SECRETARY BLINKEN: Mr. Chairman, thank you very, very much. To you, to Ranking Member Meeks, to all the members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you about the administration’s proposed FY24 budget for the State Department and the Agency for International Development.
Let me say at the outset that I join both of you – I join every member of this committee – in saluting all of our veterans of Afghanistan, saluting those who lost their lives, gave their lives, so that their fellow citizens could enjoy a greater measure of security, and particularly the presence of Sergeant Gee’s mother here today; I am humble in your presence. I think of the 13. I think of the 2,402 Americans who lost their lives over 20 years in Afghanistan, serving and protecting our country. I think of the 20,000-plus wounded. And I think of so many others who served and have injuries of a different kind, including members of my State Department team. And I join you, Mr. Chairman, I join you, Ranking Member Meeks, I think I join every member of this committee in being determined that we look – not only look but draw the lessons from 20 years, including the last year in Afghanistan.
We do meet at an inflection point. The post-Cold War world is over. There is an intense competition underway to determine what comes next. The United States has a positive vision for the future: a world that is free, that is open, secure, and that’s prosperous.
The budget that we put before you will, in our judgment, advance that vision and deliver on the issues that matter most to the American people by preparing us to meet two major sets of challenges that are distinct but also overlapping.
The first set is posed by our strategic competitors – the immediate, acute threat posed by Russia’s autocracy and aggression, most destructively through this brutal war of aggression against Ukraine, and the long-term challenge from the People’s Republic of China.
The second set is posed by a series of shared global tests, including the climate crisis, migration, food and energy insecurity, pandemics, all of which directly impact the lives and the livelihoods of Americans and people around the world.
With this committee’s leadership and support across two State Department authorization bills, the United States is in a stronger geopolitical position than we were two years ago to address these challenges.
We’ve drawn enormous power from investments that we’ve made in our economic strength and technological edge here at home, including through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, the Inflation Reduction Act. Our unmatched network of alliances and partnerships has grown stronger – in fact, they have never been stronger. We’re expanding our presence in critical regions, like the Indo-Pacific. We are leading unprecedented coalitions, including a number of new ones, to confront aggression and to address humanitarian crises around the world.
The President’s FY24 Budget, the requests for the State Department and USAID meet this moment head on.
The budget will sustain our security, economic, energy, and humanitarian support for Ukraine to ensure that President Putin’s war remains a strategic failure.
The budget will also strengthen our efforts to outcompete the PRC. President Biden is firmly committed to advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific, which is why this proposal asks for an 18 percent increase in our budget for that region over FY23. The budget contains both discretionary and mandatory proposals for new, innovative investments to outcompete China – including by enhancing our presence in the region, ensuring what we and our fellow democracies have to offer, including things like maritime security, disease surveillance, clean energy infrastructure, digital technology, is more attractive than the alternative being proposed to them.
The budget will help us push back on advancing authoritarianism and democratic backsliding by strengthening democracies around the world, including through supporting independent media, countering corruption, defending free and fair elections. And it will allow us to pay our contributions to international organizations, because the United States needs to be at the table wherever and whenever new international rules that affect the livelihoods of our people are debated and decided.
The budget will allow us to continue leading the world in addressing some of these global challenges, from food and energy insecurity to climate and health crises. And on that last point: we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of PEPFAR – I think one of the greatest achievements in American foreign policy over the last decades. It’s helped save 25 million lives around the world. This budget will help us continue the fight against HIV/AIDS, while advancing health security more broadly through a new Bureau of Global Health Security and Diplomacy, which I look forward to working with Congress to establish this year.
The budget will advance our efforts to modernize the State Department, including by expanding our training float, updating our technology, carrying out diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility initiatives, including to make our overseas missions more accessible. I’m grateful for the progress that we’ve already made together, including Congress’ support in updating the Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act and Accountability Review Board that give us more flexibility to open new missions and to better manage the risks that our people face. We know there’s more to do, and we look forward to working with the Congress and this committee to accelerate modernization efforts so that the department can better attract, retain, as well as support our first-rate workforce as they advance our interests in what is a very complex and fast-moving world.
Finally, the budget will further a personal priority for me that I know is shared by the leadership and the members of this committee, and that is supporting Enduring Welcome, our whole-of-government effort to resettle our Afghan allies. Keeping our promises to those who served the U.S. remains an unwavering priority; this budget will help us continue to make good on that commitment.
Mr. Chairman, when I began this role, I committed to working to really restore the partnership between the Executive Branch and Congress when it comes to our foreign policymaking.
I’m determined to continue to work with you, the ranking member, the members of this committee, to do that, and I very much look forward to the close coordination over the coming year. Grateful for the chance to appear before you today and to answer any questions. Thank you.