April 10, 2019

Chairman Risch Opening Statement at State Department Budget Request Hearing

Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today convened a hearing on the State Department's budget request for FY 2020, with testimony from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.  

Chairman Risch gave the following opening statement:

"Good morning and welcome. Our topic today is the State Department’s fiscal year 2020 budget request and our witness is the right man to answer questions about that request, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. 
  
"One thing many Americans may not realize is that the State Department is part of the bedrock of our national security. Its diplomats are our eyes and ears on the ground across the globe. These men and women are the tip of the spear for advancing U.S. interests overseas, our first line of defense against malign influences, and a vital lead in negotiations to make sure that our relations with friends and foes abroad don’t go off the rails. 
  
"The State Department’s civil servants work every day to keep the U.S. economy strong, advocating for American exports that translate into jobs back home in states like mine, Idaho, where 24,000 jobs are supported by exporting just agriculture products alone. 
  
"The State Department also provides billions of dollars to strategic allies like Israel to protect their security interests and help preserve peace around the world. As the old adage goes, the State Department is so indispensable, if it didn't exist, we would have to invent it.   
  
"For all of these reasons and many more, I believe we need a vibrant State Department that takes care of our national interests and its own people, who do a great job serving the American people. But, we need a State Department for today, not 2001, 1991, or 1975. The world has changed a lot over the past few decades and we need our diplomacy to reflect that.    
  
"For example, we need to make sure that our diplomats are getting the support they need to get outside the walls of our diplomatic posts to do their jobs. We all know that Chinese, Russian, and Iranian diplomats don’t have trouble getting off their embassy compounds. 
  
"In 2019, the stakes are too high to hamstring our national security in this way, which limits U.S. engagement in a number of places. We need our people out there, working with our security partners, advancing human rights and the rule of law, and pushing for American business. These are things we simply cannot do well enough by sitting at a desk behind several layers of security in an embassy.   
  
"On the State Department’s budget, I recognize that, like any federal agency, there are many areas for improvement, be it reducing redundancies or increasing efficiencies. I believe the department should find these efficiencies first and consider cuts second. I look forward to hearing Secretary Pompeo address these issues. 
  
"First and foremost, though, the department needs to be fully staffed. We are too far into a presidential administration for there to be so many unfilled positions. How can we critique the performance of an administration if it’s not even allowed to field its own team? I am optimistic that this week we will see confirmation of General Abizaid to be Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, but there is much more work to be done, especially to fill a number of very important senior roles in the State Department here in Washington, and I know the secretary shares my views in that regard. 
  
"I thank Secretary Pompeo for appearing today and I expect that this will be far from the last time we see him here this Congress. The easiest way to keep relations strong between the State Department and our committee is through open dialogue. Just like diplomacy, my hope is that the more we are talking, the less we are disagreeing.

"On a personal note, Secretary Pompeo, I have said publicly and I'll say it again, you are the right man for the right job at this time. We sincerely appreciate that. Myself, like most other members of this committee, meet regularly with heads of state from the 200-plus countries, and we meet with high ranking officials, and uniformly you get high marks from those people, as far as flying the flag and dealing with them. So, thank you for what you do and thank you for appearing today.

"With that, I will turn it over to Ranking Member Menendez for his opening remarks."

Secretary Pompeo's testimony is available on foreign.senate.gov, as is an archived recording of the full hearing. 

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