President Trump's new budget plan would cut one quarter of the main U.S. diplomatic budget in fiscal year 2019, as part of a plan to offset increases in defense and infrastructure spending.
The State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development would receive a combined $39.3 billion in fiscal year 2019 under the White House proposal. That money derives mostly from two accounts: $25.8 billion comes in the form base funding, which is the standard diplomatic appropriation. That amount represents a “26-percent decrease from the 2017 enacted level,” the White House noted.
Another $12 billion comes from an overseas contingency operation fund used to finance U.S. operations in Afghanistan and the anti-Islamic State coalition.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson touted the budget as a thrifty plan to target an array of diplomatic challenges.
“This budget focuses resources on national security at home and abroad, on economic development that contributes to the growth of our economy, and on renewed efforts to modernize the operations of both the State Department and USAID for greater effectiveness,” Tillerson said. “It requests the resources necessary to advance peace and security, and respond to global crises, while prioritizing the efficient use of taxpayer resources.”
The request reprises the Trump administration’s first budget proposal, which envisioned cutting diplomatic spending by about 30 percent in order to offset a comparable increase in defense spending. That proposal was rejected by Congress, as lawmakers took a skeptical view of Tillerson’s plan to reorganize the State Department and the administration’s priorities for diplomatic spending.
"The president's budget goes in the wastebasket as soon as it gets here," Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., observed during a March hearing.
Congress can ignore the presidential budget once again, but the White House plan suggests how Trump would like to see the money spent. The administration wants international allies to take a larger role in foreign aid and gradually wean recipients off of the funding. Notably, the explanation of how the White House would allocate that money makes no mention of recent threats to cut funding for countries that oppose the United States in high-profile United Nations votes.
“The Budget reflects the Administration’s goal to encourage and advance partner countries’ self-reliance in order to become tomorrow’s trading and security partners,” the White House document explained. “Working with partners to help them reach their development goals advances common interests and values, strengthens stability in key regions, boosts U.S. economic opportunities, and establishes the conditions for a more secure and prosperous world.”