Kerry says cuts would hit foreign aid, diplomatic security
February 14th, 2013
06:32 PM ET

Kerry says cuts would hit foreign aid, diplomatic security

By Jamie Crawford

State Department spending would drop by more than $2 billion this year under mandatory, government-wide budget cuts due to take effect in March.

Secretary of State John Kerry detailed the cuts, known formally as sequestration, in a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, saying they would have far-reaching consequences.

"Our ability to influence and shape world events, protect U.S. interests, increase job-creating opportunities for American businesses, prevent conflict, protect our citizens overseas, and defeat terrorism before it reaches our shores depends on day-to-day diplomatic engagement and increased prosperity worldwide," Kerry said.

He also said the cuts would "severely impair" efforts to "enhance security" of government facilities overseas and "ensure the safety of the thousands of U.S. diplomats serving the American people abroad."

Diplomatic security has been scrutinized since the deadly terror attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, last September and Kerry has vowed to make it a top priority.

The series of automatic spending cuts, part of a 2011 debt ceiling deal between the White House and Congress, will kick in on March 1, absent a deal to avert or defer them.

The budget cuts overall aim to save nearly $1 trillion over 10 years. Half would come from defense.

Sequestration would cut State Department operations by approximately $850 million this fiscal year, while foreign assistance programs would be cut by approximately $1.7 billion, according to a fact sheet attached to Kerry's letter.

Kerry said about $200 million would be cut from humanitarian assistance accounts at a time when the United States is engaged in major relief efforts around the civil war in Syria and multiple crises in Africa.

Similarly, $500 million would be cut from security assistance accounts that are used for conflict prevention programs around the world.

More than $300 million in cuts to the Foreign Military Financing account would likely affect aid to Israel, Jordan and Egypt, while also cutting contributions to international peacekeeping operations.

In addition, the cuts would "constrain our ability to assist U.S. citizens overseas, often at their darkest of times," Kerry warned of the cuts that would fall to funds that provide overseas emergency assistance.

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