SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very, very much, Madam Chairwoman and Madam Ranking Member, my good friend Nita Lowey, Chairman Rogers, and members of the committee. It’s great to appear before you. This is a privilege for me. I like the intimate setting, and I look forward to having good dialogue with everybody. We do indeed, Chairman Rogers, have very important choices in front of us and we have to, obviously, put them in their appropriate context and I will try to do that this afternoon.
I want to thank you all for your mention of the Boston Marathon. Representative Wolf – Frank and I were talking beforehand about running the Boston Marathon. I did it a long time ago. And it’s a great event. Clearly, to have Patriots’ Day, among all days, turned into bloody mayhem is beyond the pale and everybody is still reeling from it.
A few minutes ago before I came in here the ticker was talking about the potential of an arrest. I will say to you that no – the latest data I have is no arrest has been made but they have, quote, “solid leads.” And that’s sort of where we are now. But as President Obama said, nobody’s going to rest until we get to the bottom of this.
Turning to the challenges of the budget, the challenges of foreign policy, you’ve all listed the enormous array of challenges that we face. But we are the United States of America, and we are still the indispensable nation and people all over the world look to us for leadership. And I have seen that reinforced in me in the – what are we now – two months plus that I have been privileged to serve President Obama and the country.
It’s amazing to me how even more so than I learned as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, it is critical the choices that you make and that we make together. So I’m really happy to be here to talk about this budget. I think we can more than justify it.
As Senator Lindsey Graham has said very eloquently, America’s investment in foreign policy is “national security insurance.” And I absolutely believe that. If you can make the right small investments up front, you can avoid costly conflicts. We’ve spent about a trillion dollars in Afghanistan, and I think about the same in Iraq.
It seems to me that in the last months, we have had underscored to all of us a lot of developments that underscore the stakes for us having a strong presence in every part of the world. And I’m really appreciative, Chairwoman Granger, for your cooperation and participation in some efforts to try to advance our diplomacy and Congresswoman Lowey. It’s been critical and it will be critical as we go forward. We’re going to have to work really closely together in this.
You saw what happened in our rapprochement between Israel and Turkey. That’s diplomacy, and it came about because we were able to be there, be present, be involved with both nations in ways that serve both of our interests, all of our interests. And that’s the art of diplomacy, is being able to bring interests together at the right moment in time.
The committee I know, and I know we will discuss it today, has had some robust discussion about Syria. I look forward to that discussion today, because it’s a critical issue for us. We’ve contributed nearly $385 million for humanitarian relief to put essential resources to the Syrian people, as basic as sending flour to bakeries in Aleppo, which makes a difference, to providing food and sanitation in the Atmeh refugee camp. And I look forward to discussing it as we go on today.
We’ve also – I think we may be looking at this budget, Chairman Roger, slightly differently, but we can discuss that in the course of the day. Because our 2014 budget request, we believe, represents a 6 percent reduction from the 2012 funding levels. Now why do I say 2012? Because we had a CR for 2013, so we never had the full budget comparative process. And we think we’ve implemented reforms and some reductions that delivers the maximum bang for the taxpayers’ dollar.
Now, let me give you few examples of that. With just over $3.5 million, the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations made key investments leading up to the recent elections in Kenya. And I want to congratulate our Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Johnnie Carson, who’s just left the Department, just retired. And he did a superb job of day-to-day diplomacy. I personally was on the telephone with Kenyatta, with Odinga, talking to them, trying to walk through the process. We came out of that without the kind of violence that could rip apart a country and provide further requirement for the United States and for the rest of the world to be engaged. So we reduced a repeat of the violence that we saw during the last election.
Our anti-terrorism assistance funding has helped save the lives of hundreds of people quantitatively in places like Pakistan, India, Lebanon, by training local law enforcement to detect and neutralize explosive devices. And all of you are privileged to the intelligence that shares with you the – some of the things that our fellow Americans never see, because they don’t happen, because working with other people we prevent them from happening. Whether it’s the Saudis or the Israelis or others, we’re able intervene ahead of time.
We believe the 2014 budget maintains our commitment to peace, security, and stability, where all three of those things can be a very scarce commodity. And I’ve already traveled, as you mentioned, three times as Secretary to the Middle East and North Africa, which is struggling to respond not to a religiously motivated revolution, but to a fruit vendor who wanted respect and dignity and the ability to be able to sell his goods, responded to young people who gathered in Tahrir Square. Not the Muslim Brotherhood; they didn’t bring this. Young people in a generational revolution believing they want to share in what the rest of the world has brought us this. They brought us an election and some other people won the election. So we have to sort of deal with this emerging aspiration, if you will, that is global.
To that end, this budget requests $580 million for the Middle East and North Africa Incentive Fund so we can help give reformers the tools and resources they need to make the right decisions on behalf of their folks. And this fund will allow us to say to people: “If you’re willing to take on these deep-rooted challenges, if you’re willing to believe in democracy, if you’re willing to go to the polls, you’re willing to invest in the process, we are going to stand with you and we’re going to help you.”
