Secretary Kerry Makes the Case for “Small, Smart Investments up Front”

April 19, 2013 By Molly Lester

John Kerry“The simple fact is, the United States cannot be strong at home if we are not strong in the world,” said Secretary of State John Kerry to Members of Congress this week in support of International Affairs programs.  Secretary Kerry was on Capitol Hill Wednesday and Thursday testifying on the President’s FY14 International Affairs Budget request.  Throughout four hearings over two days covering myriad foreign policy issues, Members from both chambers and parties underscored the critical need for America’s global leadership despite the difficult budget environment.

During the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday, Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) acknowledged fiscal constraints but said he wanted to work in a bipartisan fashion to “ensure that America maintains its traditionally positive and essential role in the world.”  Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) similarly argued for continued engagement, saying, “I believe in strength of America and that we can’t retreat from the world, even in tough budget times.”  Secretary Kerry stressed the return on investment provided by International Affairs programs, saying, “We’ve delivered the maximum bang for the minimal expenditure of our citizens’ dollars, about one single penny for our national security and global interests out of every single dollar.”  Foreign Affairs Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) echoed this statement and applauded the work of diplomats and development workers, saying they “strengthen alliances and prevent wars, while telling America’s story, and they do it on the cheap.”

With hotspots around the world requiring U.S. attention – from Syria to North Korea and many places in between – International Affairs programs play a critical role in protecting U.S. national security interests.  Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) argued for a strong International Affairs Budget during Thursday’s hearing, saying, “We may live in a constrained budget environment, but the world goes on.”  Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) expressed his support for effective foreign assistance, saying he was “proud of the fact that we portray American values around the world” and that “it can be an important component of both our foreign and military defense policy.”

Secretary Kerry quoted Senate State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in his testimony, saying “America’s investment in foreign policy is national security insurance,” and calling diplomacy and development programs “penny-wise and pound-wise” in comparison to the cost of military involvement in the future.  He also highlighted the importance of development programs in global security, saying, “Development is not charity, it’s an investment… in a strong world and a strong America.”

Secretary Kerry called the $52 billion FY14 International Affairs Budget request – effectively flat compared to current levels post-sequestration – more than “just a collection of numbers; it’s an illustration of our values.” With agreements in Washington few and far between, Secretary Kerry’s appearance on Capitol Hill this week serves as a reminder that there is a bipartisan consensus on the need to sufficiently fund vital International Affairs programs.