☷Opening Remarks by Secretary Antony J Blinken Before the House Subcommittee on State Foreign Operations and Related Programs United States Department of State
U.S. Department of State ( By Press Release office)
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SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you very much , Chairwoman Lee . It’s great to see you . Ranking Member Rogers , Ranking Member Granger , thank you for being here today as well . It’s very good to be with you , and I’m really grateful for this opportunity to speak to you about the administration’s proposed budget for the State Department . As you know , I recently returned from Kyiv with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin , where we sought to demonstrate , by our presence as well as by our actions , the United States commitment to Ukraine and its people . This brutal war of aggression being committed by Russia against Ukraine has brought into sharp focus the power and purpose of American diplomacy . Our diplomacy is rallying allies and partners around the world to join us in supporting Ukraine militarily , economically , and with humanitarian assistance to impose massive costs on the Kremlin for its aggression , while strengthening our collective security and defense , and addressing the war’s mounting global consequences , including the refugee and food crises that you’ve alluded to . We have to continue to drive that diplomacy forward to also seize the strategic opportunities and address the risks presented by Russia’s overreach , as countries are reconsidering their policies , their priorities , and their relationships . The budget request that you have before you actually predates the crisis , but fully funding it is critical to ensuring that Russia’s war in Ukraine is a strategic failure for the Kremlin and also serves as a powerful lesson for those who might consider following the same path . As we’re focused on this urgent crisis , the State Department continues to carry out the missions traditionally associated with diplomacy , particularly responsibly managing great power competition with China , also facilitating a halt to fighting in places like Yemen and Ethiopia , pushing back against the rising tide of authoritarianism and the threat that it poses to democracy and human rights . We also face evolving challenges that require us to develop new capabilities: the emergence and re - emergence of infectious disease , an accelerated climate crisis , and a digital revolution that holds both enormous promise but also peril if not managed correctly . A few months ago , in the fall , I had a chance to set out a modernization agenda for the State Department and for U . S . diplomacy to respond to all of these demands and all of these needs . And in no small part thanks to the significant FY22 budget that was approved by Congress , we’ve been able to make real progress on this agenda , but much remains to be done . Just to give you a few quick examples , we’ve strengthened our capacity to shape the ongoing technological revolution so that it protects our interests , it boosts our competitiveness , it upholds our values . With bipartisan congressional support and encouragement , we recently launched a new Bureau for Cyberspace and Digital Policy , with 60 team members to start . And this is something that was done very much in collaboration with and with the counsel of Congress . We’re also making headway on ensuring our diplomats reflect America’s remarkable diversity , which is one of our greatest strengths . As the Chairwoman said , our department’s first ever Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer , Ambassador Gina Abercrombie - Winstanley , has spearheaded an effort to analyze and address the obstacles that prevent under - represented groups from joining and advancing at the department . We’ve expanded the Pickering and Rangel fellowship programs , and we have paid internships at State – again , strong congressional input and support for these initiatives . We recently welcomed a new cohort of 179 exceptional Foreign Service professionals . That puts us on track for our largest annual intake in a decade . These first 15 months on the job for me have only strengthened my conviction that these and other reforms are not just worthwhile , they’re essential to delivering for the American people . Today’s meeting , by our count , marks the 103rd time that I’ve had the opportunity to brief Congress in one way or another – meetings , calls – which is one of the ways that I’ve worked to meet the commitment I made in my confirmation , to ensure that Congress’s role as a partner , both in our foreign policymaking and in modernizing the State Department , is realized . Ensuring that we can deliver on this agenda requires sustained funding , requires some new authorities – most importantly , it requires our partnership . If we want to deepen our capability in areas like climate , like public health , like 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 to prevent , detect , and respond to future outbreaks – we need these additional resources . If we want to be able to swiftly stand up new missions , to deploy diplomats when and where they are needed , and make these decisions based on risk management rather than risk aversion – we need to reform the security – the Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act and the Accountability Review Board statute . If we want to rapidly scale up the response to crises like refugee surges and epidemics , while also avoiding costly overhead , we need more flexible domestic hiring authorities . These are just a few examples , and I just want to stress in closing: This is not about advancing the goals of any one administration or any one party . It’s about refocusing our mission and our purpose on the forces that are affecting the lives of all of our fellow citizens – their livelihoods , their security – for decades to come . So I really appreciate the opportunity to speak today about why this matters , and look forward to working with this committee , the subcommittee , Congress as a whole , as a partner in these efforts . Thank you very much .
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