FY 2014 International Affairs Budget

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Opening Remarks Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Washington, DC
April 18, 2013

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Corker, and members of the committee, thank you very much. It’s a privilege to be back here, though still a little surreal to be on this side of the dais. But I’m honored to be back here, and I thank all of you for your generous comments and particularly for the cooperation on any number of issues along the way.

Thank you for your mentioning of Boston. Obviously, I appreciate that enormously. It is no secret that my heart and my head are in Boston today with the President, with the families, with a lot of friends. There is a memorial service there, and I’m grateful to the President for going up there. I wish I could be there with him, but I need to be here and I understand that and I respect the needs to continue.

You mentioned, Mr. Chairman, how resilient Bostonians are, and it’s absolutely true. I echo the admiration that I saw watching the news clips. You watch people running towards the chaos to help; you saw runners continue running from the marathon to the hospital to give blood; you saw people opening their homes to give comfort to complete strangers. It was just a remarkable outpouring. And I think last night I saw that at the Boston Bruins game everybody just broke out into singing the National Anthem. I don’t think it ever sounded better. And there was this sign that flashed up saying “We are Boston strong”. And so my thoughts are with those folks today. And I’m confident we’re going to get to the bottom of this.

I also want to thank – this is unusual, but a couple days ago at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees posted the Boston Red Sox’s logo and they sang “Sweet Adeline”1 during – after the third inning, I think. But it was a great tribute to the way America comes together, and we are grateful for all of people’s prayers and thoughts, and we thank everybody for their solidarity.

I express my condolences – deep condolences – to the families of those who were lost. And we lost a citizen of another country, a young Chinese girl studying in Boston, a graduate student, who went there with her friends to watch the marathon and take part in this fabulous Patriot’s Day rite that if nobody’s ever experienced it, you’re right, Mr. Chairman, they’ll be back and there will be a bigger, better one next year. And we’ll celebrate that spirit. So thank you for your comments.

Turning to the business of the budget, I’ll try to move rapidly, because I do remember the lesson of let’s get to the questions as fast as we can.

Senator Lindsey Graham said, I think very eloquently, that America’s investment in foreign policy is a “national security insurance.” And I think he’s right. If you make the small, smart investments up front, we can avoid much costlier conflicts and burdens down the road.

And in the past few months, we’ve seen a number of developments that just lend credence to that. American engagement was essential to our rapprochement between Turkey and Israel, a positive step towards stability in a volatile region of the world and helpful in terms of, perhaps ultimately, being able to get to negotiations in the Mideast peace process.

This committee, needless to say, is deeply immersed – you had a hearing the other day – on Syria. We’ve contributed nearly $385 million to the humanitarian crisis to provide essential resources to the Syrian people. We’ve actually delivered flour to bakeries in Aleppo and provided food and sanitation in the Atmeh refugee camp, which is not inconsequential in terms of stability. The fourth largest city in Jordan today is a tent city, it’s a refugee city. I believe Senator McCain has been there and he understands the passions of the people who were there.

Having just returned from Seoul, Beijing, and Tokyo, where obviously the North Korea issue – nuclear issue – took center stage, I really was reminded again of the fact that America is the guardian of global security. People all through the region look to us for that leadership, the indispensable nation. And we will not turn our back on the prospect of peace, but I’ll tell you, neither will we hesitate to do what is needed to defend our allies and our interests. And that was the message that I went to deliver and that we have delivered in other ways over the course of the last weeks.

So all of these things and a lot more speak to why the budget is not just a collection of numbers. It’s an illustration of our values; it’s an illustration of our priorities, particularly with respect to the security and long-term interests of our country. I know that budgets, deficits, and debt are all weighty decisions, and we have to toe the line. But – and I know you all are grappling with that.

We’re grappling with them at the State Department too, and I think our proposed budget is responsive to and reflective of the national economic reality. In fact, I think it is more restrictive than I would personally like it to be in the context of our national reality, and we can talk about that a bit today. But it’s responsible investing in areas that attract economic growth, create good jobs in America, and secure our national interests.

And as you know when I testified before you for my confirmation hearing, I said then that I think much of foreign policy today is and ought to be economic policy. I stand by that even more so after the meetings that I’ve had both in Europe, in the Middle East, in Asia. It’s just more clear than ever where the economic action is, where the United States needs to be, and how we can lead in the future if we are.

I believe we’ve implemented reforms that reduce costs without jeopardizing vital contributions. The budget delivers, I think, maximum bang for the buck, but that is not to say we can’t do more and do better. And I’ll share with you thoughts about some of the places where I think, as I get into this and we get people sort of at the table and invested, we’re going to be able to deliver more for the dollar and even reduce some costs and do more a more effective job.

Let me give you a couple of examples of some high-impact, low-cost things that we’re doing right now that we get as a return on the investment. For just over $3.5 million, the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization made really key investments leading up to the elections in Kenya. And I am absolutely convinced – I think the record will show – that what we did in Kenya, what Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson and his shop did and what the folks over there in the Embassy and others working, AID and others over the last year, helped prevent a repeat of the violence that tore that place apart five years ago.

Our anti-terrorism assistance funding has helped save hundreds of lives of people in places like Pakistan, India, and Lebanon by training local law enforcement to detect and neutralize explosive devices.

