Pompeo’s Opening Statement at Confirmation Hearing for Secretary of State Job

• April 12, 2018 12:16 pm


Mike Pompeo, President Donald Trump's nominee to succeed Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, outlined his goals for the State Department at a Senate hearing Thursday.

In his opening statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Pompeo organized his remarks into three categories: setting the mission and empowering the diplomatic corps; strengthening workforce culture and communication; and serving the commander in chief. Pompeo summarized elements of his written statement, quoted below, in which he described in depth how he would approach the various aspects of being secretary of state.

He described how State Department staffers have felt demoralized and irrelevant, and argued they need to be empowered.

"Throughout my time in Congress and at the CIA, I've met hundreds of State Department leaders and officers, and I've met even more over the past month," Pompeo said. "In a recent series of department briefings with team members at State, they all, to a person, expressed a hope to be empowered in their roles, and to have a clear understanding of the president's mission. That will be my first priority."

Pompeo said the State Department needs to fill its numerous vacancies and asked the Senate to cooperate in that effort.

"You have my commitment, too, that I will work with each of you, the White House, and the entire Senate to fill the senior vacancies," he said. "This is critical to strengthening the finest diplomatic corps in the world. America and the world need us to be that."

He acknowledged that the State Department has lost its "swagger" when he addressed its workforce culture. He said his aims of listening, leveraging differences, unleashing talent, and teamwork "will become the fabric of a State Department culture that finds its swagger once again."

In his statement, Pompeo also said former secretaries of state all told him that "job number one is to represent the president."

"For me, this means building substantial relationships with our allies—relationships that President Trump and I can utilize for both tough conversations and productive cooperation," he said. "It also means working with our adversaries to make clear America's objectives and the means by which we intend to achieve them."

Pompeo said success in diplomacy must come from appealing directly to citizens of other countries.

"To succeed in our diplomacy, it is important to appeal directly to key populations, and not to forfeit the perception of our country to misleading state media or other faulty information channels," he said. "Whether speaking to foreign leaders or the foreign public, it is important for the secretary of state to clearly communicate the president's directives and goals."

He also touted the Trump administration's commitment to seeking diplomatic solutions before using military force, hitting back at speculation in the media that he favors military intervention.

"I know firsthand the painful sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. So when journalists, most of whom have never met me, label me—or any of you—as ‘hawks,' ‘war hardliners,' or worse, I shake my head," Pompeo said. "There are few who dread war more than those of us who have served in uniform. And there is a great deal of room between a military presence and war. War is always the last resort."

Pompeo criticized Iran for its support of Houthi missile strikes against Saudi Arabia from Yemen and its involvement in the conflict in Syria, where Tehran is backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime. He then emphasized the importance of revising the Iran nuclear deal, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

"President Trump is prepared to work with our partners to revise the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to fix its most egregious flaws," Pompeo said. "If confirmed, it will be an immediate personal priority to work with those partners to see if such a fix is achievable."

Pompeo also criticized Russian actions and credited the Trump administration for imposing tough sanctions on Russia, which he said would continue. He also said he would work diplomatically with China to end their IP theft and provocations all over the world and in cyberspace.

Going beyond specific policies, Pompeo spoke about America's role in the world and how he has valued that role since his time at West Point.

"Make no mistake: America is uniquely blessed, and with those blessings comes a duty to lead," he said. "As I have argued throughout my time in public service, if we do not lead the calls for democracy, prosperity, and human rights around the world, who will? No other nation is equipped with the same blend of power and principle."