WASHINGTON—Congressman David Valadao (R-CA) cited his work with the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) on Artsakh de-mining as an inspiration for launching the new bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)/Demining with his fellow Armenian Caucus Co-Chair, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA).
In his remarks at this week’s Capitol Hill launch of the new bipartisan caucus, Rep. Valadao explained that he first learned about the ravages of unexploded ordnance through The HALO Trust demining efforts in Artsakh, which was brought to his attention by the ANCA. He noted his cooperation with the organization on the unanimous adoption of the “Valadao Amendment” in 2017, securing Congressional appropriations to help ensure a mine-free Artsakh by 2020. In September of 2017, working with the ANCA, Rep. Valadao was the first Congressman in over 10 years to visit Artsakh, where he witnessed The Halo Trust’s demining efforts first hand.
Referencing the vital role U.S. aid in supporting Artsakh demining, Rep. Speier cited her recent trip to Laos as a wake-up call for the importance of Congressional leadership in supporting demining efforts. “I’m proud to work with Congressman Valadao and the other Caucus members to shine a light on this often overlooked but critically important human rights issue. The actions of war, including our own country’s actions, leave permanent wounds on a society and we need to ensure civilians aren’t harmed years and decades after a conflict ends,” noted Rep. Speier in a statement announcing the formation of the Congressional Caucus.
“Having spent time in Artsakh with Congressman Valadao and The HALO Trust – reviewing first-hand the life-saving investment in peace that he and his colleagues made possible – I want to share our entire community’s appreciation for his strong and principled leadership on continued aid to Artsakh and demining efforts overall,” said ANCA Chairman Raffi Hamparian. “We are tremendously proud that the two founders of the Caucus on Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)/Demining are also two Co-Chairs of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, including our great champion Rep. Jackie Speier, who is of Armenian heritage.”
In addition to Representatives Speier and Valadao, the bipartisan Caucus launch event included remarks by Mark Swayne, the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Stability and Humanitarian Affairs; and Stanley L. Brown, the Director of the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State (PM/WRA). It included a hands-on display of demining equipment and inert ordnance and a mine-detecting dog team.
According to Rep. Speier, the UXO/Demining Caucus will advocate for the support of life-saving programs that protect communities and serve U.S. security, economic, and political interests abroad. The Caucus has a global interest, as U.S. UXO and mine removal programs have been implemented in more than 100 countries since 1993. Current U.S. operations span more than 40 countries, including Afghanistan, Angola, Armenia, Cambodia, Colombia, Iraq, Kosovo, Laos, Sri Lanka, Syria, and Ukraine.
The Caucus has the support of non-partisan global demining groups The Halo Trust and Mines Advisory Group America.