Tuesday night the Colorado Springs delegation was treated to a reception at the Mexico Cultural Institute. Ambassador Gutierrez, Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, addressed the group.

“We are friends, yes,” Gutierrez said, “friends with challenges, but we are friends.”

On a positive note, Gutierrez remarked that there are hundreds of flights between Mexico and the United States everyday, without incident.

On the other side, the economic and social implications of illegal immigration are huge. According to a handout from Gutierrez, the complexities surrounding Mexican migration to the United States is an increasingly important priority issue, with national security the focal point.

Wednesday: a day on the Hill

We arrived via bus to the Rayburn House at 7:30 a.m. for a congressional breakfast.

Rep. Joel Hefley presided over a forum that included speeches by Senators Ken Salazar, Wayne Allard and Rep. Bob Beuprez. Salazar talked about military installations and water quality as high on his agenda, while Allard said the Springs needs an immigration office. Beauprez mentioned that El Paso County will have a 2.7 percent population increase in the next year, and he also would like to see dialogue on the fair tax issue (see my Tuesday update).

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The closing speaker, Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, relayed the message that because of all the problems in the world “we have to maintain a broad military capability and … we are going to have to spend some money.”

Hunter invited us to attend a committee posture hearing on the Air Force’s fiscal year 2007 budget requests.

After a short break, I decided to check out this hearing where Gen. Michael Moseley, USAF chief of staff, and USAF secretary Michael Wynne, were present.

Wynne talked about the Air Force’s goal to utilize more civilians so soldiers “can do the fighting.” They also discussed using alternative fuels and the aging fleet.

After lunch, Peter Hoekstra, chairman of the House Committee on Intelligence, addressed the group.

Hoekstra captivated the audience. He highlighted the following:

  • 15-16 different agencies need to be brought together.
  • We need an agile, nimble intelligence community, which was unnecessary during the Cold War.
  • The intelligence community was in shambles in 2001.
  • Al Queda is adaptive, and we have to be as adaptive.
  • Americans are not as aware of the serious threat of the global war on terror as they should be.
  • Al Queda has the world covered.
  • Suicide bombers in the U.S would be devastating.
  • The intelligence community needs more linguists.
  • After the next attack, he said he would be asked, “What did you do to stop the attack?” He said at this point he would say, “We could have done more.”
  • He said if we ignore any corner of the world, Al Queda will be there.

Friday’s recap will address how we should follow up in our community with what we learned on this trip.

You can e-mail questions or special requests while I’m in D.C. to lon.matejczyk@csbj.com