FY2015 Department of State Budget

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Opening Remarks Before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
Washington, DC
March 12, 2014

Thank you very much, Chairwoman Granger and Ranking Member Lowey, Mr. Chairman Rogers of the full committee. Let me just thank all of you, first of all, for your very generous comments of understanding of the complications of the world we’re living in today, but also I just want to thank you for your thoughtful and substantive consideration of all of these issues that face us. We’re deeply appreciative for the leadership that this committee brings to the country.

I, as you all know, spent a lot of time up here, 29-plus years. And in that time I learned that choosing to be on the Foreign Relations Committee or the Foreign Appropriations Committee, et cetera, is not necessarily automatically the easiest thing to explain at home, and it doesn’t always result in some of the direct claims that you can make about ways in which you’ve assisted your district. But on the other hand, I think it does, because you assist them by advancing the values and the interests of the country and by helping us to increase American security and stability in the world, all of which comes home to roost one way or the other, either in jobs for districts, states, for the country, but also in the safety and security that we are able to achieve as a result of that.

Let me just say that I’m privileged to lead a remarkable department with men and women all over the world. We’ve just held our several-days conference of all of our chiefs of mission called back to Washington. Susan Rice spoke to them yesterday, I spent a fair period of time doing this sort of open meeting with them, as well as other meetings we’ve had. And it’s really intriguing to see the energy and interest and passion that they all bring to the effort to represent our country abroad, and with some remarkable 70,000 people in total in various ways – Civil Service, Foreign Service, local employees, particularly local employees make a huge difference to our ability to do our job, and I want to salute all of them.

You have each, in your opening comments, focused on the complications of the world we’re living in today, different from anything any of us might have imagined, vastly different from the world of bipolar East-West cold war, and even different from the early years of exuberance in the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now there are sectarian, religious extremists, terrorists, and other challenges released as a consequence of the fall of those countries and the changes in those countries. And so we’re challenged. And I believe it is important for us to get caught trying to change things. That’s who we are in the United States. And I cannot tell you how much it has been impressed on me in all of the journeys I have made on behalf of the President and our country how much people do look to the United States of America.

I hear it again and again and again everywhere. It’s our responsibility to help to make a difference in lots of different situations, and we have to be clear-eyed about the challenges. And obviously, the environment has to be ripe for a breakthrough in one place or another. But particularly for instance in Ukraine. Congresswoman Lowey, you mentioned the need to try to find a diplomatic solution. And our interest is in protecting the sovereignty and the independence and the territorial integrity of Ukraine with our European partners and others. And we have a responsibility to be engaged, and we are engaged. We also have to be willing to try to sit down and de-escalate the situation, as you said, Congresswoman Lowey.

That is why President Obama has asked me to leave tomorrow evening and fly to London to meet with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday. And I will do that. And we have had previous conversations. As you know, we spoke earlier this week. The President has talked several times to President Putin. We – I will make clear again, as I have throughout this crisis, that while we respect, obviously, that Russia has deep historical, cultural, and other kinds of interests with respect to Ukraine and particularly Crimea, nothing justifies a military intervention that the world has witnessed.

There are many other legitimate ways to address Russia’s concerns, and we are trying to make that very, very clear. In my discussions with Minister Lavrov, I have made it clear that there are many reasons for Russia to choose a path of de-escalation and of political solution here. We believe that interests can be met and that most importantly, the desires of the people of Ukraine can be respected, and that the international law can be respected.

We do not seek a world in which we have to apply additional costs to the choices that have been made thus far. We don’t think anybody is more served, better served, not for the interests of our efforts in Iran, not for the interests of our efforts in Syria, not for the interests of our efforts with nuclear weapons or Afghanistan or many other places, by isolating Russia. But we will do what we have to do if Russia cannot find the way to make the right choices here. And our job is to try to present them with a series of options that are appropriate in order to try to respect the people of Ukraine, international law, and the interests of all concerned.

So we will offer certain choices to Foreign Minister Lavrov and to President Putin through him, and to Russia, with hopes – and I think the hopes of the world – that we will be able to find a way forward that defuses this and finds a way to respect the integrity and sovereignty of the state of Ukraine.

