Diaz-Balart Remarks at FY24 Oversight Hearing for the United States Agency for Global Media (As Prepared)
I want to welcome Amanda Bennett, the CEO of the United States Agency for Global Media.
Ms. Bennett, you are at the helm of an agency that is tasked with providing free, independent information globally, including in the most repressive media environments.
The timing of this session, so early in the cycle of our hearings, should send a clear signal of the priority we place on this agency and its important mission.
It is no secret that I am a strong supporter of that mission. As a Cuban American with the strongest admiration for pro-democracy movements, I can attest to the importance of American-sponsored information and broadcasting in Cuba and around the world.
Congress’s support for international broadcasting dates back eight decades, beginning with Voice of America during World War II.
Unfortunately, Putin’s brutal war in Ukraine reminds us that today’s need to inform those falling victim to authoritarianism is just as great as it was in the 1940s.
Your agency’s mission – to provide people around the world with an opportunity to know who we are and what American stands for – is vital.
For people living under repressive regimes, such as Russia and Cuba, access to accurate reporting and the ability to counter propaganda with truthful news is critical.
In countries where authoritarian regimes have implemented information blockages, like Iran and Cuba, allowing people to gain access to information, including uncensored news from within their own countries, is essential.
Ms. Bennett, today’s hearing focuses on the oversight of USAGM, and I look forward to hearing from you on the many components of USAGM programs and how the agency spends its funds.
I want to understand your efforts to invest in technology and new methods to overcome the nefarious ways malign actors starve their own people of information and free media.
I will also ask about the Office of Cuba Broadcasting because I am profoundly concerned by the Biden Administration’s continued pursuit of demoralizing and destabilizing cuts to this vital program, especially at a time when the regime was encountering historic protests in July 2021.
Let’s be honest – if it were anywhere else in the world, funding would have increased, but because this was Cuba, OCB has repeatedly faced unjustified cuts.
Ms. Bennett, I want to hear from you directly on how USAGM and OCB are responding to challenges related to your workforce, and whether you are willing to work with me and my colleagues in this committee to strengthen and restore this crucial office.
As Chairman of the State Foreign Operations Subcommittee, I can tell you that our investment into USAGM is not taken lightly. Your appearance here is happening within the precise timespan of a newly-released budget for Fiscal Year 2024, where $944 million is being requested for USAGM.
While the mission is important, funding for agencies like USAGM must be predicated on thoughtful planning, performance, and ultimately, results.
Before concluding, I want to note that the story of USAGM cannot be told without talking about your people, most notably the brave journalists who work around the world.
We know many of them are under personal threat, including from hostile regimes acting to prevent your reporters and broadcasters from operating.
Ms. Bennett, I look forward to working with you on what I believe is a crucial agency for our national security priorities and also for what it means to be an American.
It is a top priority of mine to proudly tell America’s story — a story of freedom, opportunity, and democracy, all over the world.
We must never shy away from reminding people what we stand for, helping them become informed in their own lives, and countering our adversaries.
Thank you for appearing here today and thank you for your service.