The Cable

Ryan budget would slash international affairs funding, increase defense spending

The long-term budget announced on Tuesday by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) would cut the budget for international affairs and foreign assistance by 29 percent in 2012 and 44 percent by 2016 -- while increasing the defense budget by 14 percent over the same timeframe.

Ryan's 85-page plan, "The Path to Prosperity," doesn't discuss diplomacy or development at all, but sets topline limits for international affairs (known as the 150 account) in the tables at the end of the report that drop off dramatically from current levels in fiscal 2012 and keep going down from there. Ryan recommends a total international affairs budget of $37 billion in fiscal 2012, gradually declining to $29 billion by fiscal 2016 -- a reduction of 44 percent from what the president requested for fiscal 2011. Ryan didn't include any details on what programs should be cut.

Ryan's proposal would increase the budget for national defense (the 050 account) $22 billion to a total of $583 billion in fiscal 2012 and would provide defense increases each year, leading to a $642 billion defense budget in 2016.

The House Appropriations State and Foreign Ops subcommittee is responsible for filling in those details over the next couple of weeks as they write their fiscal 2012 appropriations proposal, the first draft of next year's spending legislation. That document will be the basis of what are sure to be protracted and grueling fights over the State Department and USAID budgets throughout the summer and fall.

The House also passed a spending bill that would cut the State Department's fiscal 2011 budget by 16 percent compared to the president's request, a step that USAID administrator Rajiv Shah said would kill 70,000 children. The negotiations over that bill are going on right now, in an attempt to head off an April 8 government shutdown.

House Appropriations State and Foreign Ops Chairwoman Kay Granger's office didn't have an immediate response to the Ryan proposal. Granger (R-TX) supports cutting the international affairs budget, as does her counterpart on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).

But Democrat leaders on these committees, as well as top officials in the diplomatic and development communities, were appalled by Ryan's proposal.

"It's a reckless proposal that would endanger Americans here and abroad and severely weaken U.S. global leadership," Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on State Department and Foreign Operations, told The Cable.

The Ryan proposal "sets a new standard for recklessness and irresponsibility," House Foreign Affairs ranking Democrat Howard Berman (D-CA) said in a statement. "Cuts of this magnitude would harm U.S. exports and kill American jobs, force the U.S. to abdicate our moral responsibility to help those most in need, and essentially cede the playing field to China in many parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America. They would also severely curtail U.S. efforts to promote human rights, democracy and free markets -- which will lead to more instability, and ultimately, greater costs for U.S. taxpayers."

House Appropriations State and Foreign Ops ranking Democrat Nita Lowey (D-NY) said that she would fight the proposal. 

"Cutting international affairs spending on this scale would put our nation at higher risk of terrorism, hamper our ability to achieve vital security objectives, and result in a retreat from our leadership role in the global community," she said in a statement. "It is senseless to respond to a fiscal challenge by creating a national security emergency."

The development community is arguing that gutting diplomacy and development harms national security, a point that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Shah have also made repeatedly.

"While everyone agrees we need to get our fiscal house in order, we must protect our national and economic security in the process," said U.S. Global Leadership Coalition Chairman Dan Glickman. "Military leaders from General Petraeus to Admiral Mike Mullen are adamant that International Affairs programs are a critical part of our national security. These very deep cuts can hamstring our ability to effectively respond to the global challenges we face today."

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