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Proposed budget would deeply cut State Department and its programs

 (AFP / Getty Images)
(AFP / Getty Images)

The State Department leadership voiced support for President Trump's proposed budget, which would impose deep cuts on spending for diplomacy and foreign aid, but critics vowed to fight to restore the funds in Congress.

In a statement, the department said the president's $37.6-billion request for it and for the U.S. Agency for International Development would support "a leaner, more efficient government" in line with Trump's "America first" mantra.

If approved by Congress, that would represent a reduction of roughly 30% from the current fiscal year.

Nongovernmental agencies that receive State Department support to carry out humanitarian and other work around the globe expressed deep alarm.

The State Department statement said its new priorities would include efforts to counter terrorism, support Israel, promote border security and battle transnational crime and the spread of infectious diseases.

The statement makes no mention of women-empowerment programs or efforts to fight climate change, issues that rose to prominence under the Obama administration.

The proposed budget would allow the United States to "remain engaged" in the United Nations, but officials would seek a "more fair distribution of the funding burden," the statement said.

And it would eliminate "direct funding for quasi- and non-governmental organizations that serve niche missions."

The American Jewish World Service, which fights poverty all over the world through 450 local organizations, said much of its work would be jeopardized.

"At a time when poverty, human rights abuses, famines and conflicts are wreaking havoc globally," said the group's president, Robert Bank, "the United States must not abdicate its long bipartisan tradition of providing development assistance and diplomatic support to the most vulnerable people around the world."

Mercy Corps, a U.S.-based development and advocacy organization that works in 40 countries, said "gutting development programs" was "short-sighted" and "absolutely shameful" and could put millions of lives at risk.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, called the budget "cruel and mean-spirited" and said it would force the United States to abandon "our global role as a champion for freedom, democracy and the rule of law."

“If President Trump thinks the United States can shrink into a defensive crouch without long-term repercussions, he's sorely mistaken," Engel said.

 

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