Thank you. This is a group that knows the power of U.S. foreign assistance, and we are grateful for your partnership in our work.
I also want to give a shout out to my State and USAID colleagues who are here as well.
Speaking at the UN in September, Secretary Blinken outlined the United States’ investments in development over the last two years, and those numbers are impressive by any measure:
- Nearly $60 billion to help end poverty, reduce hunger, and build resilient food systems;
- $35 billion to advance global health;
- More than $20 billion to drive inclusive economic growth.
These large numbers are a testament to the U.S. commitment to use development to forge a better future for all.
They are also an indicator of the impressive capacity and capabilities of the companies in this room to deliver effective development programs around the world to the people and communities that need them.
As many of you likely know, State and USAID together administer about $40 billion in base foreign assistance funding every year. That number can sometimes be increased by supplemental funding, subject to Congress’s approval. We’re having that discussion with Capitol Hill right now as it considers the Administration’s request for $105 billion in supplemental assistance funding. I talk a little later about how our supplemental request relates directly to national security.
But first let me share that we’ve heard industry’s call that we should make the contracting process more user-friendly and I can assure you we are focused on that.
State is working closely with our USAID partners, including my friend Samantha Power, to enhance State-USAID collaboration, streamline processes between our buildings, and support efforts at burden-sharing.
I think we’ve made a lot of progress. For instance, in FY 2023, State alone processed over 17,000 assistance actions, contracts, grants, transfers. Going forward we will continue to look for areas where we can streamline. We understand and appreciate industry is our close partner in driving development and we want to make sure we are working with you to do that as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Turning to where we are focusing our efforts and why, we are focused on efforts to address some new – and old – challenges.
Abroad, we’ve got Vladimir Putin trying to turn back the clock to some earlier era, when big states did whatever they wanted, and small states did whatever they must to survive. That is not the world we aspire to live in anymore.
Further east, our ally Israel is responding to Hamas’ brutal attack. The Secretary explained our many lines of effort there in detail yesterday at the G7. I’ll emphasize the key point for development professionals, which is that while it’s hard to look ahead in this moment, identifying pathways to get to the longer term objective – “Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in states of their own, with equal measures of security, freedom, opportunity, and dignity” is a conversation we also need to have now and the development challenges to achieving that goal are significant.
Still farther east, we have the Communist Party of China leading a PRC government that has in some cases a dramatically different vision for the future than we do. This is a relationship that will be competitive when it needs to be, collaborative when it can be, and adversarial when it must be.
We’re also focused on the rest of the world. For instance, the Indo-Pacific region and irregular migration are two areas where our development efforts will be instrumental to improving economies, governance, and peoples’ lives.
There’s no question that we are facing tough times in Washington, too. America’s political divisions are increasingly affecting our foreign policy and international relationships, with several leadership and ambassadorial nominees remaining unconfirmed, and budgets, including the foreign assistance budget, facing pressure.
National security wasn’t always subject to so much partisanship. Just twenty years ago, our ambassadors were confirmed in about 80 days. Today, the average is approaching 300 days. Debt ceilings and budget-shutdowns weren’t unheard of, but they weren’t the yearly political sport they seem to be now.
In my recent travels abroad, I’ve been struck by the fact that when I sit down with the country team for a briefing, representatives of the so-called three D’s are at the table – diplomacy, development, and defense. Everyone delivers a weighty brief about their programs and impact. Each plays a vital role in national security. But only one of the three – defense – is likely to get a budget increase this year. The other two D’s – diplomacy and development — are looking at potential cuts.
Acknowledging this lack of equilibrium isn’t budget envy. It’s reinforcing the point that military leaders like former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis often make – that if Congress doesn’t fund the State Department, the military will need to buy more ammunition.
That is because national security isn’t only about warfighting, it’s also about addressing the root causes of instability and conflict;
It’s about addressing economic and political inequities;
It’s about building alliances and partnerships with global reach.
These are the pillars of national security and we build them in great part with our foreign assistance and our development efforts.
But delivering these results for the American people often requires overcoming our internal political divisions to demonstrate American will and capacity to meet the moment.
This is one of those times. A time President Biden calls an “inflection point.” A time when the decisions we make now could shape the future for decades to come.
There is plenty of evidence to support the President’s suggestion.
Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and Hamas’ attack on Israel top the list and are a big part of the supplemental assistance request I mentioned earlier.
I‘d like to focus on Ukraine for a moment more. Since that conflict has been going on since February 2022 we [can] speak to what we’ve been working on with industry so far, but it also has the problem that it is no longer the new big thing in Washington, and some are calling for us to do less there.
