WASHINGTON – Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) today delivered the following opening statement at today’s full Committee hearing entitled “American Diplomacy and Global Leadership: Review of the FY24 State Department Budget Request.” Testifying before the Committee was Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“China has made major investments in diplomacy and its diplomats are outrunning ours—not because they are better, but because there are more of them in more places around the world with more embassies and a seemingly limitless checkbook. We cannot be on the sidelines and mired down in bureaucratic processes. We need ambitious and consistent resourcing,” Chairman Menendez said. “Bolstering our diplomatic and economic tools to compete with China is the key to avoiding a military confrontation while also ensuring we are ready to prevail in a conflict, if necessary.”
Find a copy of the Chairman’s remarks as delivered below.
“This hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will come to order.
Secretary Blinken, welcome back to the Committee, with which you have a long history. We appreciate you being with us again.
If we are going to address the enormous scale of the global challenges we face in the 21st century, we need a well-resourced State Department with the most appropriate personnel and tools to promote American foreign policy.
From the horrific Russian invasion of Ukraine, to increasing violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and a tenuous peace agreement in Ethiopia, to multiple failed states and active civil wars in the Middle East and North Africa, to the migration crisis caused by dictatorships, waves of criminal violence in Mexico and Central America, and the tragedy in Haiti, to food insecurity, severe natural disasters, and extreme heat exacerbated by the climate crisis, as well as the continuing issues related to the pandemic.
We want to hear from you, Mr. Secretary, how you plan to ensure that the Department is resourced and staffed to project American foreign policy including seriously countering the growing threat from China. For this, I think you will feel today—and I’m sure in your other engagements—a strong bipartisan, bicameral view: it is the single largest geo-strategic challenge for the United States.
China has made major investments in diplomacy and its diplomats are outrunning ours—not because they are better, but because there are more of them in more places around the world with more embassies and a seemingly limitless checkbook.
We cannot be on the sidelines and mired down in bureaucratic processes.
We need ambitious and consistent resourcing.
As you know, Senator Risch and I are working to put together a bill to put us on a stronger path to compete with China globally.
This will include resources and staffing, strengthening economic tools, and expanding our engagement with Latin America, the Middle East and Africa—where there is currently a 40 percent vacancy rate at key American posts.
Bolstering our diplomatic and economic tools to compete with China is the key to avoiding a military confrontation while also ensuring we are ready to prevail in a conflict, if necessary.
As we have seen with Russia in Ukraine, one dictator’s warped vision of the world is all it takes to unleash a brutal, modern war.
Our unity of purpose with our democratic allies and partners against Putin’s illegal war is critical and goes far beyond Ukraine’s borders.
When we lead with diplomatic, military, and economic support—others follow.
Our continuing support for Ukraine is not just about defeating Russia, or to help Ukraine’s freedom, which in and of themselves are worthy goals, it is important that we send a message to others who would upend the rules-based international order. You cannot by force take another country’s territory.
The U.S. needs to use all our tools more effectively to do that, which brings me to a third priority area we would like to see the Department address—security assistance.
Unfortunately, for years, the Pentagon has encroached upon the State Department’s vital and statutory role in security assistance, a critical tool of foreign policy, which we have seen most recently leveraged in Ukraine.
This has increasingly untethered our assistance from human rights and American values, which I believe damages our national security interests, and it has led to policies that focus on short-term tactical military assistance like we have seen with Azerbaijan blockading Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.
So while I will continue working to solidify the State Department’s role in the provision of all security assistance and sales and seek to claw that back to where it rightfully and statutorily belongs, the Department must work to make sure we can fulfill our security assistance commitments to our partners while setting the stage to compete with and deter bad actors like China, Russia, and Iran.
We must reorient American foreign policy to be rooted in supporting democracy and human rights, which serve our long-term interests.
Our foreign policy needs to help activists, environmental defenders and political prisoners on the frontlines of confronting autocrats.
We need to be able to isolate and weaken those who undertake coups in countries like Chad, Sudan, Mali and Guinea.
We have to do more to protect women, girls, and young boys who are the targets of sexual violence in conflict zones.
Finally, I want to reiterate the importance of building on the last two years of bipartisan work to resuscitate the State Department Authorization process after a long hiatus.
I think this speaks volumes about how deeply the Committee values the Department’s work and personnel.
It is critical that we modernize our diplomatic corps so it better represents our nation’s diverse backgrounds, views and talents, and gives them the tools they need to be successful.
So we have got our work cut out for us, Mr. Secretary, and we want to thank you for being a constructive partner in this effort.
We appreciate the constant dialogue between our Committee, yourself, and the Department, and we look forward to discussing President Biden’s budget request in detail with you.
With that, let me turn to the Ranking Member, Senator Risch.”
Remarks have been edited lightly for clarity.