Trump plans a 28 percent cut in the State Department budget, USAID

© Reuters. Haitians sit on a street next to a USAID (United States Agency for International Development) logo in downtown Port-au-Prince

By Arshad Mohammed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump‘s proposed 28 percent budget cut for diplomacy and U.S. foreign aid next year would preserve $ 3.1 billion in security aid for Israel, but cut funding for the nations. Nations, climate change and cultural exchange programs.

The budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins October 1 is the first opportunity in a battle with Congress, which controls the government’s finances, that will unfold for months and may generate spending levels far from those requested by Trump.

Congress, controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans, may reject some or many of the cuts to the budgets of the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which cover everything from maintaining the diplomatic corps of the US to the fight against poverty, the promotion of human rights and the improvement of health. in foreign nations.

The White House proposes a combined budget of $ 25.6 billion for the State Department and USAID, a 28 percent reduction from current spending, according to documents provided by the White House on Thursday.

“It is time to put the safety and well-being of Americans first, and to ask the rest of the world to step up and pay its fair share,” Trump said in a letter presenting his budget, which calls for big increases in spending. defense of the United States.

“This is a ‘hard power’ budget. It is not a ‘soft power’ budget,” Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget director, told reporters, referring to the president’s desire to prioritize military power over influence that can flow of development aid.

The budget also calls for $ 12 billion in “Overseas Contingency Operations” or OCOs, funding for extraordinary costs, primarily in war zones like Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. No comparison was provided for current year’s OCO spending.

The White House did not provide many details in its “thin” budget proposal, a precursor to a more detailed budget presentation that the White House has said it will produce in May.

The budget would provide $ 3.1 billion “to fulfill the security assistance commitment to Israel … ensuring that Israel has the ability to defend itself against threats” and maintain its military superiority over more populous Arab neighbors.

It would also “maintain current commitments and all current levels of patients on HIV / AIDS treatment” under PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which is the world’s largest supplier of AIDS drugs. . The program has been recognized for saving millions of lives and has the support of both parties.

The budget would also meet US commitments to the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, according to the documents.

LOWER UN FUNDING

Without giving details, the documents set out areas in which the White House plans to save money, including reducing US funding to the United Nations and affiliated agencies, “setting the expectation that these organizations control costs and that the financial burden be shared in a manner fairer between members. “

The United States would cut its contribution to the UN budget by an unspecified amount and the United States government would pay no more than 25 percent of UN peacekeeping costs, according to the documents.

The United States is the largest contributor to the United Nations, paying 22 percent of the UN core budget of $ 5.4 billion and 28.5 percent of the UN peacekeeping budget of $ 7, 9 billion.

A senior UN Security Council diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity before the budget was released, suggested that the US cuts could contribute to the perception that Washington’s role in the world is diminishing. Other diplomats have said China could fill the void.

“There will be very significant implications if even half of what is speculated becomes reality. And those implications will be both financial, for those of us who will continue to contribute to the UN as we all must, but also geostrategic,” said the senior diplomat. of the Security Council.

Trump also plans to save money by eliminating the US Global Climate Change Initiative, which among other things seeks to foster low-carbon economic growth, and by ceasing payments to UN climate change programs through the Green Fund to the weather.

Other savings would come from cutting funds to multilateral development banks like the World Bank by about $ 650 million over three years from the Obama administration’s commitments; reduce money for State Department Educational and Cultural Exchange Programs; converting part of foreign military aid into grant loans; and reorganize and consolidate the Department of State and USAID.