MR NED PRICE: Good afternoon, everyone. Happy budget day. It’s a very special day every year. Today, to help commemorate the occasion –
QUESTION: A very special day?
MR PRICE: A very special day every year. And to help commemorate the occasion, we have two very special guests. I am very pleased to introduce to you Ambassador John Bass – he, of course, is the Acting Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources; and our colleague Paloma Adams-Allen – she is the USAID Deputy Administrator for Management and Resources. Both will offer some opening remarks on the FY 2024 budget request for Department of State and USAID, and then we’ll take your questions, and then we’ll proceed to our normal programming. So with that, Ambassador Bass.
UNDER SECRETARY JOHN BASS: Great. Thank you, Ned, colleagues. Good afternoon. Great to be with you. And before I start, I just want to take a minute to thank Ned for his remarkable –
MR PRICE: This was not part of the program.
UNDER SECRETARY BASS: — service and leadership. It’s not Ned Price Day, but maybe it should be. And I –
QUESTION: No, that’s every day. (Laughter.)
UNDER SECRETARY BASS: But I know I speak for all of our colleagues in wishing you all the best with your next adventure. And as Ned mentioned, I’m joined today by my friend and colleague Paloma Adams-Allen, Deputy USAID Administrator for Management and Resources. And we’re here, of course, to present the highlights of the Fiscal Year ’24 budget request for the department and for the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The resources detailed in our combined Fiscal Year 2024 budget are essential to the Department of State and USAID’s work to advance the Biden administration’s vision of a free, open, secure, and prosperous world, while delivering on issues that matter most to the lives and livelihoods of our fellow Americans.
The President’s FY 2024 budget request requests $63.1 billion for State and USAID. This is a $4.9 billion increase, roughly 9 percent increase, above what Congress enacted for comparable State and AID programs in Fiscal Year ’23. And we deeply appreciate the support and partnership from Congress in resourcing this department and USAID to meet the moment that we face.
The budget is an extension of principled, clear-eyed leadership by the United States in the face of a set of generational challenges that require sustained commitments to address.
First, as you have heard so often from the Secretary, our approach towards the generational challenge posed by the PRC focuses on investing in our own domestic capabilities, aligning our efforts with those of allies and partners, and competing with the PRC where interests and values differ.
Our competition with the PRC is unusually broad and complex, which requires a different approach than traditional budgeting. And to meet this challenge, therefore this budget requests mandatory spending on top of the traditional discretionary resources within the budget. As part of an interagency mandatory proposal, the State/AID budget request includes in mandatory spending: $2 billion to strengthen Indo-Pacific economies and supporting our partners in pushing back against predatory and opportunistic competition by China; $2 billion to support high-quality, strategic hard infrastructure projects globally; $2 billion for a new revolving fund at the Development Finance Corporation to boost equity investments; and $7.1 billion over 20 years to support the renewal of the Compacts of Free Association.
We believe that discretionary resources alone cannot meet the needs posed by this generational challenge. And we believe it is imperative to have mandatory, reliable funding to prevail in this competition with China.
The second priority is to ensure that we continue to carry forward our pivotal work as part of the broader administration efforts to ensure that Russia’s aggression in Ukraine remains a strategic failure, while supporting the Ukrainian Government and the people of Ukraine. The FY24 budget will advance that commitment while promoting oversight and accountability to ensure taxpayer resources are appropriately spent and accounted for.
Third, we are mobilizing and enhancing resources to address shared global challenges, including economic challenges, energy challenges, food security, health security, the climate crisis, and other challenges that defy national borders such as irregular migration. And we will continue to work together to shore up fellow democracies and build resilience against authoritarians’ efforts to undermine democratic states and democratic norms.
Fourth, the budget will continue our work to ensure U.S. interests and values are protected in the digital and emerging technology sector, including through the CHIPS International Technology Security Innovation Fund, for which we are grateful to Congress for providing us with $500 million over five years to empower the department to work with our partners and allies in securing and expanding our crucial semiconductor supply chains and promoting the adoption of trustworthy telecom architecture and technologies.
Fifth, we will continue the Secretary’s ambitious agenda to modernize American diplomacy and our diplomatic operations globally to ensure we’re equipped to address the challenges and seize the opportunities presented to us in the coming years.
In addition to these five major priorities, I just want to take a minute to highlight several other critical investments that the budget proposes.
To support all that we are doing globally, our request includes over 500 new staff positions for the State Department. And these will focus primarily on expanding our footprint in the Indo-Pacific region, increasing professional development and training options to ensure our personnel are best prepared to meet some of these complex challenges, and bolstering our consular staff to meet unprecedented demand for passports, visas, and other services.
