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Lowey statement at hearing on Department of State 2018 budget request

June 14, 2017
Press Release

Secretary Tillerson, thank you for joining us today.

During your confirmation hearing, you stated: “Quite simply, we are the only global superpower with the means and the moral compass capable of shaping the world for good. If we do not lead, we risk plunging the world deeper into confusion and danger.” 

I was moved by this statement as a strong believer that our diplomacy and development efforts are critical to maintaining U.S. global leadership and protecting our national security.

But after the dramatic 32% reduction in the Fiscal Year 2018 international affairs budget, I’m struggling to reconcile your remarks with your disastrous plan, ironically titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness.”  Slashing development and diplomacy will not put “America First” – it will put American lives in danger, a fact underscored in a recent letter by 120 three- and four-star generals.

Additional statements from your confirmation also confuse me.

You spoke about your time at Exxon Mobil, where you saw the impact of development and global health programs, such as PEPFAR, describing it as “one of the most extraordinarily successful programs in Africa.” You referenced Secretary Mattis’ quote about needing more ammunition if we don’t fund the State Department and said foreign policy and diplomacy goals should be elevated.

Those comments do not comport with this budget’s elimination of funding for:

food aid;
family planning;
Development Assistance;
climate change investments; and
programs for vulnerable children;

and drastic reductions, such as the proposed

53% cut to basic education;
52% cut to educational and cultural exchanges;
40% cut to prevention of trafficking in persons;
26% cut to the global health budget; and
12% cut to PEPFAR.

This would make Americans less safe by reducing our ability to stabilize regions on the cusp of extremism and to combat epidemics like Ebola.

The United States will not maintain our global leadership if we slash our development and diplomacy budgets. By your own admission, the goal is to have other nations fill the gaps left by these cuts.  That is abdicating our role in the world.  We should not risk that void being filled by those who oppose our values or interests.

You also referenced U.S. funding for international family planning as an “important level of support.”  And yet, your budget would eliminate this funding. With this cut and proposed reductions to maternal and child health, we cannot maintain advances in maternal and child health.  Quite simply, under your budget, lives that would have been saved will be lost.

I am also gravely concerned by this Administration’s posture toward Russia. The budget lists countering Russian aggression as a key priority. Yet you recently questioned why we should care about Ukraine and proposed cutting assistance by 60% to countries facing Russian threats, including a 70% cut to Ukraine.  This budget would abandon our allies and encourage the worst behavior by Russia.   

We have heard from faith leaders, heads of businesses, military authorities, foreign policy experts, and Congressional colleagues on both sides of the aisle who all agree: a comprehensive national security strategy is only possible when defense is supported by diplomacy and development. Cutting these critical tools of our foreign policy is a surefire way to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way. I hope you will explain the Administration’s strategy behind this budget, because, frankly, I’m not sure there is one.

115th Congress