Washington, DC -- U.S. House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee Ranking Member Hal Rogers (R-KY) welcomed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a hearing on the State Department's fiscal year 2020 budget request. Rogers delivered the following opening remarks and questioned Sec. Pompeo about defending against Chinese threats to international security.
"Secretary Pompeo, welcome to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs. I know you have been hard at work conducting the diplomacy that is so desperately needed in nearly every corner of the globe. It is also important for you to appear before this Committee to defend the State Department’s fiscal year 2020 budget request, so I appreciate your being here today and I thank you for your service to our country.
"Mr. Secretary, I firmly believe that strong investments in diplomatic and development programs are a central component of our national security. In fact, our most senior military commanders have told us these critical tools help prevent the need for military intervention. That is why I was once again disappointed after reviewing the budget request for programs funded by this Subcommittee.
"You state in your Congressional Budget Justification that the request prioritizes the security of U.S. citizens, increases American prosperity, and supports our allies and partners. I believe you would see more support in Congress if the proposed funding level matched this rhetoric. Instead the request is a cut of nearly $11.5 billion, or 21 percent, from the fiscal year 2019 enacted level.
"Although this year’s International Affairs request represents some improvements from the previous two fiscal years, it is still woefully inadequate to achieve the Administration’s foreign policy and national security goals. I wholeheartedly agree with you that taxpayer dollars must be used wisely, and that programs need to be more effective and efficient. I am committed to working with you to find the best way to do that. However, if we were to accept cuts of the magnitude proposed, it would make our nation less safe and make it harder to achieve the effectiveness we all seek.
"In particular, deep reductions are proposed to important priorities like security assistance, global health, democracy promotion, and even life-saving humanitarian assistance. These programs demonstrate the character of our country. Given what the world looks like right now, this approach seems detached from reality. During a time of record displacement of individuals and families, a growing number of countries facing instability, and rising geo-political tensions, U.S. leadership abroad is critical. The budget request we have before us will simply not get the job done.
"That being said, there are some proposals in your budget I fully support, including the $3.3 billion for Israel, reflecting our steadfast commitment to Israel’s security and military strength I am also pleased to see $1.3 billion requested for Egypt’s Foreign Military Financing. Yesterday we celebrated 40 years of peace between these two American allies who have achieved much together, despite perpetually high tensions in the region. I appreciate your continued prioritization of these relationships, Mr. Secretary.
"I also note that the budget request appears to have moved beyond the proposed cuts to personnel levels we have seen in prior years. There is still a long way to go to make up lost ground from the hiring freeze, but I applaud this progress nonetheless.
"Another priority of mine is the management and oversight of the State Department. I continue to believe there needs to be a position at the highest levels of your Department that brings together both operations and assistance. Right now, those two sides of the house don’t really talk, and that continues to hamper the Department’s ability to address its management challenges.
"Ultimately, the legislative branch has the responsibility to equip leaders such as yourself with the resources needed to advance our economic and security interests, and so we are eager to hear from you on these important funding issues today.
"I also look forward to hearing about your recent travel. You’ve just returned from the Middle East, and I am interested in your impressions. Iran’s continued nuclear pursuits, missile development, and support for terrorist activity weigh heavily on our minds.
"Before that trip, you were in Asia. We all want to see North Korea denuclearize and hope that the people of North Korea might one day experience freedom and prosperity. China’s role in how that turns out is questionable, as are their motives throughout the globe. The Chinese government’s practice of predatory lending to developing countries is not just immoral, it has real security consequences for our partners in the region and beyond. I may return to this during the question period, but I fear much of the world has not awakened to the reality of the potential damage China could do to international security.
"You’ve also visited Europe this year, so I would appreciate your update on how we can help reassure and defend our allies and partners there. The Russian bear only understands strength. We must do everything in our power to help our friends in Europe stand strong to resist rampant Russian aggression on all fronts.
"Lastly, you returned from Latin America at the beginning of January. The outcome of the current crises in Venezuela will shape the future of the region for decades to come. We must remain in solidarity with the people of Venezuela and the democratic interim government. A free and democratic Venezuela that can restore what once was a thriving economy is the first step to addressing many of the other challenges in the neighborhood, including combating transnational criminal organizations and stopping the flow of drugs into this country. We cannot let Maduro and his cronies further destabilize the region.
"Finally, before I close, I want you to know you have my unwavering support for your efforts to protect the rights of the unborn. We were not provided with the details of your announcement yesterday, but I look forward to receiving a full read-out of your plans.
"Secretary Pompeo, I want to thank you again for your service, as well as the men and women of the State Department. I hope you will continue to engage with our Subcommittee as we begin our work for fiscal year 2020. This is a partnership, and your input is appreciated and valued.
"I yield back."