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International Relations Budget for Fiscal Year 2009

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Opening Remarks Before the House Foreign Affairs Committee
Washington, DC
February 13, 2008

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(2:20 p.m. EST)

SECRETARY RICE: First of all, let me join you in expressing my great sadness at the loss of our good friend and colleague, Congressman Tom Lantos. Not only has he been a good friend and a mentor here in Washington, he is someone that I knew during my time as a professor at Stanford. And I think it’s fair to say he’s a true American hero. He really represented all that is best in our country. He’s going to be greatly missed. I feel personally that have lost a great and inspirational mentor, and we’ve certainly all lost a very good friend. And to his wonderful family and to all of his colleagues, my condolences.

Mr. Chairman, with your permission, I have a longer statement which I will ask to be entered into the record.

CHAIRMAN BERMAN: Without objection.

SECRETARY RICE: I’ll just make a few remarks. I want to thank you for the opportunity to appear before the Committee today in support of the President’s Fiscal Year 2009 International Affairs Budget Request. This is the last time that I will come to the Committee as Secretary of State for a budget.

I want to thank you very much for the excellent support that this Committee has provided to the Department of State. Even if we’ve not always agreed on matters of policy, we have certainly, I think, been able in a spirit that would have made the founders very proud, to have our differences but to continue to promote the values and the interests of the United States for a freer and more prosperous world.

I want to note in particular that we have made a lot of progress over the last several years, and I very much attribute that to the bipartisan support of my authorizing and appropriations committees. We have been trying to rebuild the capability of the State Department and the civilian side. I think we all recognize that the 1990s was a time of perhaps cashing in on a peace dividend that turned out on the morning of 2001 to show us that it had been premature to think about a peace dividend. And in fact, thanks to the help of this Committee, we’ve been able to increase foreign assistance by doubling it for Latin America, tripling it worldwide, quadrupling it for Africa. We’ve had the important initiatives of the President’s Emergency Program for HIV and AIDS, for malaria. We have had the innovative new approach of the Millennium Challenge Corporation which has helped us to reward the work of governments that are trying to govern wisely and to invest in their people.

We, of course, have increased significantly the resources going to public diplomacy. Public diplomacy is going to have to be rebuilt over an extended period of time, but I think we’ve made great progress. We have increased again the number of foreign students who are studying in this country. After September 11th, those numbers collapsed to very low numbers, and I think that those of us who look to the long term know that when students from abroad get to know us and spend time here, and when our students get to go abroad, that is really the very best way for people to get to know America and to spread our values.

We’ve also made important changes to the way that the Department operates. I made the decision that we needed to change, to redeploy our people out of – many of them out of Europe and into growing places like India and Brazil and to China. It was the fact that we had as many – almost as many Foreign Service officers in Germany as we had in India. It seemed important to have that redeployment. But even with those redeployments, it is absolutely the case that the Foreign Service is too small. Secretary Powell was able to redress some of the problems of the freezes in hiring that happened in the 1990s by increasing over four years 2,000 Foreign Service officers. The President in this budget has asked for approximately 1,100 Foreign Service officers as well as 300 people for USAID. And I think it is very important that we rebuild this civilian strength.

In that regard, we are asking our men and women to do things that were perhaps not expected for the Foreign Service. They’re working in Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Iraq and Afghanistan, supporting local and provincial development that I think is paying dividends in the stabilization of those countries. They are working far away from capitals in remote areas, delivering assistance, helping people to develop, and in that regard, the request that we fund fully the Civilian Response Corps, which Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen referred is really, for us, a major step forward in restructuring the way that we think about reconstruction and development.

I think it’s fair to say that we -- in post-conflict societies, we tried it one way in Afghanistan, which was what I’ll refer to as the adopt-a-ministry approach with many, many different countries being involved. We appreciate very much that a lot of countries were involved, but frankly, we’re still paying for some of the incoherence of that effort. In Iraq, we tried to do reconstruction by putting it under a single department, the Defense Department, which I think everybody there would say we were not fully able to mobilize the civilian capabilities that were needed for reconstruction.

And the truth is we really did not have, either in any department or in the U.S. Government as a whole, an institution that could really deal with post-conflict stabilization. And yet, whether it is the major efforts in places like Iraq or Afghanistan or smaller efforts in places like Liberia or Haiti or, we hope one day, to help reconstruct a democratic Cuba, it is going to be necessary that we have the civilians who can do that. And the Civilian Response Corps will allow Americans to dedicate themselves for a year or so to taking their skills as city planners or as people in rule of law or as health experts and go and help to spread prosperity.

Because the final point that I’d like to make is that very clearly, this Administration has focused very heavily on the importance of uniting our interests and our values. While sometimes, people may think that our values and our interests are in conflict in the short term, I am a deep believer that they can never be in conflict in the long run. If America does not stand for freedom and for liberty, for human rights, for the rights of the oppressed, and if we don’t believe that there is no corner of the earth which should be condemned to tyranny, then nobody will. And the ability to use our foreign assistance to structure our foreign policy in a way that we can help spread those benefits is not only our moral obligation and shows the compassionate side of America, but it is clearly, deeply in our interest and will make us a more secure country in the long run.

So thank you very much, over the years, for the support of this Committee and I’m very pleased to take your questions.


Released on February 13, 2008

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