Rex W. Tillerson
Secretary of State
Opening Remarks Before the House Appropriations Committee on Foreign Operations
June 14, 2017
SECRETARY TILLERSON: Thank you, Chairman Rogers, Ranking Member Lowey, and distinguished members of the committee. I’d like to begin by saying, of course, we were all stunned to learn of this morning’s shooting involving your colleague, members of Congressional staff, and the Capitol Police. Representative Scalise is a friend of mine and he represents many friends of mine back in Louisiana. It’s painful for me to hear about those that were wounded. I also understand at least one Capitol Police officer was injured in the line of duty. We want to honor those law enforcement members, the emergency medical teams, those who responded for their courage and dealing with the situation quickly. I and my colleagues at the State Department pray for a swift recovery for all of those injured.Today I want to continue the conversation we’ve started about the administration’s State Department and USAID budget request for Fiscal Year 2018. As I said to your colleagues on the House Foreign Affairs Committee this morning, I would like to offer a point of view on the Russian sanctions legislation currently being considered by the Congress. I agree with the sentiment that has been conveyed by several members from both parties that Russia must be held accountable for its meddling in the 2016 election. As Congress prepares to vote on the sanctions bill, I would urge the members of Congress to ensure any legislation allows the President and myself to have the flexibility to adjust any sanctions to meet the needs of what is always an evolving diplomatic situation with the Russians. Essentially, we would ask for the flexibility to turn the heat up when we need to, but also to ensure we have the ability to maintain a constructive dialogue.
As we all know, America’s global competitive advantages and standing as a leader are under constant challenge. The dedicated men and women of the State Department and USAID carry out the important and often perilous work of advancing America’s interest every single day. That mission is unchanged. However, the State Department and USAID, like many other institutions here and around the world, have not evolved in their responsiveness as quickly as new challenges and threats to our national security have changed and are changing. The 21st century already presented many evolving challenges to U.S. national security and economic prosperity. We must develop proactive responses to protect and advance the interest of the American people.
With such a broad array of threats facing the United States, the Fiscal Year 2018 budget request of $37.6 billion aligns with the administration’s objectives of making America’s security a top priority. While our mission will also be focused on advancing the economic interests of the American people, the State Department’s primary focus will be to protect our citizens at home and abroad. Our mission is at all times guided by our longstanding values of freedom, democracy, individual liberty, and human dignity.
The conviction of our country’s founders is enduring, that all men are created by – are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. As a nation, we hold high the aspiration that all will one day experience the freedoms we have known. In our young administration’s foreign policy, we are motivated by the conviction that the more we engage with other nations on issues of security and prosperity, the more we will have opportunities to shape the human rights conditions in those nations. History has shown that the United States leaves a footprint of freedom wherever it goes.
Ensuring the security and prosperity of the American people and advancing our values has necessitated difficult decisions in other areas of our budget. But even having made hard choices to reduce funding, we will continue to be the leader in international development, global health, democracy and good governance initiatives, and humanitarian efforts.
If natural disasters or epidemics strike overseas, America will respond with care and support. I am convinced we can maximize the effectiveness of these programs and continue to offer America’s helping hand to the world.
This budget request also reflects a commitment to ensure every tax dollar spent is aligned with the department’s and USAID’s mission critical objectives. We believe this budget also represents the interests of the American people, including responsible stewardship of the public’s money.
I know there is intense interest in prospective State Department and USAID redesign efforts. We have just completed collecting information on our organizational processes and culture through a survey that was made available to every one of our State and USAID colleagues, as well as through individual listening sessions. From this feedback, we have been able to get a clear overall view of our organization. We have no preconceived notions about outcomes, and our discussions of the goals, priorities, and direction of the State Department and USAID are not token exercises.
The principles for our listening sessions and subsequent evaluation of our organization are the same as those which I stated in my confirmation hearing for our foreign policy. We will see the world for what it is, be honest with ourselves and the American people, follow facts where they lead us, and hold ourselves and others accountable. We are still analyzing the feedback we have received, and we expect to release the findings of the survey soon.
From all of this one thing is certain: I am listening to what my people tell me are the challenges facing them and how we can produce a more efficient and effective State Department and USAID. And we will work as a team with the Congress to improve both organizations.
Throughout my career I have never believed nor have I ever experienced that the level of funding devoted to a goal is the most important factor in achieving it. Our budget will never determine our ability to be effective; our people will. My colleagues at the State Department and USAID are a deep source of inspiration; and their patriotism, professionalism, and willingness to make sacrifices for our country are our greatest resource.
I am confident that the U.S. State Department and USAID will continue to deliver results for the American people. I thank you for your time and look forward to your questions.