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Chairman Risch Opening Statement at Hearing on FY 2021 State Department Budget Request

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today convened a full committee hearing on the FY 2021 State Department budget request, with witness testimony from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Chairman Risch gave the following opening statement:

“Good morning, everyone. Today we have with us Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss the State Department’s fiscal year 2021 budget request. Though if history is any judge, Secretary Pompeo, you will face a wide variety of questions that extend beyond the Department’s budget.

“The United States and our allies and partners continue to face serious foreign challenges that will test us for decades to come. China, under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party, is our chief competitor. Russia too remains a key adversary. 

“The efforts of these two nations to sow discord, wreak havoc, and undo the free and open international order upon which shared prosperity and security are built have reached new heights.

“They have stepped up disinformation and manipulated international institutions, suppressed the voices of freedom and democracy, propped up heinous dictators, coerced and invaded their neighbors, and denied millions of people access to life-saving humanitarian assistance.

“We have a long road ahead of us in this new era of great power competition. We need sustained political will. These challenges require nothing less.

“On top of all this, we are also confronted by a new and acute challenge – a biological enemy that we still do not fully understand – an enemy that in six short months has inflicted levels of physical and economic harm upon the world that we have not seen in more than 100 years. 

“Here again, China especially, but also Russia, has played a destructive role. From withholding vital global health data to spreading disinformation and actively stealing vaccine research, China and Russia have again chosen to be, and proven themselves to be, adversaries.

“Sanctioning bad actors will never be enough. To confront these and other challenges, the Department will need to rely upon a vast array of tools and resources. Our diplomats must be backed by effective and efficient foreign assistance, so they can help partners help themselves, and contribute to the growth of healthier, more stable societies. 

“We are eager to support a budget that will advance these critical interests and support the State Department’s most critical resource: its people. 

“As the coronavirus emerged from China and accelerated across the globe, you were forced to pull back thousands of our diplomats and their families. But you didn’t just pack up and go without a thought for your fellow Americans. 

“Instead, the Department launched an unprecedented mission to help return more than 100,000 Americans safely home. All of us who participated in that are greatly appreciative of the Department’s work in that regard. In some cases, this involved convincing countries to reopen their airspace for flights and roads for transport. In other places, you even chartered planes to get our people home. 

“There are lots of folks who may never come in contact with the Department. Yet now, there are more than 100,000 Americans who can personally attest to the tremendous work that the Department does for our people every day.  

“As the challenges get more numerous and complex, we want to support a State Department that is up to the task, fully-funded, staffed, and equipped to advance U.S. national interests on all fronts and at all times. 

“We obviously have threats that impede this, be it health or security. But, as the saying goes, all politics are local. Our adversaries understand this all too well. We need our diplomats to be local, too.

“On a personal note, in closing let me say – I want to publically thank you, Mr. Secretary, for your accessibility that you’ve had as secretary. As you know, in operating this committee, it’s essential that I have instant access to facts and information. At times when I haven’t been able to get that through the usual intelligence channels, you have always made yourself instantly accessible. I sincerely appreciate that.

“When I’m asked for advice from other second branch entities or individuals or even allies of ours, it is absolutely imperative that I have this information. You have always provided that. When you answer the phone sometimes, I never know where you are in the globe or what time it is, but you always made it happen. And for that, I have been and remain very grateful.

“With that, Senator Menendez.”

These remarks have been lightly edited for clarity. The witness’ testimony is available on