We will also continue to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility initiatives, to include our broader efforts to recruit and retain a diverse workforce that reflects the true breadth of representation and diversity across this nation.
We also are requesting $6.3 billion to protect our diplomats, our embassies, and our data, which will help us to secure our global workforce from a wide array of threats to their health and safety, help us address infrastructure vulnerabilities, and ensure that we are securing sensitive data.
And finally, I want to address one component that I know matters to many of our fellow citizens and to people around the world. As the department takes over responsibility from the Department of Defense for key aspects of our ongoing relocation of Afghan partners under Operation Enduring Welcome, we are requesting that Congress establish an Enduring Welcome program account to provide a consolidated, flexible funding source to meet our commitment in the months and years ahead to those who served alongside us in Afghanistan.
So with that, I would like to turn the podium over to my colleague, Paloma Adams-Allen, to preview the top lines for USAID.
DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR PALOMA ADAMS-ALLEN: Thank you, John. Thank you, Ned. Good afternoon, everyone. The President’s FY24 budget request reflects the decisive juncture at which the United States finds itself, with an opportunity to lead the world in extending the reach of human dignity to all. The requested funds will allow the United States to continue to support our country partners on the front lines of multiple overlapping crises, including responding to climate change and food insecurity.
The FY24 budget request for USAID is $32 billion in fully and partially managed accounts – an increase of 3 billion or 10 percent above the FY23 Adjusted Enacted levels.
It includes vital assistance to support American foreign policy priorities, including additional resources to assist the people of Ukraine and all of those impacted by Putin’s brutal invasion; and confronting the rise of autocracy and anti-democratic threats posed by the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China.
There is significant funding to help our partners and allies bolster democracy, fight corruption, strengthen global health security, and combat infectious diseases, and much more, so I’ll highlight some of them now.
As the United States government’s lead on humanitarian assistance, USAID responds to more than 75 crises in 65 countries on an annual basis, including currently in Ukraine and the recent earthquake in Türkiye and Syria.
This year’s budget requests $10.5 billion in humanitarian assistance, $6.5 billion of which will be administered by USAID. To assist Ukraine and manage the aftershocks of Putin’s invasion, the request includes 469 million to bolster the economy and ensure the continuity of government services, strengthen their energy infrastructure and cyber security, and ultimately promote the resilience of the Ukrainian people.
It also includes $1.11 billion for our Feed the Future programs to address the global food security crisis resulting from Putin’s unprovoked war and the ongoing impacts of climate change.
We know we can’t tackle all the world’s challenges alone. To lower the barriers for the private sector to partner with us and particularly to scale our efforts to expand economic opportunity for all, the budget requests 60 million for USAID’s Enterprises for Development, Growth, and Empowerment Fund or EDGE Fund.
This funding is one part of our request for $2.6 billion for economic growth programs to address persistent needs in the global economic system, including double digit inflation, slow growth, and financial systems weighed down by corruption and economic headwinds.
The budget also requests funding for what we call our Bright Spots Initiative, which will position us to be more nimble – we hope – and effective in supporting partner governments and local stakeholders in countries experiences promising democratic openings.
And we’re committed to continuing our work to combat democratic backsliding and pervasive authoritarianism. This is why the budget requests $2.8 billion for USAID’s fully immersed partially managed accounts to foster democratic governance, counter corruption, and deliver on our commitments under the Summit for Democracy and the Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal.
To support democratic strengthening and economic resilience in Central America, we’re requesting more than $1 billion across the U.S. Government, including $739.6 million for USAID’s managed accounts. This funding will help us advance the administration’s Root Causes Strategy and deliver on the President’s $4 billion, four-year commitment to strengthen the region as a coalition of resilient democracies that can deliver security, development, and economic opportunities for its people.
To reaffirm continued U.S. global health leadership, the budget requests $4.1 billion for USAID managed accounts to combat infectious diseases, prevent child and maternal health deaths, bolster nutrition, control the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and provide dedicated funding to support and protect the global health workforce through the President’s Global Health Worker Initiative.
This includes $745 million for USAID to prepare for, prevent, detect, and respond to future infectious disease threats.
The global challenges I’ve outlined here continue to disproportionately impact women and girls, especially in crisis and conflict settings, including limiting their access to educational, economic, and leadership opportunities.
The budget will support implementation of the National Strategy for Gender Equity and Equality through our historic request of
$3.1 billion for State and the USAID to uplift the role of women and girls in all of their diversity.
Specifically, the request includes $200 million for the Gender Equity and Equality Action Fund to advance women’s economic security.
