Barbara Lee proposes ‘Dept. of Peacebuilding’

Rep. Barbara Lee is taking up where fellow firebrand liberal former congressman Dennis Kucinich left off by pitching a bill to establish a cabinet-level “Department of Peacebuilding.”

Lee, D-Oakland, on Friday introduced H.R. 808, the Department of Peacebuilding Act of 2013; she said the term “peacebuilding” refers both to activities that target the root causes of violence as well as the broad measures used to prevent violent conflict and create sustainable peace.

“This culture of violence that we live in is unacceptable. On our streets and across the globe, the pervasive presence of violence has infected the lives of millions, and it is far past time we address it as a nation,” Lee said in her news release. “We invest hundreds of billions each year in the Pentagon, in war colleges, military academies, and our national defense universities all to develop war tactics and strategies. Now we need that kind of investment in peace and nonviolence here at home.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each life cut short by a homicide costs the U.S. economy $1.65 million, she noted; worldwide, the Institute for Economics and Peace estimates that violence and conflict cost the global economy $9 trillion in 2011.

“The Department of Peacebuilding advances the good work of my friend and former colleague Congressman Kucinich and has the potential to reduce suffering on a national and global scale while saving billions of dollars through violence reduction and increased economic productivity,” Lee said.

Kucinich in each session of Congress from 2001 to 2009 introduced a bill to establish a Department of Peace. But other lawmakers have introduced bills with the same goal; the first bill calling for such a department was introduced in 1935 by U.S. Sen. Matthew Neely, D-W.Va.

Lee’s proposed department would develop national strategies and programs for violence reduction both domestically and internationally. Working across agencies, the Secretary of Peacebuilding would sponsor conflict prevention and dispute resolution initiatives, facilitate peace summits between conflicting parties, encourage community policing, and support efforts by local community and religious groups to reduce gun violence, racial and ethnic violence, and prevent violence against women and LGBT Americans.

H.R. 808’s original cosponsors include Reps. Robert Andrews, D-N.J.; Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y.; John Conyers Jr., D-Mich.; Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro; James McGovern, D-Mass.; Chellie Pingree, D-Maine; and Jared Polis, D-Colo.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.