Our 2014 budget request maintains these commitments to advancing peace and stability in places where it’s hard to find them. I’ve already traveled three times as Secretary to the Middle East and North Africa. And all of you know how North Africa is struggling to meet the growing expectations of populations in this moment of uncertainty.

To that end, this budget includes a request for $580 million for the Middle East and North Africa Incentive Fund for the very purpose of allowing us to be able to give reformers the tools and resources they need to make the right decisions and to avoid a decline into either failed statism or near failed statism.

When we look at the threats that emanate from failed and potentially failing states, nobody know more than the members of this committee the costs of making the wrong choice. Quite simply, the U.S. homeland is not going to be secure if violent extremists are bent on attacking us and they can find a safe haven in a place like the Sahel or the Maghreb. Senator McCain just returned from Mali. I know he’s familiar with the threats that we’re dealing with there from al-Qaeda to narco rebels and so forth.

This budget sets aside 8.6 billion for our security, counterterrorism, law enforcement assistance. I ask you, just compare 8.6 billion and what we’ve gotten as a return on that investment versus the more than 1 trillion we have spent fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think there’s a clear penny-wise, pound-wise investment that we’re engaged in.

And I emphasize to all my former colleagues the United States simply can’t be strong in today’s world if we are not strong in the world. And I think this is particularly true when it comes to our domestic economic renewal.

We need to be more engaged and more out there, which is the purpose of the TTIP, which Europe is very excited about. Turkey expressed to me their desire to do parallel negotiations, they don’t want to be left out. In Europe and Asia, I just saw the enthusiasm of Prime Minister Abe and the Japanese to be part of the TPP. They’ve taken significant steps to reform and alter their approach in order to qualify. And the United States is pleased to support their desire to be part of this. This is the way we’re going to raise the standards and deal with the issues of cyber security and intellectual property and the other financial transactional rules of the road that we all think are so important.

I’d say also to everybody I just want to emphasize that development is not charity. It’s an investment. Eleven of our top 15 trading partners today – 11 of the 15 – were beneficiaries of U.S. foreign assistance only a few years ago. I was just in Korea. Korea 15 and 20 years ago was a recipient of aid. Today, Korea is donating aid around the world and partnering with us in charitable initiatives, efforts for Syria humanitarian and other kinds of efforts. So this is important.

I also just want to highlight quickly reforms we’re making in this budget. The most visible, perhaps, one is in the area of food aid, U.S. food aid. 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 and we’re going to do it with the exact same discretionary funding. At the same time, we’re going to save approximately $500 million in mandatory funding over the next decade, which we will use to reduce the deficit.

American growers and producers will still play the majority role in the donation of food assistance. Over half the funding we’re requesting will be used for the purchase and shipping of U.S. commodities overseas. But by giving us the ability to modernize, including the flexibility to procure food in an area closer to the crisis, we actually address the crisis. We can get food to malnourished people 11 to 14 weeks faster, and 11 to 14 weeks faster for malnourished people can mean the difference between life and death. And here’s the bottom line: this change allows us to do more to help more people lift themselves out of hunger and poverty without spending more money. I think that’s a great deal for the American taxpayer.

The final thing I want to mention – and then open to questions obviously – is just our most valuable resource. And Mr. Chairman, thank you for talking about Anne Smedinghoff. I met Anne in Afghanistan, in Kabul, a few weeks ago. She was in my control team. And I met with her family in Chicago the other day on the way back, just an unbelievably good family, committed and vibrant and very proud of their daughter. And we have requested – we can’t protect everybody. I’m just – we just say it. We can’t have 100 percent assurance in this world. We have to make judgments.

So we have requested 4.4 billion to fortify our worldwide security protection and improve our overseas structure. 2.2 billion is set aside for constructing secure diplomatic facilities. And this is part of our commitment to implement the full recommendations of the ARB so we can mitigate the potential of the risk. And I say to my former colleagues, we can’t guarantee the elimination of that risk. So as Secretary, I will sit here and I’ll say to you we lost people in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and in the first decade. And it’s a risk of being on the frontlines of diplomacy in dangerous places. But we cannot retreat and we will not retreat.

Anne and Ambassador Chris Stevens were cut from the same cloth, and that’s what made them such outstanding members of the State Department family. And as Secretary, obviously my job is to work with you so that together we protect the men and women and they can carry out our national mission.

I just summarize by saying to everybody here, nothing has hit me more in the last two months, two and half months, of my travel and engagement in this job than the reality that so many nations are looking to us for leadership. So many nations see us as that indispensable country. We stand for optimism. We stand for opportunity, for equality, for freedom, for dignity, for people’s ability to have a job and an education and do better in life. And we stand in opposition to all those who want to replace hope with hate, who just want to blow themselves up and take people with them or want to conduct jihad without any viable program, purpose, or alternative view that makes people’s lives better.

So those are the things we believe. Those are the values that the State Department and AID will defend every day. And I look forward to continuing to work with this committee to take those values and interests and protect them to the best of our ability and see America’s flag fly proudly. Thank you.

1) Sweet Caroline.  The Secretary corrected himself during the Q&A portion of his testimony.

PRN: 2013/0430