As we have noted many times on this blog, important diplomatic and development programs are under attack in Congress. Polls show that Americans are misinformed about how much of the federal budget goes to foreign aid, so members of Congress feel like they can grandstand about cuts to the international affairs budget to boost their budget slashing cred.
This skewed debate was on full display earlier this month as many members of Congress raised questions about the US relationship with Pakistan after Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad. In typical congressional fashion, many of them decided to attack the civilian aid, while arguing for maintaining massive military aid, despite the fact that the real tension and suspicion lie with the military.
Through our Stand Up campaign, we are working to push back against the idea that these programs don’t matter to Americans and show that they are in our best interest. To get that message to the congressional leaders who will soon make decisions about the 2012 budget, we brought nine other organizations on board for a letter expressing support for full funding for the international affairs budget. Read the letter below:
Dear Speaker Boehner, Minority Leader Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid, Minority Leader McConnell, Chairman Rogers and Chairman Inouye
On behalf of our supporters, we are writing to urge you to fully fund President Obama’s request for the international affairs budget in your top line numbers for the fiscal year 2012 budget.
There is recognition across parties and military and civilian leadership that funding critical State Department and USAID programs is in the best interest of the United States. As CentCom Commander General James Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March of this year, “Of course, we cannot achieve our broader objectives in the region through military means alone. Our efforts require coordination and a spirit of collaboration between highly integrated civilian military teams. Our civilian colleagues need your full support even in this difficult fiscal environment to undertake their essential role in today’s complex environment.”
Recent international developments make the need for this funding ever more apparent. Whether handling the transition to a nonmilitary strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan, aiding burgeoning democratic governments in the Middle East and North Africa, or assisting victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the work of our diplomats and aid workers has never been more critical in building global stability and improving America’s relations with the international community.
While we recognize the financial difficulties facing the US government, these critical programs make up a mere 1.7% of the FY12 federal budget. This funding is urgently needed to catch up to 21st century global challenges after years of neglect. In the words of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), ranking member of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, cutting funding for these programs is “a penny wise and a pound foolish.” There are other areas in the federal budget to which cuts can be made without detrimental impacts on US security strategy.
We were disappointed in the 14.8% cut from the president’s request in the FY11 budget passed in April, and strongly urge you to consider full funding of the 2012 request.
Sincerely,William C. Goodfellow Executive Director Center for International Policy Marie Dennis Director Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns Simone Campbell Executive Director NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby David Robinson Executive Director Pax Christi USA Paul Kawika Martin Policy & Political Director Peace Action Rebecca Griffin Political Director Peace Action West Peter Wilk, M.D. Executive Director Physicians for Social Responsibility Lisa Schirch Director 3D Security Initiative James E. Winkler General Secretary General Board of Church and Society The United Methodist Church Susan Shaer Executive Director Women’s Action for New Directions