Former secretaries sound alarm to Congress on foreign aid cuts
Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry have advocated for cutting U.S. foreign assistance.
November 14th, 2011
02:13 PM ET

Former secretaries sound alarm to Congress on foreign aid cuts

By National Security Producer Jamie Crawford

With Congress aiming for trillions of dollars in budget cuts, former secretaries of state from Republican and Democratic administrations are asking lawmakers to leave international aid, a prime target for slicing, intact.

"We recognize the gravity of America's fiscal situation and that all programs must contribute their fair share to reducing our nation's debt," five former secretaries wrote in a letter to Congress. "Yet, the International Affairs Budget - only 1.4% of the federal budget - already received deep and disproportionate cuts this year."

Former Secretaries Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, George Schultz and Henry Kissinger signed the letter.

The additional cuts could add up to the biggest since the end of the Cold War, they wrote.

U.S. foreign assistance was a hot topic at Saturday's GOP debate, with Texas Gov. Rick Perry saying he would initially cut U.S. assistance to "zero," and then assess how much aid the United States would extend on a country-by-country basis, with friendlier countries more in line with U.S. interests likely to receive a greater proportion.

He was especially critical of Pakistan in his remarks, saying that nation does not "deserve our foreign aid ... because they're not being honest with us."

"The issue isn't starting at zero, but where you end," retired Adm. James Loy of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition said in a statement after the debate. "When used strategically, foreign assistance advances our national security. And retreat in today's world is not an option."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has also been critical of U.S. foreign assistance, particularly when it comes to China, saying the country needs to be a more responsible stakeholder in the international system.

"This galls me: We give 10 million dollars in foreign aid a year to China. Its not that they're bad people, but the idea that a nation that is as large and robust and economically viable as theirs is getting money from us just makes no sense at all," he said in Exeter, New Hampshire, earlier this month. "I would stop sending money to countries that can take care of themselves."

With its economy growing at a breakneck pace annually, China is better positioned than it has been in the past to extend aid to other countries. Some analysts say such a development should be greeted with a dose of measured caution.

"There is a point that you don't want too much of China's assistance in place of our own or European or other, Japanese assistance, because China tends to benefit its own contractors with its assistance," Douglas Paal with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told CNN. China "does deals where they provide infrastructure construction and exchange for commodities, and these are non-market transactions, often not transparent transactions, and this is not the sort of thing - I hope its not the sort of thing - that Gov. Romney had in mind," he said.

In reality, foreign assistance takes up a very small portion of the federal budget. Of the $3 trillion budget appropriated for the 2011 fiscal year, only $50 billion was for the State Department budget, according to Russell Rumbaugh of the non-partisan Henry L. Stimson Center. In addition to foreign assistance to other countries, that figure also includes appropriations for the entire institutional framework for conducting diplomacy, Rumbaugh said, including the money to fund the operation of U.S. embassies around the world.

The amount of foreign aid included in the federal budget is so small, Rumbaugh said, "a 10% increase or decrease is not going to change its share of the budget."

With the combat mission in Iraq ending next month, along with an expected end to the combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014, a worrisome report from the United Nations last week on Iran's nuclear ambitions, and the Arab Spring still unfolding, the former secretaries told members of Congress that it is more vital than ever for the United States to be able to use all of the diplomatic tools at its disposal.

With a November 23 deadline looming, a congressional "super committee" - made up of six members of the House and six members of the Senate - must come to agreement on $1.2 trillion in discretionary savings from the federal budget over a 10-year period. Foreign assistance funding is part of a broad cross-section of the budget under the threat of additional automatic cuts if the committee doe not reach an agreement.

"This is the one area where leaders of both parties can find common ground and come together to ensure a better, safer world and a more prosperous future," the former secretaries wrote.

Post by:
Filed under: 2012 Election • China • Congress • Perry • Romney • State Department
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  45. Not a Dem


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  46. m

    A predictable response from former secretaries. The only real tool available outside of military intervention.

