Bipartisan Leaders Agree: International Affairs Budget is Critical and Cost-Effective

November 18, 2011 By Molly Lester

This was originally posted on the ONE blog.

This week, five former Secretaries of State, representing both Democrats and Republican administrations, sent a letter to Congress raising concerns about additional cuts to diplomacy and development programs in the FY12 appropriations.  Former Secretaries Madeleine Albright, Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and George Shultz wrote they “have seen first‐hand how the International Affairs Budget is a strategic investment to advance America’s interests throughout the world” and urge Members of Congress to oppose devastating cuts to these vital programs.

At a time when the State Department and USAID are taking on increased responsibilities in Iraq and Afghanistan as our troops come home, when new democracies are forming across North Africa and the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring, and as millions are suffering from hunger due to famine in the Horn of Africa, International Affairs programs represent a cost-effective investment to protecting U.S. national security, boosting economic opportunity for U.S. businesses, and promoting America’s humanitarian values.

Unfortunately, the International Affairs Budget has already shouldered deep cuts this year, and it remains vulnerable to further cuts in the FY12 conference negotiations.  Although only 1.4% of the federal budget, International Affairs programs shouldered 17% of overall cuts to discretionary spending in FY11.  If House FY12 levels are adopted, cuts to non-war related diplomacy and development programs would total 20% over two years – the steepest since the Cold War.

We at the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition are deeply concerned about the effects of these potential cuts on America’s global engagement.  The cuts facing the International Affairs Budget represent potentially devastating consequences this country cannot afford.  As the five former Secretaries of State write, “Now is not the time for America to retreat from the world, which is why we need a strong and effective International Affairs Budget. This is one area where leaders of both parties can find common ground and come together to ensure a better, safer world and a more prosperous future.”