President Biden headed to the State Department in Washington, DC’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood this week to talk about “restoring America’s place in the world” — his first visit to a cabinet agency as president. Since inauguration, the President has focused each day on a policy issue and Executive Orders, and he used this visit to make the case the United States must “earn back our leadership position” in order to “make big things happen” for American families and the world.
President Biden spoke alongside his long-term advisor, Secretary of State Tony Blinken, who will lead the Administration’s efforts to “restore diplomacy as the premier tool of foreign policy,” one of his campaign promises. He noted fulfilling commitments including re-joining the Paris Climate Agreement and World Health Organization, praised America’s alliances as “our greatest asset,” warned of “advancing authoritarianism,” and highlighted the pandemic, climate change, and nuclear proliferation as “challenges that will only be solved by nations working together in common cause.”
“Investing in our diplomacy isn’t something we do just because it’s the right thing to do for the world,” Biden declared. “We do it in order to live in peace, security, and prosperity. We do it because it’s in our own naked self-interest.” Earlier in the day, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan highlighted that the President’s vision to build a “foreign policy for the middle class,” saying “everything we do in our foreign policy and national security will be measured by a basic metric — is it going to make life better, safer and easier for working families?”
President Biden explained why U.S. global engagement matters at home:
President Biden also met and praised America’s diplomats and development experts who staff the Department, saying, “I want the people who work in this building and our embassies and councils around the world to know I value your expertise and I respect you, and I will have your back.” Vice President Harris added, “everything you do… makes a difference in the lives of everyday Americans.”
Secretary Blinken takes over a department that faced repeated proposals of dramatic budget cuts in the last four years, an 18-month hiring freeze that left the Department under-staffed, and an unusually high number of senior positions and Ambassadorships filled by political appointees.
Numerous reports were released last year with recommendations for rebuilding the State Department and Foreign Service, including a Council on Foreign Relations Task Force co-chaired by William Burns, Biden’s nominee to lead the CIA, and Linda Thomas-Greenfield, his nominee as UN Ambassador, and a report on a “U.S. diplomatic service for the 21s century” by Nick Burns, Marc Grossman, and Marcie Reis. Recommendations included: