The U.S. Agency for International Development says it is working with the White House on reviewing budget priorities as President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal looks likely to include steep cuts to foreign aid.
“We are working with the White House and OMB to review its budget priorities,” a USAID spokesman told Devex in an email. “We remain committed to a U.S. foreign policy that advances the security and prosperity of the American people.”
Trump is planning to request a $54 billion increase to the defense budget, which will be offset by non-defense spending of the same amount. An Office of Management and Budget official told reporters Monday that most agencies will see cuts in their budgets, but that foreign aid in particular will see “large reductions” in spending, according to the Washington Post.
The State Department and USAID had a budget of $50.1 billion this fiscal year, which is just over 1 percent of the federal budget. Trump will be addressing Congress Tuesday night and is expected to discuss his budget priorities.
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Reports emerged Tuesday that the proposal calls for a 37 percent cut in State Department and USAID budgets and that development assistance would take the biggest hit, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to the Associated Press. Those officials told the AP that such a cut would “likely require reductions in staff including security contractors at diplomatic missions abroad.”
There are a number of questions about whether the proposed budget can make it through Congress.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina told NBC news that the proposed budget was “dead on arrival” and “would be a disaster” and will not get congressional approval.
And on Tuesday morning, Florida Senator Marco Rubio tweeted, “Foreign Aid is not charity. We must make sure it is well spent, but it is less than 1% of budget & critical to our national security.”
Aid advocates will certainly be working to help make changes to the proposed budget and limit foreign aid cuts. Among the advocates is a group of former high-ranking military officials.
A group of more than 120 retired generals and admirals sent a letter to congressional and administration leaders cautioning that dramatic cuts to development and diplomacy funding would be harmful to America’s national security efforts and urging them to continue support.
“We urge you to ensure that resources for the International Affairs Budget keep pace with the growing global threats and opportunities we face. Now is not the time to retreat,” the letter said.
The letter went on to say that the State Department, USAID, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Peace Corps and other development agencies are “critical to preventing conflict and reducing the need to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way.”
“The military will lead the fight against terrorism on the battlefield, but it needs strong civilian partners in the battle against the drivers of extremism — lack of opportunity, insecurity, injustice, and hopelessness,” it continued.