News Releases

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Isakson Questions Pompeo at Confirmation Hearing to Lead State Department

Challenges Pompeo to improve morale, enforce 'Open Skies' agreement, commit to development in Africa

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, today questioned Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Mike Pompeo, nominee to become secretary of state, during his confirmation hearing. Isakson’s questions focused on Pompeo’s plans for the future of the department.

Isakson, who serves as chair of the subcommittee that oversees the State Department and its personnel, remarked on the lagging morale at the department, and asked Pompeo about his ability to be a “catalyst” at the department to help with “an attitude improvement,” as he has done during his tenure at the CIA.

“The attitudes at the CIA are the best they’ve probably ever been, that the unity there is strong and the understanding by the mission of the rank and file employees is great,” Isakson began. “So, I want to challenge you to replicate, where possible in the State Department, that same energy and fire you have at the CIA, because the State Department needs it desperately. And the State Department is our hope for peaceful settlements to difficult problems. They put our best foot forward early so we don’t have to put our biggest foot forward late.”

Pompeo accepted the challenge, returning credit to the dedication of his colleagues at the CIA, explaining, “I know the Foreign Service officers have that same esprit, that same desire for mission, that same desire to be relevant and important. If you decide to be a Foreign Service officer… to devote your life to that, you have a special commitment, and my task, if confirmed, will be to free them up to go do the great work that they signed up to do when they came aboard at the State Department. I’ll work at that every day.”

Additionally, Isakson complimented the State Department’s enforcement of Open Skies agreements in air travel to help maintain a level playing field for American workers.

“It’s essential to the aviation industry and our country, and this administration and the bureau of economic and business affairs at the State Department have done a great job of seeing to it that Open Skies is enforced,” Isakson said. “I hope you’ll commit when you get to the State Department that you’ll continue that help and enforcement.”

Isakson, who has previously raised concerns about unfair subsidization of foreign airlines that undermine Open Skies principles of fair competition, secured Pompeo’s continued commitment to enforcing these agreements. Georgia is home to the world’s largest airline and the world’s most traveled airport, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.

During his questioning, Isakson, who formerly led the subcommittee on Africa, also touched on the importance of Africa to America’s foreign policy and diplomatic goals.

“I’ve traveled [in Africa] extensively, I think it’s the continent of the 21st century in many respects for our country and for everybody else,” Isakson said. “China is demonstrating they think it is important because they’re spending a lot of money and building a lot of buildings… There is lots of opportunity economically, but it’s important that we focus and help them build, and develop and grow. …I hope you will focus on Africa when you have the chance and realize what the State Department has done.”

Pompeo’s nomination to become secretary of state was announced on March 13, 2018.

For full video of Isakson’s questioning of Pompeo, click here.