April 22, 2015

Corker Opening Statement at Hearing on "State Department Reauthorization: Ensuring Effective U.S. Diplomacy Within A Responsible Budget"

United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Hearing: State Department Reauthorization: Ensuring Effective U.S. Diplomacy Within A Responsible Budget

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

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

Thank you Deputy Secretary Higginbottom for your continued service to our country and for your testimony today.

State Department operations have not been reauthorized since 2003, which means the department’s authorities are old and its budget has not been thoroughly reviewed in 13 years.

One of our top priorities in this committee is to restore regular committee consideration of a State Department authorization bill – reviving a process that will help the department become more efficient and effective within a sustainable budget.

The purpose of this hearing is to discuss some of the opportunities involved in reauthorizing State Department operations for the first time in over a decade.

I think this can be a collaborative process, and certainly its begun that way; and I thank you for the productive discussions the department has been having with our staffs.

As we build toward a bill that I hope will achieve bipartisan consensus, we have been studying the State Department’s budget, considering its requests for new authorities, and examining ways to make existing programs more effective and efficient.

We have found many good stories about the work the department is doing around the world to advance the United States’ interests.

And we have found many instances where we will be able to work constructively together to enhance ongoing department efforts. 

The State Department’s FY 2016 budget request for operations is 11 percent higher than last year, which brings into question some of the issues we are dealing with relative to fiscal discipline and the reality of budget caps.

A significant part of that inflated request is due to the increasing financial burden of U.N. peacekeeping.

The U.S. contributes more than any other permanent member of the U.N. Security Council – all of the them combined - and our share is still going up.

Coupled with an increase in peacekeeping missions around the world, this will only place added pressure on other priorities.

But most of our focus has been on where we might achieve efficiencies in the nuts and bolts operations of the State Department.

One of the potential inefficiencies we have found is the proliferation of special envoys and representatives. 

This administration seems to keep increasing its reliance on these “specials,” which duplicates effort with the bureaus, dilutes the contribution of State’s career staff, and circumvents Senate confirmation and oversight of senior leaders.

Foreign Service special pays and allowances should also be reviewed. 

Rightsizing represents another opportunity for more efficient diplomacy. 

I hope you address these issues in your testimony, as well as the following:

What you hope to achieve through the second Quadrennial Diplomatic and Development Review;

What you are doing to foster more rigorous program evaluation across the Department; and

Whether you think economic diplomacy gets the emphasis it deserves?

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For full details on the hearing and archive footage, visit: https://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/state-department-reauthorizaton-ensuring-effective-us-diplomacy-within-a-responsible-budget.