In addition to providing USAID with critical programmatic resources, the budget recognizes that in order to continue to advance critical foreign policy priorities and ensure accountability of U.S. taxpayer dollars, the agency must be fit for purpose.
In light of this, we’re requesting $2.3 billion for USAID to build a responsive and resilient workforce and strengthen its operations globally. These funds will position us to increase the size and diversity of the permanent career workforce by 230 positions, provide flexibility to hire non-career, direct-hire staff for our crisis response, and address shortages in key technical and operational functions.
In sum, the FY24 Budget Request demonstrates American values and identifies priorities that will strengthen the national security through investments in development and humanitarian assistance.
Thank you for your interest and happy to take questions.
MR PRICE: Excellent. Thank you both. We’ll take questions. Matt.
QUESTION: Yeah. So I guess, Deputy Secretary, this is for you. And I realize this is kind of the drop in a bucket of $63 billion budget request, but I’m curious about the $150 million you’re asking for to – for UNESCO. Because although there had been talk about rejoining, it had never been official. This seems to me – maybe I’m wrong, but this is the first time that you guys have sought money to pay these arrears. And I’m just wondering, how serious are you about this, because apart from the broader question of how – what a lot of people think is that the entire federal budget is DOA on the Hill anyway, but how serious are – is the State Department about wanting to rejoin UNESCO? And how will you overcome the legal challenges – the legal hurdle to do it?
UNDER SECRETARY BASS: Well, thanks, Matt. I’d say a couple of things. First of all, we appreciate the waiver authority we received in the omnibus for this fiscal year that gives us a path to begin the process of rejoining UNESCO, should we elect to do so an administration. We’re currently considering carefully those options. I would also say, if we do rejoin – if we do choose to rejoin – it will help address a critical gap in our global leadership toolkit and capacity, and it will also help us address a key opportunity cost that our absence is creating in our global competition with China. I think a lot of the focus on UNESCO overlooks the extent to which that entity is an essential element of setting and shaping standards for, among other things, STEM education around the world.
So if we’re really serious about the digital-age competition with China, from my perspective, in a clear-eyed set of interests, we can’t afford to be absent any longer from one of the key for a in which standards around education for science and technology are set. And there are a number of other examples in that space of UNESCO’s mission where our absence is noticed and where it undercuts our ability to be as effective in promoting our vision of a free world.
MR PRICE: Andrea.
QUESTION: Thanks. Under Secretary Bass, how will this – beyond Enduring Welcome, how will this help address the problems of repatriating more Afghan SIVs and others, and some who are caught in third countries? If you could give us some detail as to what the commitment in this budget is compared to last year’s.
UNDER SECRETARY BASS: Sure. So in specific budget terms, you will not see new money in the State Department’s budget. That’s because we assess that the resources that we are receiving through a transfer from DOD and the OHDACA account gives us enough to work with for the current fiscal year and for Fiscal Year 24 to sustain a robust effort to continue to relocate Afghans who wish to leave Afghanistan to the United States or other third countries. In addition to that financial piece, we have a set of positions, a set of people in the department and at a number of locations overseas who are continuing to work full-time on this vexing challenge.
I have to say, in 35 years in this business, this is one of the most complicated, challenging problems to deal with, and it is going to continue to take a really sustained focus, which Secretary Blinken, myself, and many colleagues across this department are absolutely committed to.
QUESTION: I mean, you know this better than anyone, having been on the ground, so you’re in a unique position to assess. The criticisms at the hearing yesterday were pretty direct. I mean, could we just ask how you feel the State Department is addressing this? Because a lot of us are still getting appeals from people, including some who’ve come here and just can’t get jobs.
UNDER SECRETARY BASS: So I’d say a couple of things. Like many, I was moved by the testimony yesterday of people across this country representing people across this country who care deeply about Afghans and Afghanistan. And that’s a reflection of the breadth and depth of a 20-year commitment, of which thousands of my colleagues here in the department were also a part.
That depth and breadth of commitment for such a long time is manifested in so many different ways for individuals. And we see the reflection of that, both in the continued scale of need, the outreach, the individual stories of Afghans who are still looking for support. We’re not going to be able to meet that need in the moment as quickly as all of us wish we could. But that does not mean we are not going to do everything possible to do right by as many people, to keep faith with as many Afghans to whom we have an obligation, as we can. And it’s why we are continuing to build out that capacity and ensure that we have sustainable capacity in the department to keep at this for as long as it takes.
MR PRICE: Kylie.
