, would that be the same question with respect to body scanners in these seven airports you visited? would you give me the same answer, not going to answer in this setting? >> that's correct, sir.
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>> would that be the same answer you would give with respect to the seven airports you visited whether there's enough documentation verification equipment? >> that's right. >> i'm not meaning to quarrel but want to understand what security level are you saying applies here? >> sir, the presence of security equipment and procedures is ssi. >> okay. so you're saying this is all ssi. >> i would want to go back and review with my subject matter experts on security back at headquarters, but that's my understanding, but i stand open to be corrected by true expects. >> since we're not going to get to the bottom of this today, why don't you -- if you could within ten days, consult with them and then give us an answer whether or not you believe each of those questions warrant ssi label on them, and then if they do not,
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then i ask that you respond to those questions in writing. would that be fair enough? and that you not -- thank you very much. i understand. all right. miss rice, any further questions? >> no. >> mr. perry, any further questions? >> i do, just to finish up if you allow, mr. chairman. >> yes, sir. >> mr. mizell my first question is what constitutes technical information that was shared with the cubans? any information shared regarding security operations or security equipment, technical information? >> nothing was shared with respect to technical equipment.
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>> and in the memorandum of understanding under j., it says coordinate in the area of transportation security the screening of cargo, travelers and baggage and the design, design of security, efficient inspection facilities at ports and airports. anything regarding design other than the layout? when you say design i want to make sure what we are contemplating. >> no, sir. the design is what you would see walking through the airport at a security checkpoint. >> i yield. >> thank you, mr. perry. miss rice no further questions? okay. thank you. i would like to thank you nor your testimony today and members of the committee may have some quiche questions for the witnesses. we ask you to respond to these in writing, the hearing will be held up for ten days but i ask you get back to us on the specific questions, and which ones you believe are of the ssi
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nature, and without objection, committee stands adjourned. thank you. [inaudible question] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
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