10.11.11

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy On United States Global Leadership

As Entered Into The Congressional Record

Mr. LEAHY.  Mr. President, as Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of State and Foreign Operations I have strongly supported funding to protect United States interests around the world. 

I am also fortunate to have Senator Lindsey Graham as a Ranking Member, who, like Senators Judd Gregg and Mitch McConnell before him, is a strong supporter of these programs.  We recognize, as does the Pentagon, that military power alone is not sufficient to protect our security.  In fact, sending Americans into harm’s way should be an absolute last resort.  We also need to invest in international diplomacy and development.

Foreign aid today is an oft-maligned term that is widely misunderstood.  It is viewed by many as a form of charity, or a luxury we can do without, or as a sizable part of the federal budget.  It is none of those things.

This is not a Democrat or Republican issue.  It is about whether the United States is going to remain the global leader it has been since World War Two.  Three weeks ago, President George W. Bush said:

“One of the lessons of September 11th is that what happens overseas matters here at home… We face an enemy that can only recruit when they find hopeless people, and there is nothing more hopeless to a child who loses a mom or dad to AIDS to watch the wealthy nations of the world sit back and do nothing.” 

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was equally blunt about the stakes involved.  She said:

“We don’t have an option to retire, to take a sabbatical from leadership in the international community and the world.  If we do, one of 2 things will happen.  There will be chaos, because without leadership there will be chaos in the international community, and that is dangerous.  But it’s quite possible, that if we don’t lead, somebody else will.  And perhaps it will be someone who does not share our values of compassion, the rights of the individual, of liberty, and freedom.” ?

I could not agree more, and I hope other Senators appreciate what is at stake.  Just as past generations rallied to meet the formidable challenges of the Great Depression, the Nazis, and the Cold War, we will bear responsibility if we fail to meet the challenges of today.

The budget for diplomacy and development includes funding for our embassies and consulates that assist the millions of Americans who travel, study, work and serve overseas. 

It pays our contributions to UN peacekeeping missions that do not require the costly deployment of U.S. troops, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the operations of our NATO security pact, aid for refugees who have fled wars or natural disasters, and to prevent the spread of AIDS, the Asian Flu, and other contagious diseases that threaten Americans and people everywhere.   

There are many other programs that promote U.S. exports, support democratic elections, combat poverty, and help build alliances with countries whose support we need in countering terrorism, thwart drug trafficking, protect the environment, and stop cross-border crime.

We do this and a lot more with less than 1 percent of the Federal budget, yet it is a crucial investment in our national security. 

It also is no wonder that other countries – our allies and our competitors – are spending more each year to project their influence around the world, and to compete in the global marketplace.  Great Britain’s conservative government is on a path to increase its international development assistance to .7 percent of its national budget, compared to .2 percent for the United States.  Yet the Republican Majority in the House of Representatives proposes to slash funding for these programs to pre-2008 levels. 

Our leadership is being challenged unlike at any time since the Cold War.  In Latin America, which is a larger market for U.S. exports than any other region except the European Union, our market share is shrinking while China’s is growing.  It is the same story everywhere. 

There is simply no substitute for U.S. global leadership.  The world is changing, and we cannot afford to retrench or to succumb to isolationism.  Funding that enables us to engage with our allies, competitors, and adversaries, while an easy political target, helps us to meet growing threats to our struggling economy and our national security. 

I strongly support this budget and have fought to protect it for years.  I also know there are competing needs and that we have to eliminate waste.

We need to support what works, and stop funding what does not.  Too often, government bureaucracies continue funding programs that fail, and that needs to stop.  Billions of dollars provided to high priced contractors and consultants for poorly conceived, wildly extravagant, unsustainable efforts to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan have been wasted or stolen.  This has further damaged the public’s opinion of foreign aid.

The bill that I and Senator Graham recommended to the Appropriations Committee on September 21st and that was reported by a bipartisan vote of 28-2 is $6 billion below the President’s budget request.  It scales back most Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development operations and programs and will force them to significantly curtail planned expenditures.

But the House bill cuts far deeper, and these are the cuts that President Bush and Secretary Rice warned about.  There are unmistakable signs that our global influence is already eroding.  It is not preordained that the United States will remain the world’s dominant power.  As former Secretary Rice said, “if we don’t lead, somebody else will”. 

I doubt there is a single Member of Congress who, if asked, would say they don’t care if the United States becomes a second or third rate power.  They expect the United States to lead, to build alliances, to help American companies compete successfully, and to protect the interests and security of its citizens. 

You can’t have it both ways.  You can’t expect others to follow if you can’t lead, and you can’t lead if you don’t pay your way.  This budget is a fraction of the Federal budget, yet it is a far cry from what this country should be investing. 

We need to wake up, to stop acting like these investments don’t matter, that the State Department isn’t important, that the United Nations isn’t important, that what happens in Brazil, Russia, the Philippines, Somalia, or other countries doesn’t matter, and that global threats to the environment, public health and safety will somehow be solved by others. 

Our budget for foreign operations already has gone through deep budget cuts, with more to come.  But the American people deserve to be told that slashing, disproportionate cuts to these programs would have no appreciable impact on the deficit, and it would end up costing our country far more in the future.

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