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Speeches & Testimony


Speeches & Testimony

Statement in Support of Foreign Assistance

Before the House Appropriations Committee

I am truly disappointed that an often promising and optimistic bill has succumbed to fatal flaws driven by partisan posturing and representing outdated and frankly dangerous positions undermining our indispensable, unavoidable world leadership role. 
The increases in funding and engagement in the Indo-Pacific generally and the Pacific Islands specifically deserve broad support. 
However, these are countered by deliberate underfunding of foreign assistance overall and the outright elimination of support for institutions that underpin the international rules-based order.  

Most egregiously, this unfortunate proposal slashes funding for development assistance by $1.3 billion, international disaster assistance by $793 million and economic support to other nations by another $1.3 billion. For contributions to linchpin international organizations like the United Nations, the bill offers up a fully 82% cut. 

Does anyone seriously think that our country has been the leader of our world for three-plus generations on the basis of military might alone?
Does anyone seriously think that we will meet the geopolitical challenges of China, of poverty, hunger, environmental change and more, without a strong non-military presence? 
Does anyone seriously doubt that our competitors would love to engage us in a foreign policy competition that is purely selfish, transactional and valueless? 
And yet to read this bill - and make no mistake, our world is reading this bill - one could conclude that we are undertaking a sea change back to an isolationist, stark, Darwinian view of that world. 
Let’s take two bedrock institutions that we have supported through good times and bad: the United Nations, whose regular budget we would not fund at all under this proposal, and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which would receive a crippling cut. 

I understand our deep concerns with the UN, our need to improve oversight and results of US assistance programs. 

But defunding the United Nations and gutting these international programs is not a reasoned, responsible policy, not about the budget. It is anger and spite, representing an astonishingly obtuse and outright dangerous perspective. You may feel better, but you have not contributed to a solution.  

The UN is not just about votes in general assembly. It is also about 28 separate lines of international effort which, in conjunction with our own bilateral assistance through USAID and other donor country efforts, are tackling our world’s toughest challenges. 
I recently joined colleagues in Tanzania to understand and observe firsthand this work of the United Nations. It is an incredible country, a democracy of great need and great opportunity. Not coincidentally, it lies in the crosshairs of the geopolitical challenge of our times: China. Its future and that of much of Africa turn on whether we meet those needs, advance those opportunities and counter those challenges with an all-government, all-world approach.

The frontlines are in communities like rural Iringa, where we joined a United Nations quarterly district health assessment gathering where UN representatives worked alongside USAID, Tanzanian community leaders, health workers and government personnel to address real-world challenges on health, nutrition, education and economic advancement. This work directly ensures that children are fed, that parents especially mothers have the education and support they need for their families, and that rural communities have access to the resources and prosperity that yield peace and stability. 

Defunding these real-world efforts as this proposal would do undermines our progress, our reputation, our moral authority. It is not just an abdication of our duty as international leaders, but also subverts our own strategic interests and widens the path for others.  
Our enemies are more than happy to fill the void. We cannot forget that our own security depends not just on military might but on the strength of our partnerships the stability and prosperity of our international community. 

This particular proposal on balance is an unfortunate boon to those who would seek to undermine the United States’ position in the world to their own specific benefit. I sincerely hope it proves to be a blowing-off-steam moment rather than a misguided attempt at serious and consequential policy.