June 3, 2022

USGLC President & CEO Liz Schrayer Testimony Before the House Appropriations SFOPs Subcommittee Addressing the Topline 302(b) Allocation

Chairwoman Lee, Ranking Member Rogers: On behalf of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition – a diverse network of over 500 businesses and NGOs and bipartisan leaders from across the country – thank you for the opportunity to testify about the important resources provided in the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations bill. Today, I ask that you support a strong and effective International Affairs Budget funded at no less than $74.9 billion in FY23, including at least $72.9 billion for the FY23 State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. I also want to reinforce the need for urgent Congressional action to approve at least $5 billion in emergency international affairs resources support the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I speak for our entire coalition of businesses, NGOs, faith-based organizations, veterans, mayors, and community leaders across the country in expressing gratitude for Congress’s longstanding bipartisan support for America’s development and diplomacy tools and for your personal leadership.

At a time when the world has been upended by threats from authoritarianism to the COVID-19 pandemic to a global food crisis, the stakes could not be higher for America’s global leadership role and our ability to advance the security and economic interests of American families. That is why I was pleased to see Congress act on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis to approve more than $40 billion – including nearly $19 billion in international affairs resources – for security, economic, and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and to stem the global food crisis.

However, the reality is that the crisis in Ukraine does not exist in a vacuum. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the global pandemic have exacerbated health, humanitarian, and economic challenges around the world, with spillover effects on conflict, disease, hunger, climate, migration, and extreme poverty – all of which have significant and increasing economic and security impacts here at home. Let me share three examples that illustrate the historic nature of today’s global threats.

  • The number of people around the world facing acute food insecurity could reach a record high of 323 million in 2022 – a staggering 17% increase since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Food insecurity is inextricably linked to conflict and instability, all of which directly impact U.S. national and economic security.
  • The number of forcibly displaced people worldwide has now surpassed 100 million – the highest level ever recorded. This is not only a humanitarian emergency, but also an economic and security challenge that affects nearly every region of the world.
  • Only 17% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. With the U.S. recently surpassing the tragic milestone of more than 1 million COVID-19 deaths, the threat of new variants reaching our shores means Americans are still at risk.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley recently warned that, “We are entering a world that is becoming more unstable and the potential for significant international conflict is increasing, not decreasing.” The imperative of sufficiently resourcing U.S. global leadership to protect American’s health, economic and security interests could not be clearer.

As this Subcommittee and this Congress evaluate the resources needed to address unprecedented global threats and advance American interests, I urge you to act with clarity and strength to ensure America’s investments in development and diplomacy meet the urgency of this moment.

What’s It Worth?

Now more than ever, global instability is impacting every American family with increasing sticker shock at the grocery store and the gas pump – an acute reminder that what happens globally matters locally. The good news is that U.S. development, diplomacy, and foreign assistance programs are a proven investment in building a healthier, safer, more prosperous America.

A Safer, More Secure America. Humanitarian, development, and food assistance are cost- effective tools to prevent and reduce conflict – helping to stabilize weak and fragile states, stem the drivers of extremism, and keep us safe at home. That is why America’s top military leaders are often the first to call for more investment in diplomacy and development programs because it helps stop threats before they reach our shores. In fact, research has shown that every $1 the U.S. spends to prevent conflict saves an estimated $16 in response costs.

The urgency cannot be understated as converging global crises have dramatically increased instability, fueled conflict, and exacerbated humanitarian emergencies including hunger, climate, poverty, and migration. To highlight just one example – as the war in Ukraine continues to affect the global food supply, experts warn that rising food prices could again create a “tinderbox” that could spark instability in hot spots around the world. We saw this in 2007 and 2008 when the rapid spike in food costs drove social unrest in at least 40 low- and middle-income countries, and today’s food and economic conditions are even worse.