QUESTION: Thanks for doing this, Ambassador. I have a quick question on the funding related to competition with China. And this proposal includes two billion to support high-quality, strategic hard infrastructure projects globally, and that’s part of the portion of the budget where it speaks about outcompeting China. But obviously when you look at what China has done with its Belt and Road Initiative over the last year, reports are that it invested more than $19 billion in direct investments in countries for the Belt and Road Initiative. $19 – more than $19 billion and two billion are just numbers that are completely at odds with one another. So how do you outcompete China, particularly in this space of infrastructure investment, when the U.S. Government just isn’t putting down the funds that appear to be competitive?
UNDER SECRETARY BASS: Thank you. I think it’s important to differentiate between quantity and quality. We are not looking to match China dollar for dollar, in part because any number of Chinese investments – or, quote/unquote, “investments” – don’t make a lot of commercial sense. And so if we’re trying to do this in a thoughtful way that reflects economic norms and good business practice, we need to be supporting a proper evaluation of some of this on the merits.
By the same token, what we are finding as we are looking to support infrastructure development in many different countries and markets and sectors is that in an enormous number of places, partners – whether they’re governments, whether they’re companies – prefer to work with the United States or with our Western allies and friends. And often they are willing to do so at – on the face of it, at a disadvantage, in terms of what might be an offer from the PRC.
So it’s a matter of finding what in that particular transaction, in that particular infrastructure is a need that they are looking for, where a contribution that’s from the U.S. Government or supported by the U.S. Government would make the difference to them and give them the reassurance that we’re going to be present and we’re going to be partnering with them, and therefore tip the scales in their decision calculus, if you will, towards an investment other than one made by a Chinese state-owned enterprise.
MR PRICE: Could I amplify one point there? Where John started, I think, is a critical point because we are never going to match the PRC dollar for dollar in state capital, in a state-run economy like the PRC’s. But where we can compete, and in fact outcompete, is by harnessing the power of the American private sector, of private sectors in our closest allies and partners. That is precisely the objective of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, the initiative that President Biden launched with his G7 partners in 2021. You talked about $19 billion that the PRC has put forward. This is an initiative that is going to bring together hundreds of billions of dollars over the next five or so years.
So it is a whole-of-society effort. It is what we can put forward in our budget, it is what our private sector can put forward itself, and it’s what our closest partners and allies can do, again, with their private sectors as well.
QUESTION: Do you know how much of those hundreds of billon dollars have actually been committed up until this point? Because some of these projects are in countries where U.S. business might not be all that interested in the returns they might get.
MR PRICE: We can get you a list of current projects. Yeah, Simon.
QUESTION: Yeah, I wanted to drill down on some of the funding that is mentioned for – it’s also related to China, but for Indo-Pacific partnerships and alliances. I think it’s $2.3 billion for this – towards the Indo-Pacific Strategy. It mentions especially the Pacific Islands. How much of that $2.3 billion is for the Pacific Islands? And I wonder if you could say how much of that is new, I guess, in relation to the summit that happened last year. There was some new funding pledge, but it’s unclear exactly how much of that is sort of additional to previous funding that was there and how much specifically for the Pacific Islands.
UNDER SECRETARY BASS: Let us get back to you in terms of differentiating between commitments last year and this particular funding. I can’t recall precisely how much of that was future projections last year.
But what I would say is we are envisioning this as a flexible instrument that allows us to, again, mobilize partnerships with individual allies and with constellations of countries in the region, and those partners who also have enduring interests and support for the Indo-Pacific, to maximize our ability to support those nations and work on common problems, whether that’s climate change adaptation, whether that’s energy security going forward, things like that.
MR PRICE: Alex.
QUESTION: Thanks so much. I thank you both for coming down here. I was wondering how much of your programs that are designed to help on Ukraine’s reconstruction and other impacted countries have a rule for potentially relying on seized Russian money, and if there’s any backchannel work going on in terms of how much to focus on it and also how to allocate that funding.
UNDER SECRETARY BASS: So the resources we’ve described today in general terms are coming from the U.S. budget. So anything that might involve Russian assets would be an entirely separate conversation, and I would defer to some of my colleagues who are much more conversant with those issues at this time.
MR PRICE: Excellent. We’ll take one more question. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Ms. Allen, you talked about $10.5 billion for humanitarian assistance, and you mentioned also responses to more than 75 crises in 65 countries on annual basis, including the recent earthquake’s impact on Syria and Türkiye. Is there anything for Türkiye and Syria earthquake-impacted areas in the current budget, proposed budget for the next fiscal year or not?
DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR ADAMS-ALLEN: So the budget was put together prior to the earthquake, so we’re responding to the current situation using our existing resources, including resources in FY23. We do have always built-in contingency funding for unplanned crises, and so that is built into our FY24 ask. And so if that’s needed, we would deploy those as needed.