President Donald Trump wants the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to cut their budgets by at least 37 percent, a source familiar with the issue confirmed Tuesday.
The proposal would likely require dramatic restructuring and staffing cuts at the two institutions most responsible for U.S. diplomacy and foreign aid, and it immediately faced bipartisan resistance in Congress.
“It’s dead on arrival. It’s not going to happen. It would be a disaster,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a hawkish South Carolina Republican.
“Probably not,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said when asked if the Senate would agree to cutting the State Department so dramatically.
The State Department and USAID budget request for this fiscal year is around $50 billion, part of a broader $58.8 billion “international affairs budget,” but a drop in the overall $3 trillion-plus federal budget.
The cuts proposed by the Trump administration would help offset some $54 billion in additional military spending. Trump administration officials have indicated much of the cuts to State and USAID would target foreign aid programs.
White House spokespeople did not have an immediate comment. A State Department spokesman declined to confirm the figure. The Associated Press reported the proposed budget cut number earlier on Tuesday.
Trump aides say most federal agencies will see some cuts to help fund the additional military spending. Other particularly hard hit agencies include the Environmental Protection Agency, which reportedly faces a budget cut of roughly 25 percent.
Ultimately, the budget is separate from the spending process that will fund the various departments and Congress is highly unlikely to go along with most of Trump’s request when it is time to fund the government.
That being said, the targeting of the State Department and USAID is the clearest sign yet that Trump views military force, not diplomacy and foreign aid, as the primary way to assert U.S. influence abroad.
However, many lawmakers and activists on both sides of the aisle argue that the U.S. undermines its global standing and its national security if it does not fully use non-military tools such as diplomacy and assistance to struggling nations.
“I for one, just speaking for myself, think the diplomatic portion of the federal budget is very important. and you get results a lot cheaper, frequently, than you do on the defense side,” said McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky.
Earlier Tuesday, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, wrote on Twitter: “Foreign Aid is not charity. We must make sure it is well spent, but it is less than 1% of budget & critical to our national security.”
On Monday, more than 120 retired generals and admirals released a letter they sent to leading lawmakers urging them to safeguard the State and USAID budgets.