August 10, 2011

Budget Cuts Part II: Foreign Aid

seems inevitable that the soft power side of the natural security world will
take a hit in the upcoming round of budget cuts. Foreign operations already took sizable hits earlier this year just based in the FY
and 2012 budgets, and there is a strong sense in our community that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The threat of major cuts to the non-DOD security budget comes right as Will
and I are working to finalize our paper on natural resources in the South
China Sea, which we’ll release late this year or early next year. As we’re
debating potential policy recommendations, the realities of the budget are
hitting hard. In Vietnam earlier this year, I heard loud and clear that a few things could make a huge difference in how their government and the public view the United States: a serious commitment to climate change, including assistance in adapting to its effects, and a serious commitment to defend the country if it is attacked.

Here's a game I pose for those trying to find billions in budget cuts: which one of these do you think is the more cost-effective way to ensure that this key Southeast Asian partnership is strong?

In the gossip so far on budget cuts affecting our diplomacy and development budgets, I fear that planned improvements to how State and USAID do business from the 2010 Quadrennial Development and Diplomacy Review are being overlooked. The good personnel directing our country's foreign relations have an oversized impact on U.S. security. The rumors
now swirling about who will take over State’s energy and other resource-related work as the QDDR-recommended
reorganization is implemented give me high hopes even in the face of shrinking budgets. One of my greatest hopes is therefore that the planned reorganizations are funded to be fully implemented.

And alas, Josh Rogin at The Cable reported last night that Senator John Kerry's presence on the supercommittee may provide a voice of reason protecting the tiny pot of money that goes to diplomacy and foreign aid. For the sake of maintaining non-military ways of promoting American interests, and presenting a good face on U.S. leadership in the world, I hope he's right.