FY 2014 Foreign Affairs Budget

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Opening Remarks Before the House Foreign Affairs Committee
Washington, DC
April 17, 2013

The video below is available with closed captioning on YouTube.

Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I ask you just to remember what goes around comes around. (Laughter.) Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Congressman Engel, Ranking Member. Thank you for your comments about Boston.

It’s impossible for me to express my sadness and my anger, frankly, over those terrible events. It’s just hard to believe that a Patriot’s Day holiday, which is normally such a time of festivities, turned into a bloody mayhem. But I know how resilient Bostonians are, and I think a lot of you do, despite the fact it took us 86 years to win a pennant.

I’ve talked this week with friends and family up there as recently as this morning, and the granddaughter of a very, very close supporter and friend of mine through all my political career is fighting to keep both of her legs. The – Boston is not going to be intimidated by this, but we’re going to find out who did this. And the police work being done is extraordinary. The FBI is remarkable. There’s a great deal of forensic evidence, and we’re hopeful that we can bring people to justice.

Turning to the business before us this morning, I do promise to remember how important the lessons are I learned in my time in Congress, which means keep your remarks short so we can get to the questions. And I’ll try to do that as fast as I can, but there are some things I want to share with you.

One of the lessons I’ve learned and particularly been reinforced in my early travels – and let me just say what a privilege it is to appear before this committee. I honor the Congress, having spent 28 years in it. I respect what each of you represent, and I come before you to be accountable on behalf of the Administration. And I’ll look forward to our question-and-answer period.

As Senator Lindsey Graham said very eloquently, America’s investment in foreign policy is “national security insurance.” And there really isn’t anything foreign about foreign policy anymore. That has come home to me again and again. If we can make the small, smart investments up front, then I believe we avoid more costly conflicts and greater burdens down the road.

In the past few months, we’ve seen a number of developments that underscore the stakes for having a strong American presence in every part of the world. American engagement was essential to the rapprochement between two of our closest partners, Israel and Turkey, and that was a positive step toward stability in a volatile region of the world, where we need partnerships.

This committee is more than immersed in Syria. We have contributed nearly $385 million to humanitarian relief to provide essential resources to the Syrian people, including sending flour to bakeries in Aleppo and providing food and sanitation in Atmeh in the refugee camp. And I expect that we’ll talk about Syria somewhat today.

Having just returned from Seoul, Beijing, and Tokyo, where the North Korea issue took center stage, we are reminded once again that America is the guardian of global security. We should be proud of that and we should carry that mettle. We will not turn our back on the prospect of peace, but neither are we going to hesitate to do what we need to do to defend our allies and our interests.

And all of this speaks to why this budget is not just a collection of numbers; it’s an illustration of our values and our priorities. Budgets, deficits, debt – these are weighty decisions. I had the privilege of serving on the super committee. We thought we could have gotten there. And I had a record of wanting to do deficit reduction. I know you’re all grappling with these choices.

We’re grappling with them at the State Department, and I think our proposed budget is responsive to and reflective of our national economic reality. As part of the budget, we’re going to help cut our deficit responsibly while investing in areas that attract economic growth, create good jobs for Americans, and secure our national interests.

Our 2014 budget request represents a 6 percent reduction from 2012 funding levels. And we’ve examined our request – and the reason we mention 2012 is 2013 was a CR, as all of you know. We’ve examined our request with a clear determination to improve efficiency and economize where possible. We’ve implemented reforms that reduce costs without jeopardizing vital contributions. And I think we deliver the maximum bang for the minimal expenditure of our citizens’ dollars, about one single penny for our national security and global interests out of every single dollar.

Let me give you a couple of examples of the kind of high-impact, low-cost work that we’re doing to try to make the world safer. With just over $3.5 million, the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations made key investments leading up to the recent elections in Kenya. And I know that that helped to prevent a repeat of the violence that we saw five years ago. Our anti-terrorism – it also provided accountability that allowed Odinga to concede without instilling violence.

Our anti-terrorism assistance funding has helped the lives of hundreds of people in places like Pakistan, India, Lebanon, by training local law enforcement to detect and neutralize explosive devices and help us interdict plots before they come to our shores.

Our 2014 budget request maintains our commitments to advancing peace, security, and stability in places where all three can be very scarce commodities. I’ve already traveled three times as Secretary to the Middle East and North Africa, a region struggling to respond to its citizens’ growing expectations for dignity and opportunity, the very values that we have been promoting, they’re trying to embrace. Leaders there are making difficult decisions, and the United States cannot make those decisions for them, but we can do a lot to be a partner for all those on the side of freedom and democracy.