It couldn’t be any clearer: What you all do here and what we talk about here today really matters. And when I think about that, I can’t help but recall standing in Kyiv just a few days ago near the Maidan on Institutska Street, right at the spot where so many were struck down by the snipers, looking at the bullet holes up and down lampposts, looking at these extraordinary memorials that people had spontaneously built – stacks of flowers, candles, photographs; and juxtaposed to the street, which was filled with these extraordinary barricades of bedposts and tires and all kinds of detritus, and a street that was covered in a film of the results of the fires that had been lit and the burning that had taken place and the chaos that had ensued.

What came through to me were the voices of the people I talked to on the street, telling me how much they wanted to be able to determine their own future and how grateful they were for our support and assistance, and how they just wanted to be able to live like other people. One man particularly struck me. He had come back from Australia, and he said, “You know, I saw how other people are living, and we just want to be able to make the same choices and live the same way.”

What we do is true not just for Kyiv but it’s true in so many places, and some places that don’t always get the headlines. It matters in a place like South Sudan, a nation that Frank Wolf and some of you helped to give birth to, a nation that is now struggling and needs our support in order to be able to have a chance to survive its infancy. It matters in the Maghreb, where the State Department is coordinating with France to take down al-Qaida, making sure that French forces have the technology and the weapons that they need.

What we do matters to us in terms of where we – what we do in Central Asia, where we’re working with several nations to stop the trafficking of narcotics, to keep more heroin off our streets, and to cut off financing for terrorists and extremists. What we do matters on the Korean Peninsula, where we’re working with our partners from the Republic of Korea to make sure that we can meet any threat from North Korea and to continue to push for the denuclearization of North Korea. I was just in China and we can talk about that a little later, if you want.

But thanks to the State Department’s work, the South Koreans are now making the largest financial contribution to these efforts in the peninsula in the history of our joint security agreement. What we do matters from Bosnia to Indonesia, in our work with NGOs and civil society groups to defend religious freedom, protecting the universal rights of people to practice their faith freely, and working to bring an end to the scourge of anti-Semitism.

This isn’t just what we do in this budget; this is an essential part of who we are as Americans. I firmly believe that in this increasingly interconnected world, global leadership isn’t a favor that we do for other countries, as you mentioned, Madam Chair, it’s vital to our own strength. It’s vital to our security and the opportunities that we can provide for our children. Now, I spent enough years here to know that you shouldn’t call anything that costs billions of dollars an automatic bargain. But when you consider that American – Americans, the American people pay just one penny of every tax dollar with 46.2 billion in investments in this request, I believe the American people are getting an extraordinary return on their investment.

We have kept our funding request in line with what was appropriated to the Department and USAID in Fiscal Year 2014 within our base request of 40.3 billion. And the additional part of our request for OCO, Overseas Contingency Operations, totals 5.9 billion. And with OCO funding, we support programs, as you know, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, as we continue to right-size those commitments. These resources also provide the U.S. – the State Department and USAID with the ability to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Syria and flexibility to meet unanticipated peacekeeping needs.

I know it’s easy for some in Congress to support larger cuts in the budget, but what’s impossible to calculate completely is the far greater price our country would pay for inaction on many of the things that we’re facing today. It’s impossible to calculate the dangers in a world without American leadership and the vacuum that that would create for extremists and ideologues to exploit. But I am telling you, without any doubt, more deeply than I ever believed it before when I chaired the Foreign Relations Committee, this year has impressed on me the degree to which, if we aren’t engaged in these things, we will pay the price somewhere down the road for the vacuum that will be created and for the dangers that will come to our country as a result.

For me, it is no coincidence that the places where we face some of the greatest national security challenges are also places where governments deny basic human rights to their nations’ people. And that’s why development assistance, investing in our partnership with our allies, supporting human rights and stronger civil societies is so critical. These are the surest ways to prevent the kind of tragedy that we are seeing unfold in Syria today.

Now, I know that Frank and others of you have seen these horrors firsthand, as have I. You’ve looked in the eyes of refugees. There’s simply no way to articulate how important it is for the richest, most powerful nation on this planet to do its part to try to make the world a safer and a better place. For the Syrian people, for Lebanon, Turkey, for Jordan, coping with how to keep their societies running and keep extremists at bay while they host millions now of refugees, our support is critical to that. We’re the largest donor in the world. And that helps us, because it is critical to us that Lebanon and Jordan remain stable.

With our assistance to one of our oldest allies in the Pacific as it recovers from one of the worst natural disasters in history, Typhoon Haiyan, we’re also leading the way. Through an $86 million contribution from State and USAID to the Philippines, we’re working with our partners so that hundreds of thousands of people literally can put their lives back together. And I visited that devastation and saw how it just flattened that community in a matter of minutes.

