May 24, 2011

Chairman Kerry Opening Statement At Nomination Hearing For Deputy Secretary Of State

Washington, DC – This afternoon, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) held a nomination hearing for William J. Burns to be Deputy Secretary of State.

The full text of his statement as prepared is below:

I am pleased to welcome Ambassador William Burns, an outstanding public servant who has been nominated by the President to be Deputy Secretary of State. 

I understand that Bill’s wife Lisa Ann Carty, and his two daughters, Elizabeth and Sarah, are also in attendance.  I’d like to welcome them this afternoon as well.

Our committee knows Ambassador Burns very well, both in his current job as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, as well as in prior positions, including Ambassador to Russia and Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs. 

It is not an exaggeration to say that Ambassador Burns has been at the center of U.S. foreign policy for over a decade, bringing a steady hand, responsible leadership, and thoughtful analysis to multiple crises and challenges. He will need all of those skills in his new job.

We find ourselves at a singular moment in history.  I cannot recall another era, certainly since the fall of the Berlin Wall, as fraught with peril and uncertainty as well as by such great potential.  We have been inspired by the people in Tunisia and Egypt who called peacefully for freedom and dignity.  We have been moved by the courageous uprising in Libya, where people are defiantly fighting an authoritarian dictator whose time in office has long since expired.  But we also watch with trepidation as a brutal crackdown in Syria threatens to spiral out of control and lead to more civilian killings. 

And that is just the Middle East.  We can’t overlook our foreign policy challenges in other parts of the world.  This committee is currently holding a series of hearings on how to approach our engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  We will spend $120 billion in Afghanistan this fiscal year alone, and this affects our ability to act across the globe. 

On the broader horizon, we face significant economic and political challenges not only from China, India and Brazil, but from emerging powers like Indonesia and Turkey as well. Indeed, we now understand better than ever how closely national security and economic security are linked here and around the world.

In Europe, we see how economic crises risk destabilizing governments and aggravating political divisions.  All in all, the idea of a multi-polar world is no longer a catch-phrase -- it is a very real phenomenon with direct implications for the United States.

Our budgetary constraints will force increasingly painful trade-offs. We can no longer afford to be the world’s first responder whenever a crisis arises.  Yet we cannot afford to withdraw from the world. Without a robust international affairs budget, our war effort in Afghanistan will be undermined and fragile progress in Iraq will be jeopardized.

This budget also provides vital humanitarian assistance. It fights hunger and the scourge of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis in poor countries around the world. It prevents the spread of cholera in Haiti, distributes food to refugees in northern Kenya, and finances shelter for flood victims in Pakistan. 

Ambassador Burns, we will need you to use your experience and expertise to be a powerful voice in defense of the President’s budget request and the essential programs and diplomacy that it funds. 

We thank you for your continued dedication to public service and to helping lead the Department of State through such a decisive period in our foreign policy. I look forward to your testimony.


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