Ranking Member Barbara Lee Statement at the Fiscal Year 2024 Department of State Budget Request Hearing

2023-03-23 14:55

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ranking Member of the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on the Fiscal Year 2024 budget request for the Department of State:

Good afternoon.  I’d like to add my welcome to you Mr. Secretary and I want to thank you for your testimony regarding the President’s proposed Fiscal Year 2024 budget request for the State Department, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs.

Secretary Blinken, your travel pace and energy are truly inspirational.  We appreciate the active and robust diplomacy on the part of the United States.  And there is no doubt that it is sorely needed, with the challenges we face on just about every continent.  And I too want to salute, and thank, all of the employees of the Department of State.  You know we do have three legs of our national security policy: development, diplomacy, and defense. And certainly, the two that you are shepherding have been amazing in the last few years, but also we need to have more resources in development and diplomacy.

You are showing that diplomacy works.  The work done by this Administration, in large part thanks to you and the State Department, has kept a global coalition together in support of Ukraine and in condemnation of Russian aggression.  This diplomacy increases the chance of us getting to a lasting, peaceful resolution.  The past year we have seen a truce in Ethiopia hold beyond expectations, U.S.-led efforts with partners around the world to respond to massive natural disasters and food security crises, and new global breakthroughs such as a new malaria vaccine getting ready to rollout.  These achievements would not have been possible without active United States leadership. 

But meeting these challenges requires the United States to have the presence, tools, and resources to show up, engage in dialogue and consensus building, and hold everyone, including ourselves, accountable for hard-fought commitments. 

It is this primacy of our diplomatic and development work to both United States strategic interests as well as global peace and stability that makes me so concerned about the cuts being considered by the new Republican majority for Fiscal Year 2024. 

The Administration’s request recognizes the need for the United States to engage in every fora especially where those that do not share our values are present.  A cut in resources will exacerbate vacancies, stunt efforts to build a skilled and diverse staff, and undermine engagement at all levels putting the United States on a backfoot.  Reductions would delay both physical and cyber -security upgrades needed to keep United States facilities and personnel safe and secure.  And cuts would cripple U.S. efforts to invest in Sustainable Development Goals, the framework agreed by every country to tackle shared challenges like gender inequality, extreme hunger and poverty, and threats to public health.

I hope you will discuss this Administration’s ongoing approach to building partnerships in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, both of which represent untapped potential for U.S. engagement.  My colleagues are often quick to focus on the influence of the People’s Republic of China.  I will point out that China now has more Embassies and more diplomats around the world than the United States does.  Simply, we are being outmanned—and outwomanned—just when countries are clamoring for greater partnership with the United States. 

Another area that we cannot afford to fall back on is global health.  U.S. leadership and investment has helped millions to survive and thrive.  But these gains are fragile. 

The world is organizing to make sure we are better prepared to detect and respond to the next disease outbreak.  Cuts to global health funding will prove short-sighted the next time a pandemic from abroad comes to our shores.  The COVID pandemic cost trillions of dollars in global economic output.  We cannot afford to put preparedness on the back burner again.

And last but not least, we must get on track to deal with the existential challenge of climate change.  I joined the most recent Conference of Parties, or COP, in Egypt last October, the largest gathering of policy makers, experts and activists on the climate annually.  Every person I came across emphasized the need for U.S. leadership—and their frustration that resources and action have not matched our rhetoric.  The people suffering most from extreme weather, changing climate patterns, and loss of biodiversity are those who had smallest role in causing these changes.  Decades of investment in agriculture, health, and infrastructure are being wiped out by these new climate trends.  Countries are slowly being swallowed by the sea.  My constituents in California certainly understand.  And I expect those suffering from hurricanes in Florida, drought in the Southwest, or flooding in the Midwest do also.  The United States has a moral responsibility and a self-interest to address the drivers of these changes and the effects on the most vulnerable.  We need to do much more on climate change, not less.

Mr. Secretary, it’s evident the Administration has worked very hard over the past two years to restore America’s global reputation and promote engagement and dialogue with international organizations and partners.  My colleagues on the other side of aisle bring some distinct priorities, but I believe we all end at the same conclusion – active United States leadership and engagement leads to better outcomes for both our country and, I hope we would agree, the rest of the world.  A more stable, peaceful, democratic, and prosperous world depends on an active and engaged United States.  A robust and growing international affairs budget is needed to achieve this.  I want to thank you, again, for your tireless work on behalf of our country, and for being with our Subcommittee today.  I look forward to your testimony.

118th Congress