What slashing the State Dept. spending budget by one-third would mean

When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke to the State Department on his very first day on the job, he sought to reassure America’s army of diplomats by praising their dedication and intelligence and asking them to “work as one team.” But he also...

02 March 2017 Thursday 00:00
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What slashing the State Dept. spending budget by one-third would mean

When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke to the State Department on his very first day on the job, he sought to reassure America’s army of diplomats by praising their dedication and intelligence and asking them to “work as one team.” But he also promised some reforms that would challenge what he named “ineffective traditions,” and now, those modifications could be even far more dramatic than anticipated.

The White House announced a ten percent enhance in military spending Monday that would add about $54 billion to the Pentagon’s budget -- paid for by historic cuts in non-defense spending. Foreign aid is a prime target, with reports that the spending budget for the State Department and USAID could be cut by as considerably as 30 % or even 37 percent.

The White House has not confirmed either of these numbers, and its full price range proposal has not however been released. But what would slashing the State Division by 1-third truly mean? Initial, it helps to have an understanding of what the State Division does.

The price range for the State Division and the U.S. Agency for International Improvement (USAID) totals about $58.eight billion, such as $19.two billion in wartime spending known as Overseas Contingency Operations. That large chunk includes applications aimed at countering ISIS, supporting Middle Eastern allies, and offering humanitarian relief. These numbers are primarily based on the fiscal year 2017 spending budget request from the Obama administration.

On the ground, that translates to billions for keeping diplomats and embassies in the region secure, helping people today in the region displaced by war, which includes refugees, and giving financial help to these countries to try to support stabilize them.

Setting aside the Overseas Contingency Operations, though, the State Division and USAID have a spending budget of $39.6 billion. At a baseline, there’s about $eight billion that keeps the diplomatic and consular programs operating all about the globe, and far more than $two billion to develop, keep and secure embassies.

There are also the programs we generally consider of when we talk about foreign help: Supporting international peacekeeping operations (about $3 billion) international disaster relief, for hurricanes, earthquakes and the like (almost $three billion) helping farmers feed the globe (around $two billion) educational and cultural exchange applications (about $600 million) and the Peace Corps ($400 million) and the life-saving work of global overall health programs that fight malaria, HIV/AIDS and other illnesses (amongst $eight and 9 billion).

There are also applications you hear much less about: Assistance for counter-narcotics operations about the globe (over $1 billion) financing allied militaries to obtain weapons and equipment (over $six billion) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which sells financial solutions to American companies investing abroad -- and really tends to make funds for U.S. taxpayers.

Under the Obama administration, the State Department also boosted funding for specific challenges, such as millions of dollars each to deal with climate transform, gender equality and biodiversity.

That brings us back to reported achievable cuts of up to 37 %.

The reported numbers received large blowback from retired senior military leaders and former top rated State Department officials -- but also some Republican foreign policy hawks on Capitol Hill. But to others on the appropriate, this is exactly where cuts should start off.

“It is totally reasonable for Trump to look to the State Division for cuts due to the fact the agency’s price range has tripled in real terms just considering the fact that 2000,” mentioned Chris Edwards, the director of tax policy research at the libertarian Cato Institute.

“We’re not speaking about going back to some antediluvian era. We’re talking about going to end of the [George W.] Bush administration,” stated Brett Schaefer, a senior study fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “It would basically revert back to levels that had been adequate at the time and sufficient going forward if you applied them in a clever way.”

But some be concerned that in today’s globe, any scaling back of American diplomacy would send the wrong message, risking people’s lives amid famine and organic disasters, undermining America’s relationships with important partners, developing a vacuum for adversaries like Russia and China to fill, and possibly even damaging U.S. national security.

“A a single-third cut would inevitably have a considerable national safety effect. You can’t cut that deeply and not generate harm to national security due to the fact our interests are so broad,” mentioned Douglas Lute, the former U.S. ambassador to NATO, a retired 3-star common, and a senior national safety aide to Presidents George W. Bush and Obama.

“America would be under-represented, facilities would be closed, and the facilities that stay open would be under-manned,” he added. “It would be the manifestation of America is shutting down.”

Karl Eikenberry, the retired 3-star general who commanded U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan, agreed.

“It also sends the wrong message to our a lot of close friends in the world who want a sturdy America, but 1 that leads by example and diplomacy, not with bayonets,” stated Eikenberry, who also served as ambassador to Afghanistan.

Critics of the reported cuts are also fast to point out that spending on the State Division and USAID combined is only 1 % of the federal spending budget, an effortless scapegoat for a president unwilling to tackle the genuine challenge of reforming Social Security and Medicare.

A majority of Americans dramatically overestimate the share of the federal spending budget spent on foreign aid, according to a January 2016 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. On typical, Americans guessed that spending on foreign aid makes up 31 percent of the federal price range, the survey identified.

But Schaefer, of the Heritage Foundation, calls that argument “a red herring."

"It does not matter how huge the State, USAID, or international affairs spending budget is in regards to overall U.S. spending budget. The question is, is it funded enough to accomplish its mission or is it more than-funded?” he mentioned.

Nonetheless, whilst a lot of see a danger in widespread reductions at such a extreme level, there appears to be some consensus that there is room for reform -- and the department’s critics say one particular way to do so would be targeted cuts.

Edwards, of the Cato Institute, has argued for targeting foreign improvement help -- the type that funds extended-term projects, as opposed to humanitarian help or disaster relief. And Schaefer advised targeting far more political programs, like the Obama administration’s funds for climate change and gender issues, but implementing reductions gradually.

If it seems that these may possibly not add up to a one-third reduce, some observers think that may have been the notion all along from the “Art of the Deal” president -- to overreach as a bluff and end up someplace in the middle.

“Is this a negotiating tactic? We don’t know,” Schaefer stated.

But some, like Karl Eikenberry, warned there’s a danger even in bluffing.

“Perhaps this is an opening price range negotiation gambit, but even if so, it is terribly demoralizing to the a lot of career specialists in the Division of State who have devoted their lives to serving our nation,” the retired military commander said.

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