February 24, 2015

Corker Opening Statement at Hearing on President's State Department Budget Request for FY 2016

United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

Hearing: Review of Resources, Priorities and Programs in the FY 2016 State Department Budget Request

Witness: Secretary of State John Kerry

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Chairman

Opening Statement 

Mr. Secretary, I know you’ve been doing a lot of traveling around the world and have a lot of important issues to deal with. And we appreciate very much you coming in today to talk about your budget and your testimony today.

As you know, the purpose of this hearing is to learn more about the State Department’s FY 2016 budget request. I know that these hearings also become a time in many cases to talk about public policy issues.  I think you know there may be some questions about the AUMF and other issues that you’re dealing with at this time.  So we appreciate you answering all of those. 

One of our top priorities is to pass a State Department authorization that helps the department become more efficient and effective within a sustainable budget. 

Chairman Perdue will be taking on that effort. I know we met yesterday with Heather Higginbottom with the State Department and had a good meeting to launch that. I think all of us want to make sure that as we’re dealing with the many crises that we’re dealing with around the world that the State Department is set up in a way to leverage our efforts and to ensure that we are doing on a daily basis everything we can to make sure that we continue to pursue our national interests in so many ways.  And that’s the purpose of doing that.

Obviously the president has sent forth a budget that increases spending by $74 billion, and I think all of us understand that is not where we are going to be. I know you are here to talk about your component of that, but we all know that that is not where the budget is going to end up.  It is going to be a greatly reduced number. 

We know we have some challenges in front of us, and we appreciate, again, you being here for us to talk with you about those.

The State Department is also proposing some increases in foreign aid. Not just in foreign ops. And yet in many cases there is a difficulty in trying to evaluate the effectiveness of that. And again, I think that is one of the important reasons for having an authorization. 

Our overseas contingency operations funding still compose about 14 percent of spending. And at some point, I think we all know that we have to move away from funding through OCO (Overseas Contingency Operations) to getting things on an enduring budget. And again, that is something through the budget process we are going to attempt to do this year.

I do have four things that I would like to highlight. And that is:

  • The Statement Department right now has an overreliance on OCO and carryover balances. And I think there is a great concern that those carryover balances create a lack of discipline within the department. 
  • The budget’s misalignment with strategic planning efforts, such as the quadrennial diplomacy and development review process. Those not being linked up in an appropriate way seem to miss an opportunity to make sure that we are aligned properly. 
  • We have a massive increase in peacekeeping that betrays previous agreements with the United Nations on the U.S. share of funding.
  • And we have a failure to reprioritize resources in line with the Asia rebalance. There has been a lot of discussion about that, but it is very difficult to see the resources that are being put forward to deal with that.

So we look forward to your testimony. I know there will be numbers of questions, not just about the budget, but other activities that you have been dealing with this. 

We thank you for your service to our country. We thank you for taking time out to be with us today.