And with all due respect to the members of the committee, this is de minimis – de minimis. I mean, think of what George Marshall did at the end of World War II, when we had the courage – against the will, I might add, of many Americans – to invest in a defeated Germany and a defeated Japan, today two of our greatest allies, two of the strongest economies in the world. And it’s an example of what can happen in this transformative process. We put aside in this budget 8.6 billion for our security, counterterrorism and law-enforcement assistance. I ask you to compare that 8.6 billion to the 1 trillion that we’ve spent fighting, as I said earlier, in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is penny-wise and it’s pound-wise as well.
The simple fact is – and this is – I’m more convinced of this than ever after 28 years on the Foreign Relations Committee – we cannot be strong at home if we are not strong in the world. We also can’t be strong in the world if we’re not strong at home. So that has something to do with the choices we make here in Washington about our own budget and our own deficient and so forth.
But I believe we need to do more to get out there and stoke the economic engines with the trade and business opportunities that are available in other countries. I said in my confirmation hearing almost all diplomacy today is economic diplomacy. I believe that. I see that in the TTIP; I see it in the TPP. I see it in this race for resources, and China is currently investing more than the United States in Africa. We need to think long term and this budget, I believe, is critical to our tapping the growing markets of Asia, which are essential to America’s economic recovery.
When it comes to shoring up our economic health and protecting national security, I believe our development work is one of our strongest assets. Let me very, very clear: Development is not charity. It’s an investment. It’s an investment in a strong America and a free world. Eleven of the top 15 trading partners of the United States today were once beneficiaries of U.S. foreign assistance. You can just look at Korea, where I was a couple days ago. Fifteen years ago, 20 years ago, we were giving aid to Korea. Today Korea is giving aid to many other parts of the world.
So I’ll just tell you quickly a couple of the reforms we’re making in the budget that I think are the most visible. In the food aid program, we’re giving ourselves the flexibility to choose the most appropriate and efficient type of food assistance that we will give. And by doing so, we’re actually able to reach an estimated 2 to 4 million more people every year with the exact same discretionary funding. At the same time, we’re going to save approximately $500 million in mandatory funding over the next decade, which we will use to reduce the deficit.
American growers and producers – and I know there are members of the committee who are concerned about it – first of all, I’ll say to you it’s not meant to be a subsidy program. We’ve got plenty of that. But it is supposed to be an effective way of providing aid to people. And yet we will still see a majority of the food and producers still will be U.S. Over half the funding that we’re requesting will be used and purchased by – and provided by shipping, U.S. shipping and purchase from American farmers. But by giving us the ability to modernize, including the flexibility to procure food aid in the countries that are closest to the crisis, not only can we feed more people, but we can actually get to malnourished people 11 to 14 weeks earlier. And in the case of malnourishment, that can be the difference between life and death. So the bottom line is that we think this change allows us to do more to help people to lift themselves out of hunger, and we think that’s a good deal for the American taxpayer.
The final area I’ll mention is what the budget does for our most important resource from my perspective as Secretary, and that’s the men and women of the State Department and USAID. We’ve requested $4.4 billion to fortify our worldwide security protection and to improve our overseas infrastructure; 2.3 billion of this is set aside for constructing secure diplomatic facilities. And it’s part of our commitment to implement in full the recommendations of the Independent Accountability Review Board so that we can mitigate the potential of any future tragedy like the one we suffered last year in Benghazi.
So I’d just say to everybody, I’m not going to come here and promise you we’re not going to see another terrible incident. There’s no way anybody can promise you that. We can’t have 100 percent security. We can do the best we can, and we can probably address some of that today. But we learned – just two weeks ago I was in Afghanistan, and one of my control officers, Anne Smedinghoff, who was just laid to rest today, was just a superb, brilliant, bright, committed Foreign Service Officer. She took part in a major women’s event that we did there. And she wanted to make a difference in the world, and she was. She was delivering books in Urdu to kids among the millions of kids going to school because of what we’ve been able to do to change. And this was the type of thing that’s been happening. There have been a thousand of those events, and it was just wrong moment, wrong time. But Anne and Ambassador Chris Stevens represent the same kind of quality of individual that come to work in this endeavor, which is taking America’s values and our interests and trying to share them with other people in the world, and trying to open up opportunities for them and make the world a safer and better place.
My most important job is obviously to protect these folks, and I admire them. But we can’t do it, none of them believe we can do it, by retreating from the world. We are the country that carries with us everywhere we go a sense of optimism, a sense of the possible. We are, I think, unique in all of history in what we have done to help other people share opportunity and equality and freedom.
And so I will personally stand, and we will stand, in opposition to anybody who wants to replace hope with hate and peace with war and security with violence. That’s what we believe, and those are the values of the State Department and USAID, and that’s what brings this budget to you here today. So I look forward to a good dialogue. Thank you.