A Clear Case for the International Affairs Budget

March 2, 2011 By Molly Lester

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spent Tuesday and Wednesday on the Hill in support of the President’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2012 and sounding the alarm about the deep cuts recently passed by the House for Fiscal Year 2011. Testifying in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, Secretary Clinton spoke passionately about why the International Affairs Budget is so cost-effective and essential to our national security.  She made clear that cuts recently passed by the House would have a “devastating” impact on civilian programs from our efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan to global health, food security and more.

Echoing statements made by Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen, Clinton spoke about the need for a “fully integrated and fully engaged national security team,” of which the State Department and USAID are an important part.  She cited the civilian efforts that complement and coincide with military operations in frontline states in a cost-effective way, saying, “What we do, side by side with the military, coming in after them, with far fewer resources, requires us to begin to think more broadly about national security.”  As the military begins to withdraw from Iraq, the State Department will be stepping in at a much lower cost to the taxpayer.  “Every business owner I know would gladly invest 4 dollars to save 45 dollars,” Secretary Clinton said.

There was bipartisan support for a strong and effective International Affairs Budget, as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) told Secretary Clinton, “I understand that we face a budget crisis in our own country. But we can either pay now to help brave people build a better, democratic future for themselves or we will certainly pay later with increased threats to our own national security” and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ranking Member on the State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee said that “the account we’re talking about can make the difference between a safe America or an at-risk America…If you don’t see it as a national security tool, then I think that we are missing the mark as a nation.”

The Senate hearing also focused on State Department efforts in response to political unrest in North Africa and across the Middle East.  Secretary Clinton used ongoing events in Libya as an example of the importance of the “combined assets of smart power, diplomacy, development, and defense to protect our interests and advance our values.  This integrated approach is not just how we must respond to the crisis of the moment, it is the most effective and most cost-effective to sustain and advance our security.”

According to Secretary Clinton, no matter how one thinks of international spending, the cuts passed by the House would seriously damage the efforts funded by the International Affairs Budget. “There is something in all of this for nearly everybody.  If you think that America should be standing up for our national security, which I think is our primary priority, we’re going to be undermining that.  If you think that we should be looking to open up markets and create jobs for Americans, we’re going to be undermining that.  If you think that we have a humanitarian and moral mission in the world, we’re going to be walking away from that.”