The State Department will have to stop humanitarian aid to millions of people, cut foreign assistance to Israel, and delay efforts to ramp up diplomatic security abroad after the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, if sequestration goes into effect next month, according to Secretary of State John Kerry.
At the beginning of March, across-the-board cuts to all discretionary spending accounts will go into effect, based on the 2011 Budget Control Act and the failure of the "supercommittee" to agree upon discretionary budget cuts in 2012. Congressional appropriators are planning to reorganize those cuts when the continuing resolution that has been temporarily funding the government expires at the end of March, a GOP Congressman told The Cable.
Until then, State and USAID are working on how to adjust to the impending new budget reality and Kerry is warning that the consequences will be severe.
"Sequestration would force the Department and USAID to make across-the-board reductions of $2.6 billion to fiscal 2013 funding levels under the continuing resolution," Kerry wrote in a letter to Sen. Barbara Milkuski (D-MD) on Feb. 11. Cuts of this magnitude would seriously impair our ability to execute our vital missions of national security, diplomacy, and development."
Kerry also said that sequestration would hurt the State Department's efforts to ramp up security for diplomats abroad. State is still waiting for Congress to approve State's request to shift an additional $1 billion to that effort.
"These cuts would severely impair our efforts to enhance the security of U.S. government facilities overseas and ensure the safety of the thousands of U.S. diplomats serving the American people abroad," Kerry wrote.
Here are some specific cuts that Kerry said would be necessary if sequestration happens:
Unspecified cuts to international peacekeeping operations, counter narcotics programs, counterterrorism efforts, and non-proliferation activities
Kerry also warned that the State Department might not be able to effectively provide emergency services to Americans in trouble abroad, to properly vet visa applications, and or issue passports to Americans in a timely manner.
"I hope that Congress can act to avoid these severe, across-the-board cuts to programs that further U.S. national security, advance America's economic interests, protect Americans at home and abroad, and deliver results for the American people," Kerry wrote.
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.