Small Wars Journal

Budget Calls for Deep Cuts to Foreign Aid, Especially for Refugees and in Humanitarian Crises

Budget Calls for Deep Cuts to Foreign Aid, Especially for Refugees and in Humanitarian Crises by Carol Morello – Washington Post

The Trump administration is proposing slashing the budget for the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) by almost 24 percent, with particularly steep cuts to humanitarian aid, refugee assistance and global health programs.


The proposed 2020 budget would take three funds that collectively are funded by more than $9 billion and consolidate them into an International Humanitarian Assistance fund that would be allotted about $6 billion, a one-third drop. In addition, the administration proposes cutting global health programs from $8.7 billion this year to $6.3 billion next year, a cut of almost 28 percent.


The White House budget request reflects the priorities of the administration, which has not been successful at getting its proposals past a Congress in which foreign spending enjoys wide bipartisan support. The administration submitted even deeper drops in foreign spending during each of the previous two years, and Congress largely restored them.


This year, more than a dozen retired military officers who commanded in combat zones urged Congress to do the same, calling the cuts a threat to national security.

“Congress will forget this budget by Friday, but the signal it sends to the world’s poorest will be remembered,” said Tom Hart, director of the One Campaign, which promotes health campaigns around the world.


State Department officials defended the budget, saying the United States remains the world’s largest contributor to global health and humanitarian efforts…

Read on.


Re: President Trump's 2020 budget proposal -- and my suggestion that this, in consideration of the Trump 2017 NSS, reflects a "we do not really wish or intend to compete" mentality of our current president --

a.  Here is the letter from the retired military members referenced/linked in the quoted item that I provided at my initial comment below;

b.  A letter which DOES seem to be concerned with "competition:"



As military leaders who have commanded regional combatant commands in the Middle East, Latin America, Europe, Africa, the Pacific, and North America, we know that the military alone cannot keep our nation safe. Diplomacy and development are essential to combating threats before they reach our shores. We stand with and share the perspectives of our fellow combatant commanders who have testified before Congress in recent days on the strategic importance of the State Department, USAID, and other U.S. development agencies as key partners around the world to protect our interests and our values. As Congress considers next year’s federal budget, we urge policymakers to continue to protect resources for America’s International Affairs Budget. Doing so is critical to keeping our nation safe and prosperous in a world of global threats and great power competition.

General Wesley Clark, USA (Ret.) Commander, U.S. European Command; U.S. Southern Command

General Bantz Craddock, USA (Ret.) Commander, U.S. European Command; U.S. Southern Command

Admiral William Fallon, USN (Ret.) Commander, U.S. Central Command; U.S. Pacific Command

Admiral Thomas Fargo, USN (Ret.) Commander, U.S. Pacific Command

General Douglas Fraser, USAF (Ret.) Commander, U.S. Southern Command

General James Hill, USA (Ret.) Commander, U.S. Southern Command

Admiral Samuel Locklear III, USN (Ret.) Commander, U.S. Pacific Command

General Barry McCaffrey, USA (Ret.) Commander, U.S. Southern Command

General David Petraeus, USA (Ret.) Commander, U.S. Central Command

General Victor Renuart, USAF (Ret.) Commander, U.S. Northern Command

Admiral James Stavridis, USN (Ret.) Commander, U.S. European Command; U.S. Southern Command

Lt. General Kip Ward, USA (Ret.) Commander, U.S. Africa Command

General Charles Wilhelm, USMC (Ret.) Commander, U.S. Southern Command

General Anthony Zinni, USMC (Ret.) Commander, U.S. Central Command

I have suggested (for example, at the current SWJ thread "War by Proxy:  Iran's Growing Footprint in the Middle East") that the Trump NSS is really a "we do not intend to compete" national security strategy. 

Could Trump's 2020 budget proposal, also, be seen in this exact same such light?


With investment, aid, and diplomacy, China is developing considerable power and influence around the globe. The Trump administration has repeatedly claimed to take this threat to the existing world order seriously. It’s waging a trade war with Beijing, actively fighting the influence of Chinese telecommunications company Huawei, and using China’s rising threat as a justification for increased military preparedness.

Naturally, that would mean that the White House would also be interested in countering China’s influence with diplomacy, aid, and other attempts of fostering a good will toward the U.S., right?

Nope. Instead, the Trump administration is asking Congress to cut funding to those very programs. Indeed, the 2020 budget proposal unveiled on Monday includes a whopping 23 percent cut to the State Department, all of the funding being pulled from international organizations and programs rather than diplomats.

On Monday, the State Department tried to defend the president’s budget, arguing that despite cuts across the board, the State Department was still worried about China and specifically its growing dominance in the Indo-Pacific region.

As deputy secretary John Sullivan told reporters on Monday, “to advance the Indo-Pacific strategy, the budget request nearly doubles U.S. foreign assistance and diplomatic engagement resources to that region.”

That’s all well and good, but China’s not limiting its own efforts to the Indo-Pacific, and U.S. strategy shouldn’t either. To counter China's influence, or rather, to ensure our own interests, cannot be a regional project. As retired four-star generals explained in a letter to Congress, “the military alone cannot keep our nation safe. Diplomacy and development are essential to combating threats before they reach our shores.”

As a final note, although it’s troubling that the White House sees diplomacy as broadly inessential to U.S. interests, it’s heartening that both previous attempts by the Trump administration to cut State Department funds were rejected by lawmakers. They should do the same this time.