    November 14, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Reply
  47. Pass

    Sorry, but foreign aid does need to be cut even further. Why do we think we can buy our way out of problems or buy solutions. It's apparent our aid does little to help and usually ends up doing much to harm. We can keep throwing away millions or billions a year "aiding" countries like Pakistan and China, or we could start reinvesting in America.

    November 14, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Reply
  48. Carlos

    It is funny that the GOP are stealing this idea from Ron Paul. Perry brought it up in the last debate and the media is making us believe that it was his idea when actully RON PAUL statrted it. Cut foreing aid yes, but give the credit to RON PAUL, not to Perry.

    November 14, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Reply
    • Emmariel

      Greg Lemon and CNN have definitely brhgout to light the need for us to keep track of our local politician(s). I am shocked at Bob's interpretation and definition of “natural born citizen”. His view is completely skewed and I am glad to see most of you agree. A natural born citizen just needs to be born on U.S. soil regardless of where his or her parents were born. I see no problem with HB 205’s requirement to have a political candidate produce a U.S. birth certificate for verification. The issue (as I understand it)is whether the candidate needs to produce a live birth certificate or a long form birth certificate . The latter details the parents information and birthplace. If you believe citizenship is based on the candidate's place of birth and NOT the parent's birthplace then the long form NOT relevant. Unfortunately, Bob certainly advocated for the long form on CNN so I'll say it again it's not necessary, not relevant, which is also the point Anderson Cooper was making (despite his aggressive, sensationalize it style so we can sell & manufacture our 24-hour news). That leads us to what we all are truly concerned about how is HB 205 RELEVANT to the REAL issues we are facing? Is Bob addressing relevant Montana issues? ie. wolves, health care, jobs, economy. This was Greg Lemon's point in his editorial last week.I've felt Bob hasn't represented my point of view (pre-election) and he certainly didn't represent my view or concerns in his discussion with Anderson Cooper. He's off-track & off-base. Hopefully, he will be more less vocal and productive in the future. I had no clue there was a “birther” movement in our country, but I've learned quite a bit in the last 24 hours just google it.Lastly, it is easy to hack on Bob about the interview but perhaps another side should be considered. There's a problem with 24 hour NEWS stations like CNN and Fox News and anchors who need to sensationalize the news to sell it and entertain viewers. Anderson's interview style seemed aggressive and combative from the beginning (my opinion) and it got the desired effect take the interviewee out of their game and entertain the audience. Whatever happened to objective journalism? Just give me the facts or the info and allow me to formulate my own opinion.

      May 21, 2012 at 10:19 am | Reply
  49. Chris

    We, The American Taxypayers, wish to ask the committee to CUT ALL FOREIGN AID and keep our tax dollars at home. Let other countries try to take care of their problems while we work on ours.

    November 14, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Reply
    • Get Real

      Who made you spokesperson for 'The American Taxpayers'?
      Read the whole article.

      November 14, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Reply
  50. george of the jungle

    None of these repos understand foreign policy. put one of them in office and we will have a war. Just when the world is starting to respect us againn along comes these clowns. The republican party has become the party of racists nuts. They applaud people like caine and newt. two men who have no reguard for woman and the mormom nut who will baptise you into the church when you are dead weither you want it or not. Look at all the jews complaining because they are on the mormon church roles. What a group and don't even know where to begin with witchy bachman. Now that is one dumb lady busy promoting her book.

    November 14, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Reply
  51. wyobob

    It may be a non existant problem, but tell me why we borrow money from china, israel and saudi, and then give it back to them and other countries. Let them borerow their own money, geeez. Note: I am not a republican.

    November 14, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Reply
  52. bob

    Typically simplistic and unrealistic Repuke solution to a non-existant problem.

    November 14, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Reply
  53. Lefty

    Another indicator that the Republican candidates don't know what they are talking about. Someone should remind them that their soundbites go around the world – not just the US.

    November 14, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Reply
    • Get Real


      November 14, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Reply

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