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16

APRIL 2017

|

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

TALKING POINTS

Military Officers,

Lawmakers Speak Out

Against State and USAID

Budget Cuts

O

n Feb. 27, following reports that

the presidential budget proposal

included cuts of as much as 37 percent in

funding for the Department of State and

USAID, more than 100 officers from across the armed services wrote a letter to U.S. lawmakers urging that they fully fund U.S.

diplomacy and foreign aid. Numerous

legislators also spoke out.

“As you and your colleagues address

the federal budget for Fiscal Year 2018,

we write as retired three and four star flag

and general officers from all branches of

the armed services to share our strong

conviction that elevating and strength-

ening diplomacy and development

alongside defense are critical to keeping

America safe,” the military leaders wrote

to Speaker Paul Ryan, House Minority

Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority

Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Their letter continues: “We know

fromour service in uniform that many

of the crises our nation faces do not have

military solutions alone—from confront-

ing violent extremist groups like ISIS in the

Middle East and North Africa to preventing

pandemics like Ebola and stabilizing weak

and fragile states that can lead to greater

instability. There are 65million displaced

people today, the most sinceWorldWar II,

with consequences including refugee flows

that are threatening America’s strategic

allies in Israel, Jordan, Turkey, and Europe.

“The State Department, USAID, Mil-

lenniumChallenge 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. As Secretary James

Mattis said while Commander of U.S. Cen-

tral Command, ‘If you don’t fully fund the

State Department, then I need to buy more

ammunition.’ The military will lead the

fight against terrorismon the battlefield,

but it needs strong civilian partners in the

battle against the drivers of extremism—

lack of opportunity, insecurity, injustice

and hopelessness.

“We recognize that America’s strategic

investments in diplomacy and develop-

ment—like all of U.S. investments—must

be effective and accountable. Significant

reforms have been undertaken since 9/11,

many of which have been embodied in

recent legislation in Congress with strong

bipartisan support—on human traffick-

ing, the rights of women and girls, trade

and energy in Africa, wildlife trafficking,

water, food security, and transparency and

accountability.

“We urge you to ensure that resources

for the International Affairs Budget keep

pace with the growing global threats and

opportunities we face. Now is not the time

to retreat.”

Many legislators, including prominent

Republicans, joined in emphasizing the

critical importance of “soft power,” and

the danger of slashing the 150 account for

diplomacy and foreign assistance.

“This budget destroys soft power, it

puts our diplomats at risk and it’s going

nowhere,”

said Senator Lindsey Graham

(R-S.C.), chairman of the Senate Appropri-

ations Subcommittee on State and Foreign

Operations. “When I hear if we cut foreign

aid we can balance the budget, it’s just a

complete lie,” he added.

“I for one, just speaking for myself, think

the diplomatic portion of the federal bud-

get is very important, and you get results a

lot cheaper frequently than you do on the

defense side,” said SenateMajority Leader MitchMcConnell (R-Ky.). “So, speaking for

myself, I’mnot in favor of reducing what

we call the 150 account to that extent.”

“Foreign aid is not charity,” tweeted Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “We mus

t

make sure it is well spent, but it is less than

1 percent of the budget and critical to our

national security.”

“Undercutting diplomacy and foreign

aidmakes our military’s job harder,”

said Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).

“Trump’s ‘security budget’ completely

misses the point.”

—The Editors

The State of State:

Questions Abound

T

he State Department and Secretary

of State Rex Tillerson have been the

object of increasingly intense media atten-

tion in the months since President Donald

Trump’s inauguration.

From the dismissal of career diplo-

mats from top-level positions and lack of

progress in filling key slots at State to the

month-long hiatus in daily press briefings,

the report of a White House budget that

proposes to slash the 150 account by as

much as 37 percent and the unusually low

profile of Secretary Tillerson, questions

about U.S. foreign policy and its manage-

ment abound.

In aMarch 1 article, which has been widely shared, The Atlantic portrayed a

State Department that is “adrift and listless.”

Activity has slowed to a crawl, theWhite

House has shown no interest in tapping

State’s expertise, guidance is not forthcom-

ing on the issues of the day, and employ-

ees aremostly in the dark about the new

administration’s plans for the department.

For some, the outlook is truly grim.

“I don’t think this administration thinks

the State Department needs to exist,” one

mid-level State Department officer told

The Atlantic.

“They think Jared [Kushner,

Pres. Trump’s son-in-law] can do every-

thing. It’s reminiscent of the developing

countries where I’ve served. The family