Republicans and Democrats Agree: Foreign Aid Cuts Would Hurt U.S. National Security

March 15, 2017 By Sean Hansen

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. In the battle to defeat international terrorism and ensure America’s national security, we must use our development and diplomacy tools in concert with the Defense Department to keep Americans safe.

Don’t take it from me – Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle agree. 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:

  • “America being a force is a lot more than building up the Defense Department. Diplomacy is important, extremely important, and I don’t think these reductions at the State Department are appropriate because many times diplomacy is a lot more effective — and certainly cheaper — than military engagement.” – Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

  •  “I share the concerns that are being raised about the budget outline from the administration and what the impact on our aid programs would be, especially at a time when we know there is so much humanitarian need in the world.” — Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)

  • “I think foreign aid is pretty important myself, so I’d like to see what the president has to say. There are some pretty important programs that keep America open for business and that are vital to our national security.” Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)
  • “A well-funded international affairs budget helps us to forge new alliances and bolster the diplomatic relationships we have in every part of the world.” Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL)

  • I think this growing sensitivity about the importance of foreign aid, foreign investment, and the reasons that we do it are threefold: humanitarian, we benefit economically – hopefully – and the military tells us, send us in last. Do what you can to build up good will and friendship and trust.” – Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)
  • “Republicans and Democrats agree: cutting America’s foreign aid cuts America’s national security.” – Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)
  • “I very much believe we have to have a wide range of tools to advance our national interests, and that includes tools of the State Department, the intelligence community and the Department of Defense, and others. Can we spend more foreign aid, more effectively? Absolutely. But we can’t look to the military to do everything that needs to be done.” – Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX)
  • “We cannot cut foreign aid and funding for diplomacy and ensure our national security.”Senator Ed Markey (D-MA)
  • “I am very concerned by reports of deep cuts that could damage efforts to combat terrorism, save lives, and create opportunities for American workers.”Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA)
  • “I second comments made that the slashing of the foreign aid budget would be a horrible thing.” – Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA)
  • “General Mattis, ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, says that if we slash State Department funding, he’s going to have to order a lot more ammunition. And over 100 admirals and generals – retired admirals and generals – have said essentially the same thing. So I’m absolutely shocked at the Administration’s puny request.” – Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY)

  • “I think this needs to be a comprehensive and not just military strategy. Foreign aid, development—these matter in terms of building the types of relationships that we’re going to need to build in order to protect ourselves and our interests in the rest of the world, and hopefully, work towards a more stable and peaceful globe. And that is in our best interests.ʺ — Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA)
  • At a time when American leadership is needed more than ever, we must continue to invest in the International Affairs Budget.” Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL)

  • “I am deeply alarmed by the Administration’s proposed budget plan to slash these agencies, which accounts just for 1% of the overall budget. I think it’s not only morally reprehensible – these kinds of drastic cuts are squarely against the national security interests of the United States. It abdicates our global leadership, it puts our allies at greater risk.” – Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
  • These programs are integral to our national security, and cuts at these levels undermine America’s ability to keep our citizens safe.” — Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)
  • “Well said, Marco. An emerging bipartisan consensus that cutting State Dept, USAID, makes us less safe.” — Senator Christopher Murphy (D-CT)
  • “I agree @ChrisMurphyCT & @marcorubio. Foreign aid must remain an American national security priority. We need these tools in our toolkit!” — Senator Christopher Coons (D-DE)
  • “Foreign assistance is an insurance policy. Investing over there… makes us safer.” — Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
  • “The president said he prefers hard power to soft power, but soft power is not weak or wasteful. Failing to invest in America – or cutting programs worldwide that feed millions of deaths, prevent AIDs, treat tuberculosis, malaria, all those things we do worldwide – if we cut that it makes the world less stable.” — Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
  • “I’m concerned any time there are proposed across-the-board cuts for our diplomacy efforts…The State Department and USAID work hard every day to implement programs that strengthen America’s standing in the world and help our national security.” Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO)
  • “If we slash funding for diplomacy and development, we’re telling our service members and the American people, we’ll take our chances down the road – even if that may mean a much steeper cost in terms of American blood and American treasure.” — Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY)
  • “Soft power helps us achieve diplomatic goals of promoting democracy and high standards worldwide.”Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
  • “How are you going to have a robust and meaningful engagement in the world if you cut our diplomacy budget, you cut our development assistance budget? This is how we keep the world safe. This is how we get our goals accomplished globally.” – Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD)
  • “At a time of unprecedented global instability and humanitarian crisis that we have not seen since World War II, cuts to funding for international disaster relief will have long-term, far-reaching consequences to our national security.” – Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL)

  • “[This budget] would undermine the necessary and life-saving work done by diplomats representing American interests across the globe, making our country less safe and our world less secure.” – Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ)  

Since 9/11, national security strategies by Democratic and Republican presidents have included development, alongside diplomacy and defense, as essential pillars are American national security. Severe cuts to these programs would not only be draconian and severely disproportionate, but they would leave Americans less secure in an increasingly interconnected and dangerous world. As more than 120 retired three- and four-star generals and admirals recently wrote to Congress, “Now is not the time to retreat.”

This post was originally published on March 1, 2017 and updated to include additional quotes.