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Last Updated:7/7/05
Speech by Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Missouri), June 28, 2005

   Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Skelton), the ranking Democrat on the Committee on Armed Services.

   Mr. SKELTON. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman and I compliment my friend and colleague, the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern) for this amendment, which is also co-sponsored by the gentlewoman from Minnesota (Ms. McCollum) and the gentleman from Kansas (Mr. Moore).

   This amendment is important because it will force this body to look hard at American policy in Colombia. Since Congress began funding support in Colombia under the Plan Colombia in fiscal year 2000, we have spent approximately $4.5 billion in counterdrug and military support. That is a lot of money, a lot of money under any circumstance, and it is certainly at a time when we are fighting two wars elsewhere.

   Given the magnitude of what we have spent and the fact that Plan Colombia will expire this year, we should be asking some really tough questions. Such as, is the amount of money spent in line with the benefits to the United States and to our national security, and are the Colombians doing enough to provide for their own security?

   Funding for Colombia was initiated in order to stem the flow of drugs to our country. Yet, the United Nations figures show that decreases in cultivation in Colombia have been more than matched elsewhere in that region. There has been no decrease in drugs coming into the United States.

   Funding was also intended to promote peace in Colombia. Certainly on that front, there is some progress. I believe President Uribe is trying to do the very right thing for his country, and we should support his efforts, which we are. The question is whether we should support it at the cost at a time when our military and our foreign aid dollars, our defense dollars are spread so thin across the globe.

   This amendment, Mr. Chairman, with this modest cut to overall aid to Colombia, should force a rethinking of our strategy in Colombia on whether we are achieving goals important to our own national security. At the same time, we need to ask whether the Colombians are doing all they can to provide for their own future security. Let me say that again. At the same time, we should ask whether the Colombians are doing all they can to provide for their own future security.

   Their tax revenue continues to be at very low levels. Fewer than 750,000 Colombians contribute to their national defense through the tax base of a population of 42 million. Many Colombians with high school educations continue to avoid military service. The Colombians should be taking on more of a responsibility for their own effort. This amendment does not cut all funding for Colombia. Far from it. But it does send a clear signal that the American dollars invested are not yielding the results we need to.

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   At a time when we are engaged in two wars globally, we must even be more careful about where we are spending our resources, our dollars. We must urge our colleagues to support the amendment. I compliment the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern).

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