House Allocation Jeopardizes Foreign Policy Tools Critical to U.S. National Security

April 26, 2012 By Jane Kaminski

Following a strong allocation from the Senate last week, the House Appropriations Committee Wednesday approved its 302(b) allocations for FY13, which impose troubling cuts to development and diplomacy programs.  These cuts have the potential to undermine U.S. national security objectives, and also ignore calls from military, national security, and foreign policy leaders from across the political spectrum to support a strong and effective International Affairs Budget.

The $48.3 billion House allocation for State Foreign-Operations represents a 9.4 percent cut from current levels, compared with 4 to 5 percent cuts for Defense and Homeland Security, respectively.  If enacted, this cut would come on top of the 15 percent cut already shouldered by non-war-related development and diplomacy programs since FY10.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has expressed, “It isn’t just the defense cuts; it’s the cuts on the State Department budget that will impact as well on our ability to try to be able to promote our interests in the world… National security is something that is dependent on a number of factors. It’s dependent on strong diplomacy. It’s dependent on our ability to reach out and try to help other countries.  It’s dependent on our ability to try to do what we can to inspire development.”  General James N. Mattis, Commander of U.S. Central Command, has also observed, “Robust resourcing for the State Department’s mission is one of the best investments for reducing the need for military forces to be employed.”  Just last month, more than 80 retired 3- and 4-star general and flag officers sent a letter to the Hill in support of a strong International Affairs Budget, and luminaries from both the left and right have consistently supported civilian programs that build security, promote U.S. values, and foster economic prosperity.

A new report published  by the Truman National Security Project drives home the point that diplomacy and development efforts should be considered an integral part of our national security toolbox and are among the most cost-effective tools we have.  Their Security Briefing Book lays it out:  “While our military has made great gains in Afghanistan, continued progress requires economic development.  And the State Department now has the lead in Iraq.  Our military deserves partners across the government who are resourced to do their jobs well.”  By building economic stability, promoting good governance, countering pandemic diseases, and fostering strong civil societies, International Affairs programs not only make us safer but exemplify the best of American values throughout the world.

The current economic climate means tough budget choices need to be made.  However, disproportionate cuts to the International Affairs Budget will cost us more – in lives and dollars – in the long run through more costly military involvement and humanitarian crises.  Especially in this critical time, development and diplomacy programs are vital tools for building a safer, stronger world.  As the Truman Security Briefing Book stated, “A 21st century strategy builds stability abroad without bankrupting us at home.  Yet today we underfund our most cost-effective methods (diplomacy and development) treating these essential non-military security tools as afterthoughts.”

Be sure to check USGLC’s Budget Center for timely updates on the International Affairs Budget.