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Kerry Defends Foreign Policy Budget During Busy Week Of Diplomacy

Published on 15 March 2014

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by Sonya Weakley


Washington, D.C.

During a busy week for international diplomacy, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attended a series of congressional committee hearings March 12–13 to explain his foreign policy objectives to the lawmakers who will determine how much money he will have to pay for them.

President Obama’s 2015 budget request to Congress includes $46.2 billion for the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development, the department’s development assistance component. The department’s 2014 allocation was approximately $46.8 billion.

In opening remarks March 13, Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, cited a few of the challenges in deciding how to fund foreign services.

“Violence and discrimination against women; shortages of water, energy and food; climate change; religious extremism; the trafficking in arms, drugs, people and wildlife — there is no issue that the secretary [of state] or this subcommittee can ignore,” Leahy said.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the subcommittee’s ranking Republican, commended Kerry’s efforts. “I don’t know how many miles a month you travel, but nobody can ever say that John Kerry has not been trying,” Graham said.

In response to questions about shifting budget priorities, Kerry pointed out the value of strong diplomatic relationships. In many areas, “it’s not our economic assistance that is our lever. It’s this relationship.”

Financial resources should be focused “where our economic and security interests converge,” such as strengthening “partnerships in the East Asia and Pacific region, … bolstering our bedrock alliances with South Korea and Japan” and developing “deeper partnerships with Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and others as they assume greater security roles,” he said.

Other security priorities are assisting France in fighting terrorism in the Maghreb, ending drug trafficking in Central Asia and working with the Republic of Korea and other partners to ensure the security of the Korean Peninsula.

Known for his visible involvement in large-scale security crises, Kerry said much of the impact of foreign operations is hidden: “There are just so many different parts of the world where people don’t see how America has made the difference, but we are making the difference in place after place.”

Success, he said, occurs over time “where we support freedom of religion [and] protecting universal rights of people to practice their faith freely. ... It isn’t just what we do in the budget, it’s an essential part of who we are as Americans.”

Kerry said the budget would maintain “investments in stronger people-to-people ties, educational exchange and countering violent extremism.” It also would contribute $1.35 billion to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. An additional $5.9 billion would fund overseas contingency operations, enabling the department to assist in humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts.

Supporting human rights, building stronger civil societies and providing development assistance are among “the surest ways to prevent the kind of horrible human tragedy we see in Syria today,” Kerry said. “There is simply no way the richest and most powerful nation in the world can simply look away. It is both a moral and security imperative.”

The battle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will continue to be uphill, he said. “There are 80 countries that have similar types of laws … on the books. And we deal with all of them,” Kerry said.

A former longtime senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry described his first year as secretary of state as eye-opening.

“The one thing that struck me more than anything else in the course of the last year … [is] the degree to which [U.S.] leadership does make a difference,” he said. “Without any doubt, more deeply than I ever believed it when I chaired the Foreign Relations Committee. … It’s impossible to calculate the dangers in a world without American leadership.”

Kerry also testified before a House appropriations subcommittee March 12 and the House Foreign Affairs Committee March 13. A scheduled Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing March 12 was postponed so Kerry could attend President Obama’s meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk at the White House.



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Posted 2014-03-15 13:21:00