The Foreign Service Journal - May 2017
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MAY 2017



found a broad consensus that State could

be more efficient.

“Every administration makes changes,

but I suspect there’s going to be a little bit

more under this administration,” Schaefer told POLITICO. Even if every proposal

doesn’t become a reality, he added, it’s

worth simply having the debate: “In the

end this is a healthy process.”

—Susan B. Maitra, Managing Editor

Outcry Continues

over Scaling Back

“Soft Power” Budgets


awmakers have continued to focus on

the proposed budget and its sweep-

ing cuts to the Department of State and

USAID budgets.

According to President Trump’s budget

chief, Mick Mulvaney, the president is

using the budget to redefine U.S. foreign

policy priorities, focusing on “hard power”

by boosting the military, while scaling back

“soft power”—a category that includes

diplomacy, cultural exchanges and partici-

pation in international institutions.

But the changes have drawn swift criti-

cism frommany members of Congress on

both sides of the aisle and others.

In an April 13 interview with NPR


former President George W. Bush called

foreign aid a moral and national security

priority. Asked about his centerpiece

“soft-power” initiative, the President’s

Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, known

as PEPFAR, Bush said: “When you have an

entire generation of people being wiped

out and the free world turns its back, it

provides a convenient opportunity for

people to spread extremism. I believe in

this case that it’s in our national security

interests as well as in our moral interest to

continue funding this program.”

Representative Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), a

well-known advocate for cutting wasteful

government spending, rejected the idea

of slashing foreign aid and diplomatic

budgets. “At a time when American lead-

ership is needed more than ever, we must

continue to invest in the International

Affairs budget,” he stated.

Speaking to Voice of America,


Patrick Leahy (D–Vt.) said: “Even the

military will tell you that if we don’t have

a diplomatic outreach, what’s going to

happen—that [void] will be filled by the

Russians and the Chinese.”

Senator Chris Coons (D–Del.) sug-

gested that the proposed budget shows an

overreliance on the military and a funda-

mental “underappreciation of the power

and the effectiveness of diplomacy.”

Speaking to VOA, Liz Schrayer,

president and CEO of the U.S. Global

Leadership Coalition, stated that she was

encouraged by the quick reaction to the

budget proposals on Capitol Hill, and by

the bipartisan support for U.S. diplomats

and foreign aid organizations.

In an editorial for The Chicago Tribune , Richard Longworth, a dis


guished fellow at the Chicago Council

on Global Affairs, describes the 21st

century as a “global era dominated by

soft power” and asserts that, by defund-

ing the State Department and foreign

aid programs, Trump is disarming the

United States of one of the most power-

ful weapons in the modern arsenal,

influence on the world stage.

See more statements from lawmakers

and other leaders in defense of diplomacy

and development practitioners at the

AFSA website,


—Gemma Dvorak, Associate Editor

State Department Press

Room Goes Dark, Again


ransitions notwithstanding, press

briefings have been a staple of

almost-daily activity at the State Depart-

ment for decades. So it was different

when, after the Trump inauguration in

January, State did not hold a press brief- ing for more than six weeks, referring

questions to the White House instead.

On March 7, State Department press

briefings resumed, with Mark Toner, a

career Foreign Service officer who stayed

on as acting spokesperson under Secre-

tary of State Rex Tillerson, presiding. The

opening question that day from Associ-

ated Press reporter Matt Lee, the unoffi-

cial dean of the State Department’s press

corps, included a preamble reminding

the spokesperson of the importance of

the tradition.

“Welcome back,” Lee said to Toner.

“This, as you well know, is a very impor-

tant venue for not only foreign govern-

ments but foreign publics, the American

people, and the men and women who

work here and in embassies abroad. They

all look to this briefing; they take their

cues from it.”

During the next three weeks, 10 brief-

ings were held—half of them live, with

Toner at the podium, and half of them

via conference call.

But since March 23, except for provid-

ing teleconferenced special briefings on

particular topics and briefing individual

reporters on background, lights were off

again in the press room until April 11,

when they briefly flickered as Mr. Toner

gave an off-camera briefing.

The department is reportedly

searching for Mr. Toner’s replacement,

but as we go to press there is no deci-

sion on a new spokesperson or on when

and in what form regular briefings will


Michael Abramowitz, president of the

independent watchdog group Freedom

House, highlighted the importance of

the role in an interview with ABC News:

“In many ways, with the possible excep-