To that end, the budget includes a request for $580 million for the Middle East and North Africa Incentive Fund so that we can help give reformers the tools and resources they need to make the right decisions on behalf of their citizens. And this fund also allows us to say to people in the region: “If you’re willing to take on the deep-rooted challenges of democracy and throw off the yolk of dictatorship, we’re here for you.”

When we look at the threats that emanate from failed and potentially failing states, I think it’s important that we learn the lessons of the past. The U.S. homeland will not be secure if violent extremists are bent on attacking us and they can find a safe haven in places like the Sahel or the Maghreb. The threats that we’re dealing with in that part of the world range from al-Qaeda rebels to narco-traffickers. And this budget sets aside 8.6 billion for our security, for counterterrorism, law-enforcement assistance. I ask you, every member, just compare that 8.6 billion to the more than 1 trillion we have spent fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and I think you’ll agree that it’s both penny-wise and pound-wise.

The simple fact is the United States cannot be strong at home if we are not strong in the world, in today’s world. This is particularly true when it comes to our domestic economic renewal.

We need to get more – we need to, I think, be more visible, engaged, and strong in certain places, particularly to stoke our economic engines with the trade and business opportunities that are available all across this planet. And that’s why the President is committed to successfully completing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We want to tap the growing markets of the Asia Pacific, which are vital to economic recovery. And I might point out most of the growth in the world that is in the double digits or high single digits is in those parts of the world.

I know you’ll agree with me on the value of investing in our relationship with Asia, because many of you, including the Chairman, the Representative Ranking Member, Representative Salmon, and Representative Marino, have traveled to that region recently. In fact, you were there on the very day that I assumed these responsibilities.

When it comes to shoring up our economic health and protecting our national security, I believe our development work is one of our strongest assets. And so let me be clear: Development is not charity. It’s an investment. And I believe it’s an investment and President Obama believes it’s an investment in a strong world and a strong America. Eleven of our top 15 trading partners were once beneficiaries of U.S. foreign assistance. You just can’t afford to pull back from what that lesson tells us. South Korea, that I was just in, 15 years ago was an aid recipient. Today, it’s giving aid around the world. That doesn’t mean we can’t work in better, more efficient ways.

But let me highlight just a few of the reforms that we’ve undertaken, U.S. Food Aid for instance. By giving ourselves the flexibility to choose the most appropriate and efficient type of food assistance, we’re going to reach an estimated 2 to 4 million more people every year with the very same discretionary funding. At the same time, we’re going to save approximately 500 million in mandatory funding over the next decade, which we can use to reduce the deficit.

American growers and producers will still play a major role in this food assistance. Over half of the funding we’re requesting for emergency food aid must be used for the purchase and shipping of U.S. commodities overseas. But by giving us the ability to modernize, including the flexibility to also procure food aid in developing countries closer to the crisis areas, not only do we feed more people, but we get food to malnourished people 11 to 14 weeks faster. So here’s the bottom line: This change allows us to do more, to help more people lift themselves out of hunger at a rapid pace without spending more money. I think that’s a great deal for the American taxpayer.

The final area I want to mention is how this budget cares for our most valuable resource, and that’s the personnel, the men and women of the State Department and USAID who are on the frontlines. We have requested 4.4 billion to fortify our worldwide security protection and improve our overseas infrastructure. 2.2 billion of this is set aside for constructing secure diplomatic facilities. And this is part of our commitment to implement in full the recommendations of the ARB so that we can obviously mitigate the risk of future tragedies.

This has been a hard year for the State Department family, a family that knows exactly how risky the work that we signed up for can be in a dangerous world. Chairman, you both mentioned, and Mr. Ranking Member, the situation of the loss of Anne Smedinghoff. She’s being laid to rest right now while I am here, and I visited with her family in Chicago on the way back from Seoul, and we will have a memorial service for her in the State Department on the 2nd or 3rd of May. I met her on my last visit. Earlier in the week, I sat with her parents, and we swapped stories about her enthusiasm, her energy, her vitality. She really wanted to make a difference in the lives of people she had never met, and she was.

So Anne and Ambassador Stevens are really cut from the same cloth. And that’s, frankly, what made them such outstanding Americans as well as members of the State Department family.

As Secretary, my job is to make sure we protect these people, and frankly, it’s all of our job. I think you know that. We cannot do it by retreating from the world.

We stand for optimism. We stand for opportunity. And we stand for equality. And we stand in opposition to all those who would replace hope with hate, who replace peace with violence and war. That’s what we believe. That’s what America is at the best, and that’s the values of the State Department and USAID that I intend to defend every single day.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I know I went a little over.

PRN: 2013/0423