FPI Resources: The State Department Budget

March 17, 2017

This week, the White House released President Trump’s first budget proposal, which calls for a 28 percent or $17.3 billion dollar cut to the budget for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told MSNBC, “Make no mistake about it, this is a hard power, not a soft power budget.” However, since the cuts were first suggested in late February, there has been a backlash from a wide range of critics, including many with deep military experience. They argue that diplomacy and development provide an essential complement to hard power, without which it would be much less effective.

FPI recommends the following resources for lawmakers, their staff, and executive branch personnel who are seeking additional insight into the debate surrounding the State Department and USAID budget.


Congressional Response

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) – Statement to Press – Feb. 28, 2017

“The diplomatic portion of the federal budget is very important and you get results a lot cheaper, frequently, than you do on the defense side. … Speaking for myself, I’m not in favor of reducing what we call the 150 account.”

Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) and the Democratic Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee – Letter to the Speaker – Mar. 16, 2017

“Congress is a co-equal branch of government with the power of the purse. We urge you to use this power to stop the White House from making these extremely dangerous and short-sighted cuts to the international affairs budget.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) – Twitter – Feb. 28, 2017

“Foreign Aid is not charity. We must make sure it is well spent, but it is less than 1% of budget & critical to our national security.”

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) – Statement – Mar. 1, 2017

“I’m concerned any time there are proposed across-the-board cuts for our diplomacy efforts. Diplomacy is far less costly than war and it is this principle that should help guide our discussion.”

Response from National Security and Foreign Policy Leaders

Gen. James Mattis – Senate Testimony – Mar. 5, 2013

“If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately. So I think it’s a cost benefit ratio. The more that we put into the State Department’s diplomacy, hopefully the less we have to put into a military budget as we deal with the outcome of an apparent American withdrawal from the international scene.”

120 Retired Generals and Admirals – Letter to Congressional Leaders – Feb. 27, 2017

“The State Department, USAID, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Peace Corps and other development agencies are critical to preventing conflict and reducing the need to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way. … The military will lead the fight against terrorism on the battlefield, but it needs strong civilian partners in the battle against the drivers of extremism– lack of opportunity, insecurity, injustice, and hopelessness.”

Michael Gerson and Raj Shah – “America First” Shouldn’t Mean Gutting Foreign Aid – Washington Post – Feb. 24, 2017

“Surveys have shown that many Americans assume the country spends upwards of 20 percent of the federal budget on foreign aid. In reality, nonmilitary foreign assistance — including all of America’s work on international development and global health — represents less than 1 percent of the federal budget. Slashing this tiny category of discretionary spending for the sake of budget control would be a form of deception — a sideshow to avoid truly important (and unpopular) budgetary choices.”

Mission Statement

The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
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