The assistance we are providing Ukraine is not only supporting Ukraine’s defense, it is assisting a growing democracy in the heart of Europe.
It is delivering life-saving humanitarian support . . .
It is developing a new generation of leaders by working with young Ukrainians who are rebuilding homes and local communities . . .
It is contributing to global food security by supporting Ukraine’s export capacity . . .
It is continuing progress against corruption, to name just a few programs.
Perhaps most importantly, our commitment to assistance is critical to keeping other donors engaged. Our support in turn ensures the survival of the IMF’s overall financing package for Ukraine, supports allies and partners who are backfilling Ukraine’s defense needs, and co-finances projects on everything from trade to cybersecurity and global health.
Putin is counting on a weakening in our resolve to break up our coalition and bring on Ukraine’s defeat. We must continue to prove him wrong, ensuring his invasion of Ukraine — his attack on sovereignty norms and principles that have brought about so much more peace than conflict — remain a strategic failure.
But the inflection point President Biden talks about is not just about active conflicts, it is also about what CIA Director Bill Burns likes to call “problems without a passport.”
These are the concerns that transcend boundaries.
Concerns that, quite literally, rise from the sea or float in the air, making them hard to detect and even harder to fight.
Concerns like climate change, global health security, and cybersecurity. . .
Concerns about the unknown potentials of artificial intelligence, and the weaponization of information, ransomware, and data by state and nonstate actors.
Make no mistake: our competitors and adversaries are watching closely how we respond to these challenges too.
So even as we face a war in Europe that sometimes feels a lot like something out of the 20th century, Secretary Blinken committed through his modernization agenda to build a State Department that is ready to meet the tests of the 21st century.
On global health security, we saw firsthand during COVID that a pandemic is not just a health crisis, our security and our economy are at risk too. We also saw the incredible difficulty of arranging the international cooperation and coordination necessary to respond to global health risks.
That is exactly why the Department stood up the Global Health Security and Diplomacy bureau this past August.
This Bureau is leveraging the full power and purpose of American diplomacy to deepen, broaden, and align our partnerships – including with industry – to
ensure the international community is better prepared to prevent, detect, control, and respond to infectious diseases and pandemic emergencies when they do occur.
We’re doing this by developing international capacity, such as through a new Pandemic Fund that will provide financing to fill gaps in national, regional, and global health security capacity.
We are also doing this by sharpening the Department’s health diplomacy skillset through training and professional development.
Finally, PEPFAR remains an integral part of these efforts. PEPFAR has been successful in part because of the bipartisan support it enjoyed since its creation, across four administrations and ten Congresses. We continue to support a clean 5-year reauthorization of PEPFAR to support this critical work.
The Secretary’s modernization agenda is also heavily focused on ensuring the Department is better positioned to address the challenges and opportunities presented by technology’s rapid advances.
To this end, we also created a Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy, elevating our diplomatic capacity to quickly address new innovations and risks, building partnerships, and creating international consensus where needed.
The President’s focus on technology is also very clear. The bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act, with its investments in workers and strengthened supply chains, was an early success.
The White House also started an international conversation about ransomware. Now in its third year, over 50 countries came together at the Department last week for a Counter Ransomware Initiative summit to discuss ways to address a growing phenomenon that is increasingly being used for profit by malign actors, costing individuals, companies, and governments billions of dollars each year.
Finally, we are of course focused on AI and believe it can have a big impact on development. Our Chief Data and AI Officer Matthew Graviss is here today to talk to you more about that, including by providing details about the Secretary’s announcement just this morning of a new enterprise-wide Artificial Intelligence Strategy. Developed in accordance with the President’s executive order, this strategy establishes how the Department will leverage AI’s tremendous potential to advance U.S. diplomacy and statecraft, while also while also taking steps to ensure its ethical and responsible use.
I know I’ve covered a lot of ground here and I know Paul has a few questions for me, so let me wrap up by acknowledging that the vast agenda I’ve laid out here is only possible because of partnerships. Partnerships abroad, and partnerships here at home.
I recognize some of our most important partners are sitting right here in this room today. The services and development companies represented by PSC are central to so many of our efforts it is impossible to even begin to list them all.
Your ideas and capabilities fuel our agenda, and your commitment to developing a world-class workforce ensures we are able to carry that agenda forward.
Every contract fulfilled represents an objective achieved.
For that, I thank you. I thank you for your time today, your commitment to the mission, for the impact you’ve had around the world, and for your many, many contributions to global development.