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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Budget Priorities and Foreign Policy

This AP report from February 19 includes a line that adequately summarizes how the Defense Department makes out in the much-publicized new "fiscally conservative" House budget: "The Pentagon would receive a less than 2 percent increase ..."

Tough times, eh?

Foreign aid and other State Department programs, by contrast, could be in for very deep cuts. Hillary Clinton pointed out earlier this week that the House Appropriations Committee had recommended 16% spending cuts for her Department and AID. "Massive" cuts would be in line for humanitarian assistance:
She said the committee's proposed 2011 spending levels for the State Department and the US Agency for International Development will result in a 16 percent reduction from 2010 funding.

"The bill further proposes to cut our humanitarian assistance accounts by 41 percent from 2010 levels," Clinton said.
The Secretary told reporters, "The truth is that cuts of that level will be detrimental to America's national security." She specifically said the U.S. would have to make cuts in programs in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

About a year ago, Time reported that Defense Secretary Robert Gates was calling for a reordering of American priorities:
To his credit, Gates is mindful that the U.S.'s diplomatic assets pale in comparison to its military power. The Pentagon budget is still $660 billion, compared with State's $51 billion. To audiences, Gates often bemoans the fact that the State Department's foreign-service officers would barely crew one aircraft carrier. "We joke that Gates is the best surrogate for the State Department. He always makes the point that we are underfunded and underresourced," says a Clinton staffer.
Since the end of the cold war, Defense has constituted about half of U.S. discretionary spending.
"Security" discretionary spending is probably closer to 60% of the budget. These numbers are actually a couple of years old, but you get the idea:
These numbers explain why Andrew Bacevich and others think US foreign policy is overly militarized.

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