Opening Remarks by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken Before the Senate Committee on Appropriations

06/08/2021 01:01 PM EDT


Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.


SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.  There we go.  Mr. Chairman, Vice Chairman Shelby, Chairman Coons, Ranking Member Graham, all the committee members, thank you very much for coming together today and giving me this opportunity to talk about the administration’s proposed budget and how we believe it will help us achieve our national security priorities and deliver results for the American people, which is our common mission.

Let me just say that the last time I had the honor of actually appearing before the subcommittee, and Senator Graham will remember this, I had – was seated next to another witness who seemed to get a lot more attention: Bono.  (Laughter.)  So a very, very memorable day before the subcommittee, but Senator Coons, Senator Graham, very much looking forward to working with you going forward as well.

This is a critical moment for the United States and for our global leadership.  We have major tests, including stopping COVID-19; rising to the challenge of the climate crisis; supporting a global economic recovery that delivers for American workers and families; we have to revitalize our alliances and partnerships; outcompete China and defend the international rules-based order against those who seek to undermine it; renew democratic values at home and abroad; and push back against malign activity by our adversaries.

In a more competitive world, other countries are making historic investments in their foreign policy toolkit.  We need to do the same thing.  That’s why in this budget we proposed $58.5 billion for the State Department and USAID for Fiscal Year 2022.  And just to cover some of the specifics, this budget will strengthen global health.  The United States has been a leader in this field for decades – in Africa, around the world.  We’re asking for $10 billion for global health programs, including nearly $1 billion for global health security to help us prevent, prepare for, respond to future global health crises so we can stop outbreaks before they turn into pandemics that put our safety and prosperity in danger.

The budget will accelerate the global response to the climate crisis by providing $2.5 billion for international climate programs, including 1.25 billion to the Green Climate Fund to help developing countries implement climate adaptation and emissions mitigation programs, which is directly in our interest.

The budget will double down on the fight for democracy, which, as we all know, is under threat in many places around the world.  People talk of a democratic recession around the world.  Our budget request includes $2.8 billion in foreign assistance to advance human rights, fight corruption, stem the tide of democratic backsliding, and strengthen and defend democracies – for example, through technical training for elections and support for independent media and civil society.  It also requests $300 million for the National Endowment for Democracy.

The budget will support a comprehensive strategy to address the root causes of irregular migration from Central America.  It will invest 861 million in the region as a first step toward a four-year commitment of $4 billion to help prevent violence, reduce poverty, curtail endemic corruption, and expand job and educational opportunities.

The budget would re-establish U.S. humanitarian leadership with a request of $10 billion in assistance to support refugees, victims of conflict, other displaced people, and to rebuild our refugee admissions program.

It will support our partners in the Middle East by fully funding our commitments to key countries, including Israel and Jordan, and by restoring humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people.

It includes a budget request of 3.6 billion to pay our assessed contributions in full to international organizations, initiatives, peacekeeping efforts, including to restore our annual contributions to the World Health Organization.

As China and others work hard to bend international organizations to their worldview, we have to ensure that these organizations instead remain grounded in the values, principles, and rules of the road that have made our shared progress possible for so many decades.

Finally, to deliver in all of these areas, the budget will reinvest in our most vital asset, and that’s our people.  It will provide new resources to recruit, to train, and to retain a first-rate, diverse global workforce, with nearly 500 additional Foreign and Civil Service positions – the largest increase for State Department staffing, excuse me, in a decade.  And it will modernize our technology – cybersecurity – protect our embassies and consulates, and include a direct appropriation of $320 million for consular services worldwide so that we can continue to provide these vital services to Americans and those who seek to study, to travel, to do business with the United States.

Our national security depends not only on the strength of our armed forces, but also our ability to conduct effective diplomacy and development.  That’s how we solve global challenges, forge cooperation, advance our interests and values, protect our people, prevent crises overseas from becoming emergencies here at home.  And that’s why diplomacy and development are smart investments for American taxpayers.

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Vice Chairman, a top priority for me as Secretary is to restore the traditional role of Congress as a partner in our foreign policymaking.  That’s the spirit that I bring to today’s conversation, the spirit I’ll bring to all future conversations and engagements with this committee, and I’m grateful for the chance to answer your questions.  Thank you very much.