Americans’ Economic Security. As global instability continues to roil markets and drive inflation, the importance of U.S. leadership on the global stage to protect American jobs and our economic interests cannot be understated. The economic repercussions of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine are already being felt across the United States and around the world – affecting the progress of America’s economic recovery and exacerbating supply chain disruptions and commodity shortages due to the global pandemic. Experts estimate that Ukraine produced enough food to feed 400 million people prior to Russia’s invasion. With Russia’s blockade of critical Black Sea ports, 25 million tons of corn and wheat are being held hostage with devasting effects in low- and middle-income countries. This weaponization of food has serious security and economic consequences that are likely to reverberate for years to come.

At the same time, China is taking advantage of this moment to expand its global influence and advance its interests – many of which do not align with ours. From providing economic support to Russia as it continues its assault on Ukraine to expanding its influence and footprint in our own hemisphere, an emboldened China has serious economic and security implications for America. At a time when America’s economic future is on the line, we can’t leave the playing field to China.

Healthier Lives at Home and Abroad. With the global COVID-19 pandemic now in its third year, Americans may be done with the pandemic, but it is certainly not done with us. As long as vaccination rates continue to lag significantly in low-income countries, the threat from new and potentially more dangerous variants means that American families are still vulnerable. We know from experience that U.S. investments in global health pay dividends. Since its inception, PEPFAR has saved 20 million lives and built a global health infrastructure that supported the response to the West Africa Ebola outbreak in 2014. There are many lessons, 20 years later, that would be wise to follow for our global COVID-19 response.

For months, global health experts have been sounding the alarm that additional resources are needed to ensure the equitable delivery and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in low- and middle-income countries. In recent testimony, USAID Administrator Samantha Power warned that U.S.-led global vaccination efforts would come to a standstill in August – just two months from now – if Congress fails to approve new emergency resources. At the same time, we cannot ignore the reality that significant and sustained investments in pandemic preparedness and addressing other health threats will be critical to break the cycle of global health crises that have a direct impact here at home. As Bill Gates put it succinctly, “Our ability to avoid pandemics years down the road depends on the actions we take now. The world can’t wait until a new virus emerges. We need to start preparing immediately. And we need to do so with a focus on the people most at risk and the countries most often left behind.”

Resources to Meet the Moment

As global crises rage, Congress has an important opportunity to act with unity and purpose to provide the resources needed to truly meet the unprecedented scope and scale of these threats. Over the past two years, Congress has shown tremendous leadership in approving emergency international affairs resources to respond to acute crises – from the global pandemic to Afghan refugees to the war in Ukraine to food insecurity. At the same time, it is clear that many of these are not fleeting threats but rather enduring challenges.

Last spring, the USGLC coordinated a needs-based assessment with input from a broad array of experts to better understand the investment levels needed across the regular FY22 International Affairs Budget to protect the health, safety, and economic interests of the American people. In March 2021, our assessment identified at least $14 billion in new international affairs resources to mitigate the global health and humanitarian impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic – and that was before Putin’s war on Ukraine and the global food crisis. Ultimately, despite strong initial proposals from Congress and the Administration, the final FY22 spending deal included just a 1% increase in non-emergency funding for the International Affairs Budget.

One year later, the global threats facing America have only grown, with extraordinary implications for Americans at home – which is why military and business leaders have been outspoken that more is needed to meet the unprecedented scope and scale of these threats. The Administration’s FY23 International Affairs Budget request is a significant and serious request that would increase overall funding by 17%, but it is important to note that had the final FY22 spending level for international affairs reflected the Administration’s request or initial appropriations bills, the proposed increase for FY23 would be approximately 5% to 8%.

The bottom line is America cannot confront new and growing global threats and protect Americans at home if we shortchange investments in development and diplomacy.

Thank you for your support of America’s international affairs programs and your commitment to strengthening the critical resources needed to advance America’s global leadership. Our coalition looks forward to working closely with you and your colleagues in the coming weeks and months to ensure that funding for the FY23 State-Foreign Operations bill reflects the unprecedented challenges and opportunities we face today to advance the interests of all American families.