You have seen the world transforming right before your eyes, from Arab revolutions to the rise of new economic powers to a more dispersed but still dangerous al-Qaida and terrorist network. And in this time, only the United States of America has the reach, resources, and relationships to anchor a more peaceful and prosperous world. The State Department and USAID budget we discuss today is a proven investment in our national and economic security, but it is also something more. It is a down payment on America’s leadership.
When I took this job, I saw a world that needed America, but also one that questioned our focus and our staying power. So we have worked together to put American leadership on a firm foundation for the decades ahead. We have ended one war and are winding down another. We have cemented our place as a Pacific power. We have also maintained our alliance across the Atlantic. We have elevated the role of economics within our diplomacy, and we have reached beyond governments to engage directly with people with a special focus on women and girls.
We are updating diplomacy and development for the 21st century and finding ways to work smarter and more efficiently. And after the first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, we created two new bureaus, taking the work we were already doing on counterterrorism and combining it with other assets within the State Department to create a much more focused effort on counterterrorism and on energy. And I really commend Senator Lugar, because it was his idea. It was his talking with me when I was visiting with him prior to my confirmation that made me determined that we would actually accomplish this. And we have reorganized our assets into a bureau focused on fragile states.
Now, like many Americans in these tough economic times, we have certainly made difficult tradeoffs and painful cuts. We have requested 18 percent less for Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia, preserving our most essential programs and using the savings for more urgent needs elsewhere. We are scaling back construction of our embassies and consulates, improving procurement to save money, and taking steps across the board to lower costs.
Our request of 51.6 billion represents an increase of less than the rate of inflation and just over 1 percent of the federal budget, and this is coming at the very same time that our responsibilities are multiplying around the world.
Today, I want briefly to highlight five priorities.
First, our request allows us to sustain our vital national security missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and reflects the temporary extraordinary costs of operating on the front lines. As President Obama has said, the tide of war is receding, but as troops come home, thankfully, civilians remain to carry out the critical missions of diplomacy and development.
In Iraq, civilians are now in the lead, helping that country emerge as a stable, sovereign, democratic power. This increases our civilian budget, but State and USAID are asking for only one-tenth of the $48 billion the U.S. Government spent on Iraq as recently as 2011. The 2013 U.S. Government-wide request for Iraq, including defense spending, is now $40 billion less than it was just two years ago. So we are doing what must be done to try to normalize our relationship at a far lower cost than what we have been expending.
Over time, despite the tragic violence of this past week, we expect to see similar government-wide savings in Afghanistan. This year’s request will support the ongoing transition, helping Afghans take responsibility for their own security and their own future, and ensuring that this country is never again a safe haven for terrorists.
We remain committed to working on issues of joint interest with Pakistan, including counterterrorism, economic stability, and regional cooperation.
Second, in the Asia Pacific, the Administration is making an unprecedented effort to build a strong network of relationships and institutions, because we believe, in the century ahead, no region will be more consequential to our economic and security future. As we tighten our belts around the world, we are investing the diplomatic attention necessary to do more with less. In Asia, we are pursuing what I call forward-deployed diplomacy – strengthening our alliances, launching new strategic dialogues and economic initiatives, creating and joining important multilateral institutions, even pursuing a possible opening with Burma – all of which underscores America will remain a Pacific power.
Third, we are focused on the wave of change sweeping the Arab world. As the nation transforms, so must our engagement. Alongside our bilateral and security support, we are proposing a $770 million Middle East and North Africa Incentive Fund. This fund will support credible proposals validated by rigorous analysis and by Congress from countries that make a meaningful commitment to democratic change, effective institutions, and broad-based economic growth. In an unpredictable time, it lets us respond to unanticipated needs in a way that reflects both our agility and our leadership in the region.
This budget request would also allow us to help the Syrian people survive a brutal assault and plan for a future without Assad. It continues our assistance for civil society and Arab partners in Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, and elsewhere. It provides a record level of support for our ally Israel and it makes possible our diplomacy at the UN and around the world, which has now put in place, with your help, the toughest sanctions that I think any country has ever faced against Iran.
The fourth priority is what I call economic statecraft; in particular, how we use diplomacy and development to create American jobs. We’ve more than 1,000 State Department economic officers working to help American businesses connect to new markets and consumers. We are pushing back every day against corruption, red tape, favoritism, distorted currencies, and intellectual property theft.
Our investment in development also helps us create the trading partners of the future. We have worked closely on three trade agreements that we believe will create tens of thousands of jobs in America, and we hope to work with Congress to ensure that as Russia enters the WTO, foreign competitors do not have an advantage over American businesses.
And finally, we are elevating development alongside diplomacy and defense. Poverty, disease, hunger, climate change can destabilize societies and sow the seeds for future conflicts. We think we need to make strategic investments today in order that we can meet our traditional foreign policy goals in the future. Through the Global Health Initiative, through our Feed the Future Initiative, we are consolidating programs, increasing our partners’ capacity, shifting responsibilities to host countries, and making an impact in areas of health and hunger that will be a real credit to our country going forward.
And as we transform development, we really have to deliver measurable results. Our long-term objective must be to empower people to create and seize their own futures.
These five priorities are each crucial to American leadership, and they rely on the work of some of the most capable, hardest working, and bravest people I’ve ever met: the men and women of State and USAID. Working with them is one of the greatest honors I’ve had in public life.
With so much on the line, from the Arab world to the Asia Pacific, we simply cannot pull back. Investments in American leadership did not cause our fiscal challenges, and retreating from the world will not solve them.
Let me end on a personal note. American leadership means a great deal to me personally. It is my job everywhere I go. And after three years, 95 countries, and over 700,000 miles, I know very well what it means to land in a plane that says the United States of America on the side. People look to us to protect our allies; stand by our principles; serve as an honest broker in making peace; to fight hunger, poverty, and disease; to stand up to bullies and tyrants everywhere. American leadership is not just respected. It is required. And it takes more than just resolve. It takes resources.
This country is an unparalleled force for good in the world, and we all want to make sure it stays that way. So I would urge you to work with us to make this investment in strong American leadership and the more peaceful and prosperous future that I believe will result. Thank you.