Thank you also for your comments about Boston. It’s no secret that I really wish I had been in Boston today with the President and with the mayor and the former governors and everybody. I would’ve really liked to have been there. But I’m here, obviously, doing this, and I’m not complaining about it. I watched a little bit during the lunch break of the President. I thought he was magnificent, gave a great, great speech, touched the hearts of everybody and captured Boston.
And there’s just no way to express the feelings everybody has. I watched, as everybody did, the graphic video of the explosions, and what struck me, frankly, was just the way volunteers of the marathon rushed towards the blast, and the way we learned later runners went to the hospital to give blood and people opened their homes to receive strangers. And what really struck me was the place where the first explosion took place, you see all those flags, all the international flags and you realize, wow, it was just so much bigger than Boston. And you can’t help but be impressed by the global component of it, and then you have this breach of peace with this mayhem of blood and now sheered limbs and so forth on the sidewalk. It’s just such a contrast.
I think the President’s visit today really touched everybody. And then there are these moments that leap out at you, like last night at the Bruins game where the entire crowd broke into the Star Spangled Banner, and it just reverberated. It was wonderful. At the end, there was a sign that said, “We are Boston Strong,” and I think that’s very true. And even our nemesis, the New York Yankees, interrupted – I don’t remember which inning it was – but they sang – the whole place broke out in “Sweet Caroline.” And that’s pretty special given the relationship between the evil empire and Boston Red Sox.
So I thank everybody, I really do. I know everybody in Boston and in Massachusetts, and then the surrounding communities that live and breathe Boston to some degree are all grateful for everybody’s compassion and thoughts about it.
I – on this budget, Mr. Chairman, turning to it, which we need to do here this afternoon, I’ll try to just summarize quickly, and I know you want to get to the questions, and so do I.
What is really – in the two and a half months now I’ve been privileged to serve President Obama as Secretary, I have traveled quite extensively, and I think fruitfully, with respect to efforts to get moving on the Middle East peace, efforts to deal with North Korea, efforts to deal with Syria, and China, other issues.
And what I find reinforced in me, notwithstanding 28 years in the Senate and serving as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, is a much more graphic, firsthand, day-to-day input of the degree to which the United States is relied on, looked to for leadership, and critical to the solutions of so many problems that we face on the planet. We are the indispensable nation.
And I think that it is clear to me more than ever before there is no longer anything foreign about foreign policy. And I said in my confirmation hearing that I think so much of foreign policy today is economic policy, frankly, and we need to think about that more as we transition, as we think about this budget.
As Senator Graham, who is not yet here but I look forward to talking with him when he is, very eloquently said, America’s investment in foreign policy is “national security insurance.” And I think if we can make the right small investments up front and do things to preclude conflict or to avoid implosion and failed states and so forth, we actually can save ourselves a lot of burden and a lot of money. Not the easiest sell always to our constituents, but nevertheless, it’s real.
I also believe that it is clear that American engagement is essential. Let me just give you a couple of quick examples. Recently, the President and I were in Israel. Our engagement was essential. We really – we worked on it. I think I actually had done some initial work on this a year and a half ago, two years ago. But the rapprochement that took place between Israel and Turkey, which is a positive step towards our stability in the region and hopefully towards engagement in the peace process, came about through the President’s intervention, the power and prestige of America, and the interests that we were able to bring together there.
On Syria. On Syria, we’ve contributed nearly $385 million to a growing humanitarian crisis. We’re going to have to think about more about, obviously, what we’re going to do there and how. I’m sure we’ll talk about it today. But it’s made a difference that we just send something like food and flour to the Aleppo bakeries or that we have, in fact, provided food and sanitation to the Atmeh refugee camp.
And having just returned from Seoul, Beijing, and Tokyo, where North Korea issue took center stage, I can tell you that once again it just comes back to you in every respect that we are the guardian of global security. And I think it’s critical that we don’t turn our back on the essentiality of that role.
