Trump’s proposed aid cut in diplomacy spending, foreign assistance to hurt US: lawmakers

WASHINGTON: US lawmakers are once again likely to oppose a proposed cut in spending on diplomacy and foreign aid by President Trump, fearing it will hurt America’s global interests and provide leverage to rival superpowers, China and Russia, an online political magazine reported on Tuesday.

President Trump is once again demanding to slash the spending on diplomacy and foreign assistance by nearly 30% to $41.7 billion in the fiscal year 2019, from an enacted level of $59.6 billion in the fiscal year 2017, the POLITICO magazine reported, but observed that lawmakers were likely to ignore him again, the way they did it when he sought a similar cut last year.

Instead of channelling through the US State Department and USAID agency, Trump wants to provide direct money to Pentagon, but his proposed cut was likely to face stiff resistance from the Congress.

“A strong, bipartisan coalition in the Congress has already acted once to stop deep cuts to the state department and agency for international development that would have undermined our national security. This year, we will act again,” the magazine quoted Republican Senator Ed Royce. Royce, from Trump’s party, chairs the house foreign affairs committee.

At a US state department briefing, officials indicated that the general message for the budget was to restrain a non-defence discretionary spending, a reference to money that the state department spends on diplomacy and through the USAID.

The proposed cut will result in a cut in allocations for many countries which receive the US aid, including Pakistan. A senior state department official, who was present at the briefing, however, told a questioner that the department has funded only about 10 of US critical power and Pakistan was among them. “This shows the importance of Pakistan as a major security partner for us,” he said.

It may be mentioned here, that for now, US has withheld all security assistance to Pakistan for an alleged lack of cooperation in fighting terrorism. Islamabad has already rejected the US accusation, saying it was taking actions against all terrorist groups.

US lawmakers had also opposed the cut in funding to the US state department last year and Congressman Eliot Engel of New York, a ranking Democrat on the foreign relations committee, urged his fellow lawmakers to make sure that the budget proposal by Trump was “dead on arrival”.

“The bottom line is that these cuts would make us less safe… They are a gift to countries like Russia and China, who already are filling the void left by America’s diminishing role in the world,” he said in a statement while commenting on the proposed cut by President Trump.

According to the POLITICO report, Trump’s proposals were another blow to the morale of the US state department, “where many diplomats have felt marginalised and undervalued by the administration”.

The report also observed that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s unwillingness to challenge the White House on the budget has hurt his credibility among career staffers.

Among the critics is Melinda Gates, the wife of billionaire US businessman Bill Gates, who expressed concern about “underfunding” of family planning and other health programmes.

“When we cut funding for the programmes that are keeping women and children alive, it sends a signal to the world that we do not care about their lives or futures,” the report quoted her as saying in a statement.



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