Opening Remarks of Chairman Leahy on the Appropriations Hearing on the FY 2022 State Department Budget Request

Welcome Secretary Blinken.  I will begin by making my opening statement.  I understand Vice Chairman Shelby will defer to Senator Graham, Ranking Member on the State, Foreign Operations Subcommittee for his opening statement.  Then I will turn to Senator Coons, our new Chairman of the State, Foreign Operations Subcommittee, for his opening statement.

Mr. Secretary, this Committee funds every aspect of the State Department’s operations and programs.  You cannot turn the lights on, or power your computers – at Foggy Bottom or at our embassies around the world – without appropriations from Congress.

Despite that, last year your predecessor, Secretary Pompeo, could not find time in his schedule to testify before this Committee in support of the administration’s budget request for the State Department – something that every Secretary of State has done in all my time here. 

So Secretary Blinken, we appreciate you being here.  It is an essential part of our process as appropriators to hear from the Secretary of State about the operational and programmatic needs of the Department.

We live in a rapidly changing, interconnected, and increasingly dangerous world.  Just a few decades ago the United States had no serious rivals.  Our economic and military power far exceeded that of any would-be competitor.

Today, things look quite different. 

After 20 years, thousands of lives lost, and $2 trillion later, we are leaving Afghanistan with little if any sense of satisfaction. 

China, where just 30 years ago bicycles were the common mode of transportation, today is a growing global power.  Rather than squander its treasury on unnecessary or unwinnable wars, it has methodically invested in its own economic development and military forces, and expanded its reach to virtually every continent.

While the Trump administration trivialized climate change, dismissed the COVID pandemic as nothing to worry about, and embraced the world’s most brutal and corrupt dictators, our allies wondered if the United States was still a country they could look to for global leadership.  

In a mere four years, our reputation as the world’s leading democracy, a builder of regional alliances, the force behind the Geneva Conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and every significant arms control treaty, was severely damaged.    

Your job, with our help, is to fix this.  To reaffirm our commitment to democracy, to fundamental rights, to act as the leader of the free world that solves problems by building coalitions of like-minded governments, not by bullying or disparaging our friends and partners.

That is what the American people expect of us, and it is what the world expects of us.  We look forward to hearing from you today about how the funds you are asking for – which amount to a $5.4 billion increase over fiscal year 2021 for the Department of State and USAID – will help do that.

You are proposing significant increases to –

  • prepare for the next pandemic and combat other threats to public health, and there will be another pandemic;
  • reduce global warming and help vulnerable countries adapt to rising temperatures;
  • pay what we owe to the United Nations and rebuilding our alliances;
  • combat violent extremism and transnational organized crime and corruption;
  • re-staff our embassies and consulates after years of neglect by the previous administration;
  • counter Russian aggression and Chinese influence;
  • reaffirm our support for democracy, human rights, and civil society;
  • respond to multiple humanitarian crises; and
  • promote U.S. private sector investment in international development. 

These are not Democrat or Republican issues.  It is the price we pay as Americans for the diplomacy and development necessary to project U.S. global leadership and protect our security – the leadership and security that our predecessors built over generations. 

And frankly, it is a small price to pay – just a fraction of the budget for the Department of Defense.  As former Defense Secretary Mattis once said, “if you do not fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.”

So Mr. Secretary, I commend the message this budget sends to the world – to our friends and allies and to our adversaries.  I hope that this Committee can work together to pass it.  

In order to do that, we need to have agreed upon toplines for both defense and non-defense spending.  I support the toplines proposed by President Biden that make this proposed budget for the State Department possible.  But no President’s budget has ever come up to Congress and been passed unchanged.  That is how the Constitution works.  Congress should begin bipartisan and bicameral discussions with the White House to establish agreed upon toplines soon, so that we can do the important work of drafting our appropriations bills.  

Vice Chairman Shelby and I have traveled far and wide together and we have met many of the outstanding embassy staff who you, Mr. Secretary, are representing here today.  They do good work. 

Vice Chairman Shelby, I understand that you will defer to Senator Graham for his opening remarks?  Senator Graham, please proceed.

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