All of that, Mr. Chairman, underscores what I think you know as well as anybody and the rest of you on this committee. The budget is not a collection of numbers. The budget is a representation of our values and of our priorities. And we are, obviously, making tough decisions about the budgets at this moment with our debt and deficit issues.
We’re grappling with those at the State Department, and I want to make it clear that I believe this budget helps us reduce the deficit responsibly while still investing in areas that will attract economic growth and create jobs for American workers, as well as secure our national interests.
Our 2014 budget request represents a 6 percent reduction from 2012 funding levels, and it’s also a reduction from 2013. 2013 was a CR, as you all know, so that’s why I did the comparison to 2012. We have looked hard at where we can make savings. We’ve implemented reforms that reduce costs without jeopardizing vital contributions. And I think the budget delivers the maximum return on the invested dollar of our taxpayers, which is what they want.
Let me give you a few examples of the kind of things we’re doing at low cost. 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 our Assistant Secretary for Africa Johnnie Carson and I were personally engaged with various parties, leaders, in helping to prevent the repeat of the violence of five years ago.
Our anti-terrorism assistance funding has helped save the lives of hundreds of people in places like Pakistan, India, Lebanon, by training local law enforcement to detect and neutralize explosive devices. And they have done so successfully, and therefore saved the lives by virtue of that training.
In addition, we have been able, through our cooperation, to prevent plots from playing out against the United States. Many of you are familiar with them through the classified process. They don’t reach the light of day, but we know how dangerous it might have been had those people not been intercepted, had our law enforcement cooperative or intel cooperative or other foreign relationships not produced the leads that helped us intervene ahead of time.
I have traveled to the Middle East already three times as Secretary, and North Africa, and there we have a phenomenon taking place which requires a greater response, frankly, than even we are now currently able to provide. And we need to think about how we’re going to change that, and I’d love to talk to members about it. But leaders there are facing an enormous challenge with a huge burgeoning youth population, absence of jobs, increased radicalism. And we have to ask ourselves whether we are doing enough to respond to a growing pace of increase in extremism versus the adoption of rule of law and democratic process.
That is our challenge, I think, in this generation, and I personally believe there are ways that we can address it. The President has directed me to evaluate a number of different options and propose them to him, and I think he’s going to try to land on what he thinks is the best strategy, and then we will undoubtedly come to talk to you about this in greater length. Because in the Sahel, in the Maghreb, in the Arabian peninsula, Syria, throughout the region – talk to any of the leaders, as I know you do, and they will tell you about their fears about radical extremism, religious exploitation, ideological extremism. And we need an answer to it, and I would say respectfully to everybody here the answer is not just drones and SEAL teams. We have to find some other way of addressing this longer-term effort.
To that end, the budget asks, at least initially, for $580 million for the Middle East and North Africa Incentive Fund so that we can give reformers the tools and resources that they may begin to need in order to fight on behalf of these young people in the future. Remember, Tahrir Square was not an Islamic revolution, nor was Tunisia. Tunisia was a fruit vendor who wanted dignity and respect and the ability to sell his goods, and he resented police officer intrusion on that process. Tahrir Square was a bunch of young people with their cell phones excited about the possibilities of sharing the life that a lot of other people in the world get to live and hoping they could do so in Egypt, and it was later when the military delivered an election, contrary to many people’s expectations, that the Brotherhood came in and picked up the pieces. So we need to understand that as we go forward.
And the simple fact is the United States cannot be strong at home if we’re not strong in the world. Now, I think this is particularly true when it comes to our economic renewal. We believe we need to get out there and do more to stoke the engine of economic recovery for our country. The President has engaged in two critical initiatives to do that. One is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the other is the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And I’d just share with colleagues how excited Europe is about that possibility. Turkey is excited and, though they’re not in the European Union, would like to have a parallel negotiation because they don’t want to be left out of it. Similarly, Japan has just come onboard in the Pacific, and I believe we have an enormous opportunity to kick our economies into gear as well as raise the standards of trade on a global basis.