Transcript of Secretary Antony J. Blinken Opening Remarks Before the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you very much. Chairman Diaz-Balart, Chairwoman Granger, Ranking Member Lee, Ranking Member DeLauro, all the members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity today to speak with you about the FY24 budget for the State Department and USAID.
But also, thank you day-in, day-out for the work that we’re doing together. This is critical for us. We appreciate deeply the work of this committee, and I really look forward to the year ahead as we work together to try to make sure, together, that we have the strongest possible tools to advance America’s interests around the world.
And second, Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Lee, thank you for – both of you – for your strong and positive words about the State Department – the people of the State Department. I couldn’t agree with you more. I am so deeply honored for this period of time to be leading them and serving with them.
And I deeply appreciate the appreciation you’ve expressed for the work that they do, day-in, day-out. So thank you for that.
And I could not agree more – we are at an inflection point. The post-Cold War era is over, and there is an intense competition underway right now to shape what comes next. The United States has a positive vision for the future: a world that is free, that is secure, that is open, that is prosperous.
This budget will help us advance that vision and deliver on the issues that matter to the American people, by preparing us to take on two major sets of challenges that are distinct but also interconnected and overlapping.
The first set is posed by our strategic competitors – the immediate, acute threat posed by Russia’s autocracy and aggression, most destructively through its brutal aggression against Ukraine, and of course, the long-term challenge that is posed by the People’s Republic of China.
The second set of challenges is posed by shared global tests that we have to meet, including the climate crisis, migration, food and energy insecurity, pandemics, all of which directly affect the lives of our fellow citizens, as well as their livelihoods, and people around the world.
With this committee’s leadership and support, including through the FY23 Omnibus, the United States is in a stronger geopolitical position than we were a few years ago to take on these challenges.
We have drawn enormous power from investments that we’ve made here at home in our economic strength and technological edge, including through the Infrastructure Investment Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, the Inflation Reduction Act.
The unmatched network of alliances and partnerships has never been stronger, and I think that’s in part because we have reinvested in them, working to re-engage them, rejuvenate them, re-energize them.
We’re expanding our presence in critical regions, like the Indo-Pacific. And we’re leading unprecedented coalitions to confront aggression and address humanitarian crises around the world.
The FY24 budget request for the State Department and USAID meets this moment. The budget will sustain our security, our economic and energy and humanitarian support for Ukraine, so that we ensure that President Putin’s war remains a strategic failure.
The budget will also strengthen our efforts to outcompete the PRC. President Biden is firmly committed to advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific. That’s why this proposal asks for an 18 percent increase in our budget for that region for FY – over FY23.
The budget contains both discretionary and mandatory proposals – I suspect we’ll come back to those – for new, innovative investments to outcompete China, including by enhancing our presence in the region, ensuring that what we and our fellow democracies have to offer – including things like maritime security, disease surveillance, energy infrastructure, digital technology – is more attractive than the alternative being proposed.
The budget will help us push back on advancing authoritarianism and democratic backsliding by strengthening democracies around the world including through supporting independent media, countering corruption, defending free and fair elections.
And it will allow us to pay our contributions to international organizations because we do need to be at the table wherever and whenever new international rules, standards, norms are being decided that affect the livelihoods of our people. Wherever they’re being debated and decided, we need to be there.
The budget will also allow us to continue leading the world in addressing these global challenges, from food and energy insecurity to climate and health crises. Just on that last point: we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of PEPFAR, which I believe is one the greatest achievements in our foreign policy over the last couple of decades.
And to Ranking Member Lee, to you and others, for your strong support and leadership on this, I think it’s been a great tribute and credit to our country. It’s something I hear, as I travel, for example, throughout Africa. It saved 25 million lives.
This budget will help us continue the fight against HIV/AIDS while advancing health security more broadly through a new Bureau of Global Health Security and Diplomacy, which I look forward to working with Congress to establish this year.
The budget will advance our efforts to modernize our department, including by expanding our training float, updating our technology, carrying out diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility initiatives, including to make our overseas missions more accessible.
I’m grateful for the progress that we’ve already made together, including Congress’s support in updating the Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act and the Accountability Review Board, to give us the flexibility to open new missions and to better manage the risks that our people face around the world.
We know there’s more to do, and we’re looking forward to working with Congress, working with this committee, to accelerate modernization efforts so that the department can better attract, retain, and support our first-rate workforce that you referred to.
We’re in a competition there, too, for talent, and I want to make sure we have a department that attracts that workforce and keeps them.
Finally, the budget will further what is a personal priority for me that’s been referenced today already, and I know for many of you, and that is supporting Enduring Welcome, our whole-of-government effort to resettle our Afghan allies.
Keeping our promises to those who stood by us and served with us remains an unwavering priority for me. The budget will help us continue to make good on that commitment.
When I took on this role, one of the things that I was dead serious about was working to restore Congress’s place as an equal partner in our foreign policymaking. I really am serious and committed to that.
I, Mr. Chairman, deeply appreciate the conversations we’ve had and the work that I hope we can do together.
So with that, I welcome questions, comments. Thank you.
Sources: THX News & US Department of State.