Opening Remarks by Secretary Antony J. Blinken Before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs

04/28/2022 03:48 PM EDT

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

Rayburn House Office Building

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Chairman Meeks, Ranking Member McCaul, thank you.  Thank you for having me here today to speak about the administration’s proposed budget for the State Department, but thank you more broadly —

MR CHABOT:  Secretary, could you pull the mike a little closer, maybe?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yes, sorry.  That better?  Let me try that.

But thank you as well for your partnership and also for your leadership.  That CODEL that both of you led in Poland at a critical moment made a big difference, and it’s been gratifying to be able to work with both of you and other members on this urgent issue but also on many others.  And I deeply appreciate it.

And I did recently get back from Kyiv with Secretary Austin, where we wanted to show as well as deliver on America’s commitment to the Government and to the people of Ukraine.  This brutal war of aggression against Ukraine has underscored to me the power and the purpose of American diplomacy.  Our diplomacy is rallying allies and partners around the world to join us in supporting Ukraine with security, economic, humanitarian assistance, to impose massive costs on Russia for its aggression, to strengthen our collective security and defense, and to address the war’s mounting global consequences, including the refugee and food crises that have flown from it.

We have to continue to drive this diplomacy forward, also to seize the strategic opportunities and address some of the risks that are presented by Russia’s overreach as countries reconsider their policies, their priorities, their relationships.

The budget request before you predates the crisis, but fully funding it and the new emergency resources that the President requested earlier today is critical to ensuring that Russia’s war in Ukraine is a strategic failure for the Kremlin and serves as a powerful lesson to those who might consider following its path.

The supplemental resources Congress provided in March have made a decisive difference on the battlefield, helping Ukrainians defend their country and win the battle for Kyiv.  Your support also helped meet the mounting costs caused by the Kremlin’s brutal invasion in Ukraine itself, across Europe, around the world, while bolstering the security of our allies and partners.

This assistance was provided with broad bipartisan support and sent a clear signal of the United States commitment to the Ukrainian Government and to its people.  We ask that Congress do the same with the emergency request that’s before you as of today, which seeks $20.5 billion for security assistance, $8.5 billion for economic assistance, and $3 billion for humanitarian aid, including to address the growing global food security crisis, which is a direct result of Russia’s aggression.  Approximately $14 billion of this request would be directed to the State Department and to USAID.

Let me just underscore: We can’t take our progress so far for granted.  Ukraine’s enduring independence and sovereignty depends in no small part on ensuring that the country’s brave defenders have what they need to keep up the fight and meet the urgent needs of their people.

But Mr. Chairman, to your point, as we focus on this urgent crisis, the State Department continues to carry out missions that are front and center to our diplomacy, like responsibly managing great power competition with China, facilitating a halt to fighting in Yemen and Ethiopia, pushing back against the rising tide of authoritarianism and the threat that it poses to democracy and human rights.

We also have evolving challenges that require us to develop new capabilities, like the emergence and re-emergence of infectious disease, an accelerating climate crisis, a digital revolution that holds enormous promise but also real peril.

Last fall, I had a chance to set out a modernization agenda for the department and for U.S. diplomacy to enable us to even more effectively respond to many of these complex demands.  And in no small part thanks to the FY22 budget approved by Congress, we’ve been able to make real progress on this agenda, though much remains to be done.

To give just a few quick examples, we’ve strengthened our capacity to shape the ongoing technological revolution so that it actually protects our interests, it boosts American competitiveness, it upholds our values.  With bipartisan Congressional support and encouragement, we just launched a new bureau for cyberspace and digital policy, with 60 team members to start.  And I am grateful for the support and the advice that we got along the way.

We’re also making headway on ensuring our diplomats reflect America’s remarkable diversity.  This is a tremendous source of strength for our diplomacy.  The department’s first ever chief diversity and inclusion officer has spearheaded an effort to analyze and address the obstacles that have been preventing under-represented groups from joining but also advancing at the State Department.  We’ve expanded the Pickering and Rangel fellowship programs and, Mr. Chairman, as you said, paid internships at State, again with strong Congressional input and support.

My first 15 months on this job have only strengthened my conviction that these and other reforms aren’t just worthwhile, they’re essential to delivering for the American people.

Ensuring we can deliver on this agenda will require sustained funding, some new authorities, and most importantly, partnership from Congress.  That’s why I’m grateful to have worked with Congress to re-establish a formal dialogue on the State Department authorization.  Last month, we sent congressional staff the first package of legislative authorities required to meet the challenges we face, and we expect to send more in the coming weeks and to working with you on State authorization.

If we want to deepen our capability in key areas like climate and multilateral diplomacy; if we want to expand on Secretary Powell’s vision of a Foreign Service training float; if we want to strengthen global health security and the capacity to prevent, to detect, and respond to future outbreaks – we’ll need some additional resources.

If we want to be able to swiftly stand up new missions, to deploy our diplomats when and where they’re needed, and make these decisions based on risk management, not risk aversion, we’ll need to reform the Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act.

There are other things that I would point to that we need to do, but we look forward to working with you on that.

So in the interest of time, let me stop there.  And of course, we can address these and many other issues throughout the course of the testimony.  Thank you.  Very good to be with everyone.