Case Testifies in Support of FY2021 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Measure
Chairwoman Lowey, Ranking Member Granger, fellow members of the Committee:
I rise in strong support of this Fiscal Year 2021 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations measure, for two main reasons.
First, in funding our non-military international efforts, this bill continues a cohesive strategy for advancing our interests and values and embracing the mantle of leadership across the globe. In doing so, it is a powerful and fitting response to the myriad of complex challenges confronting our world, most immediately the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our allies and partners are clear that in these difficult times they look to the United States to engage, stabilize and lead, and it is in our national interests to do so. This bill answers that call by bolstering our commitments to diplomacy, development and democracy, including by investing over $10 billion in international COVID-19 preparedness, response and recovery.
Second, this bill both refines and funds a cohesive strategy for advancing our interests and values in my own backyard, the Indo-Pacific. In this vast region that is charting our world’s future lie our most committed friends and opponents and everything in between, our greatest opportunities and risks.
Defense capacity alone, while critical, won’t maintain our leadership throughout the Indo-Pacific. The greatest opportunities to sustain and boost our leadership to date lie here in this bill. I especially support the funding for implementing the Indo-Pacific Strategy and the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, along with a new reporting requirement on Indo-Pacific Climate Security and greater focus on addressing illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.
Equally important is crucial funding for organizations that have proven their ability over decades to knit together the countries and communities of the Indo-Pacific in pursuit of common understandings and goals, particularly the East-West Center and the Asia Foundation. Additionally, our continued support of the U.S. Institute of Peace will direct focus on understanding and resolving the difficult issues of renewed great power competition in the Indo-Pacific.
Also of special note is the $411 million appropriated for the Peace Corps. Anyone in the Indo-Pacific, friend or foe, will attest that the Peace Corps has been and remains one of the most effective projections of U.S. leadership and values throughout the world.
I am especially pleased that in addressing the Indo-Pacific, this bill focuses as never before on the Pacific Islands themselves, the 12 independent states of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. For too long, this part of our world as viewed from Washington, D.C. has been on the periphery of our foreign policy. Decades of consistent albeit quiet engagement with the Pacific Islands reflect the values and objectives we share with these countries and their peoples. Yet it would be foolhardy to take these relationships for granted, especially as China aggressively expands its presence on all fronts.
To strengthen this focus in Congress, last year I co-founded our bipartisan Congressional Pacific Islands Caucus, and shortly will join other members in introducing our Boosting Long-term U.S. Engagement in the Pacific, or BLUE Pacific, Act to establish a comprehensive, long-term U.S. strategy for the Pacific Islands. We welcome your membership in our Caucus and cosponsorship of our bill.
This bill and accompanying report include recommendations for security and development assistance for the Pacific Islands to strengthen maritime security and combat transnational crime, improve health care, address environmental challenges, reduce disaster risk, promote economic development and strengthen democratic governance. The report also encourages our State Department to increase its diplomatic and development presence in the Pacific Islands; leverages our new Development Finance Corporation to invest in the region; and directs our U.S. Agency for Global Media to expand its coverage to the region and bolster press freedom. Collectively, these provisions will not go unnoticed and will reinforce our engagement in the Pacific Islands and the broader Indo-Pacific.
In closing, I join all of my colleagues here in expressing our gratitude and admiration for Chairwoman Lowey’s leadership and service. The bill before us today, like those in years past, reflect her powerful vision for America’s role in the world as a force for good. I especially appreciate that she has personally understood and embraced the Indo-Pacific. Thank you, Chairwoman Lowey, for your wise stewardship of this bill, this committee and our foreign policy.