Today, the Administration today released its FY18 “skinny” budget, which would slash the State Department and USAID by 31% from current levels, cut the Treasury Department’s International Programs by 35%, and eliminate five agencies associated with the International Affairs Budget. The draconian and disproportionate cuts to these programs—which have long been key pillars of U.S. national security—would take funding levels for development and diplomacy programs back to levels not seen since 9/11. Here are just a few of the many Congressional leaders who have spoken out against these cuts, or in support of America’s civilian tools of development and diplomacy.
As the U.S. begins to implement the End Modern Slavery Initiative Act, recently enacted legislation championed by SFRC co-chairs Senator Corker and Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), the committee sought insight from a surprising guest: Ashton Kutcher. Though Kutcher is famous for his acting, he testified on behalf of Thorn, a nonprofit he co-founded to fight human trafficking and slavery around the world.
Over 100 leading business and NGOs voices more than 40 diverse organizations such as Lockheed Martin, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), Chemonics, and Save the Children joined together this week on Capitol Hill with one mission: secure and protect $60 billion for the International Affairs Budget in FY18. Under the banner of “Leading Globally Matters Locally,” the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC) and Hill Day advocates held close to 80 meetings on both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate.
Days after Donald Trump was sworn in as our nation’s 45th President, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) spoke with John Dickerson on CBS’ Face the Nation about why combating terrorism necessitates a strong investment in our civilian-led tools of foreign policy. The Senator maintained that in order to keep America safe, strong, and secure the U.S. needs to leverage the powers of foreign assistance, development, and diplomacy alongside the strength of our military.
This week’s confirmation hearings gave a first glimpse into the views of the new Administration’s nominees on the foreign policy challenges we face today and on strategic investments in diplomacy and development. They also showcased strong bipartisan support in Congress for the International Affairs Budget. Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) opened Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson’s hearings with the Senate Foreign Operations Subcommittee, saying that the International Affairs Budget at “one percent of the U.S. budget” makes the military “much less likely to be in harm’s way.”
“Washington is broken, nothing is getting done” is a mantra we hear often these days. Yet there is one issue that has continuously broken through in this Congress with bipartisan support: America’s foreign assistance programs. Five major pieces of bipartisan legislation on global development have been signed into law in less than two years—on food security, energy, rights for women and girls, water and sanitation, and aid transparency—all in an effort to advance America’s interests in the world.
While Congress debates additional resources to combat Zika this hot and steamy summer, over 900 entrepreneurs have been competing in a “Shark Tank”-like challenge for funding for new ideas to combat the virus. From an electric force field that repels mosquitoes to a mobile app that detects whether mosquitoes are carrying the virus, 21 ideas were selected to win over $15 million in grants through USAID’s Combating Zika and Future Threats Grand Challenge.
It’s conventional wisdom that Congress doesn’t get much done in an election year. But under the radar, Congress has been remarkably productive at moving bipartisan legislation on foreign assistance. At a time when political polarization can seem stronger than ever, members of Congress have found common ground in ensuring the sustained effectiveness of development and diplomacy.
At the front lines in the battle against violent extremism, U.S. Africa Command – AFRICOM – recently sought to transfer funds to USAID for community-led violence prevention programs in Niger, only to be told that it lacked the authority to do so. Transfer authority would have to come from Congress. Most observers, including Admiral James Stavridis and General John Allen, agree that combating violent extremism must include what the military calls “kinetic” tools targeting insurgents alongside the “non-kinetic” tools of diplomacy and development to counter radicalization and promote stability in weak and fragile states.
This week, a bipartisan group of former U.S. senators came together in support of America’s international affairs funding, urging the leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee to maintain America’s role in the world.