Leahy Statement At The Hearing On The FY19 Budget Request For The Department Of State

Secretary Pompeo, welcome.  We appreciate you being here. 

You are no stranger to the Congress, and I am sure you know of the Appropriations Committee’s long bipartisan support for the State Department, regardless of which party controls the White House or the Congress.

I think we showed that again last week, when the Committee unanimously reported the fiscal year 2019 State, Foreign Operations bill.  By rejecting the cuts proposed by OMB, our goal was to enable the United States to remain the global leader that so many Americans and people around the world want us to be. 

That means leading by example.  Standing up for our values and principles, paying our fair share to support international organizations and alliances that protect our interests, and supporting policies and programs that enhance our reputation and credibility. 

Mr. Secretary, I think we face two choices.  One is to cut the budget for the State Department and USAID by 25 percent, slash our contributions to the United Nations, withdraw from international agreements and treaties, embrace corrupt despots who trample on the rights of citizens, close our borders to people fleeing violence and war, bully our neighbors, and ignore the fact that our strongest competitors are methodically expanding their influence as we pull back. 

The other approach is to act like a leader, one that is still the world’s only superpower thanks to the sacrifices of generations of Americans who came before us.  That is the approach this subcommittee has taken, and the lion’s share of the credit goes to Chairman Graham.

We live in a rapidly changing, dangerous world.  I doubt there are any among us who would have predicted, when the Berlin Wall came down 30 years ago, that the world would look the way it does today: 

  • Two seemingly unending American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq;
  • Religious and ethnic violent extremism that has grown steadily worse since 9/11;
  • Global pandemics that have infected and caused the deaths of tens of millions of people;
  • Rising temperatures and water scarcity threatening whole regions;
  • The proliferation of ever more powerful nuclear weapons;
  • Increasing authoritarianism and the dismantling of democratic institutions; and
  • Humanitarian crises and people fleeing their homes on a scale not seen since World War Two. 

You are here to defend the President’s budget, and we understand that.  So it could be said that we are here to try to save you from your own administration, and to protect the funding for diplomacy and development.  We want the people at the State Department and USAID to have the resources they need to do their jobs.  

This budget amounts to a tiny fraction of the Federal budget, and it compliments the role of our military by building more stable societies to prevent conflict, and by rebuilding after conflicts and other disasters when they occur.  We want other countries do contribute more, but we cannot protect our interests by doing less. 

I expect most of the discussion today will focus on topics in the news, like North Korea, Iran, China, Iraq and Syria.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  But let’s remember that we can have the best trained people and the best policies and the best programs, but without the funds to implement them there won’t be much to show for it.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

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