With our core budget request, there’s a 1.35 billion contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. And the goal that President Obama has set today for an AIDS-free generation would have been absolutely unthinkable 10 years ago. It was, I’m telling you, because I wrote the legislation with Bill Frist in the Senate that created the first effort on AIDS, and we got the support of Jesse Helms. And the story since then, with President Bush growing it into PEPFAR and all the things that have happened, is an amazing story for the United States of America and for the world, and an accomplishment. And we’re now working to transition the leadership of these lifesaving programs to local hands, with Rwanda, Namibia, and South Africa some of the first to take the reins.

Because of our leadership, children are waking up today in Sub-Saharan Africa who face a very different future from what they did only 10 years ago. And just as our partners in Asia and Europe make a transition from being recipients of American aid – 11 of the 15 countries that we used to give aid to, the biggest aid recipients, are now donor countries. Remarkable story. Korea, a donor country, was a major recipient of aid and so forth. We can be proud of this. Americans – I think we need to talk about it more. We need to get people to see the huge benefit of this one penny on the dollar investment.

And part of making sure that African nations and many other emerging markets make the most of opportunities and improving reforms to the International Monetary Fund is going to be a critical part of that. I think all of you know the IMF has been a central part of the transformation of so many countries. And it’s also important to greater trade with people in our own hemisphere as well as right here at home, and particularly for trade with Brazil, Chile, Colombia, India, Korea, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines, Thailand, all of whom once borrowed from IMF and now are some of the most powerful traders in the world.

So I’ll just close by saying to you that Ukraine’s struggle for independence, particularly its financial independence, will depend on Congress ratifying reforms that will help Ukraine borrow through the IMF’s Rapid Financing Instrument. Our $200 million investment and sovereign loans are needed urgently, but it’s only through the IMF, a reformed IMF, that Ukraine is going to receive the additional help it needs in order to stand on its own two feet.

We are doing, I think, amazing stuff out of many of our embassies and consulates around the world. And I’d just say to you, look at the advocacy from Embassy Lusaka that helped a New Jersey-based firm win an $85 million contract to build 144 bridges in Zambia, with the potential to grow to a $250 million contract. That’s jobs at home. That’s U.S. tax benefit and the strengthening of our economy. Our consular staff in Kolkata helped bring an Illinois-based Caterpillar together with Sasan Power Limited on a $500 million deal to develop a 3,960 megawatt power plant. Embassy Wellington and Embassy Apia in Samoa helped TE SubCom, a company based in New Jersey, land a $350 million contract to lay fiber optics across the Pacific.

When 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of our market, and when foreign governments are out there aggressively backing their own businesses, believe me, this is the kind of advocacy that American workers need to compete. And that’s why I’ve said since day one of becoming Secretary of State, economic policy is foreign policy. And we’ve just talked about that with all of our embassy chiefs and mission chiefs who have come back to Washington. We’ve put in place a very strong economic team. And we believe that it’s critical to be able to strengthen that.

So Madam Chairwoman, this budget keeps our ironclad partnership with Israel intact, $3.1 billion in security assistance. And as we make these investments around the world, we can never eliminate every risk, especially in a world where our vital interests are not confined to secure and prosperous capitals. But we can and will mitigate these risks, and we have been in implementing the ARB and working off the lessons learned in Benghazi. This budget does that, and it does more. It implements all of the recommendations of the independent Benghazi Accountability Review Board, and it makes additional investments that go above and beyond that.

Every week, I am sitting with our team to evaluate the threats against a number of different embassies, the levels. We’ve drawn down, we’ve added back, we’ve had authorized departures, we’ve had mandatory departures. It’s a constant challenge. But I believe we’re meeting that challenge appropriately and allocating our resources in a way that best protects the men and women serving our country.

I believe this budget strikes a balance between the need to sustain long-term investments in American leadership and the political imperative to tighten our belts here at home. I believe the budget’s a blueprint providing the minimum our people need to be able to carry out their mission and to enhance national security and promote global stability.

I will just close by saying to you it is never – and this is not the budget that we would have liked to have; this is the budget we have to have under the circumstances of the budget agreement. And that’s a longer conversation. Maybe we’ll get into some of that today.

Thank you, Madam Chairwoman.

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