MoveOn.org & The Washington Post & Win Without War & Sen. Chris Murphy / The Huffington Post & The Hill – 2017-03-06 00:11:25
ACTION ALERT: Bombs v. Food
Donald Trump’s Insecurity Budget
Steven Miles / MoveOn.org
(March 4, 2017) — Yesterday the Washington Post reported that over 20 million people are on the brink of famine in four countries. [See story below — EAW] The United States provides 28% of foreign aid to the at-risk nations, but Trump has promised drastic cuts in that aid at a time when hungry people need it the most.
We must raise our voices and let Congress know that we want life-saving aid, not more aircraft carriers and jets. It is time for us to get our priorities straight.
Thank you for working for peace.
Trump’s Plan to Slash Foreign Aid
Comes as Famine Threat Is Surging
Kevin Sieff / The Washington Post
NAIROBI (March 1, 2017) — President Trump has proposed large cuts to foreign aid at a time of acute need across Africa and the Middle East, with four countries [Yemen, Nigeria, South Sudan and Somalia] approaching famine and 20 million people nearing starvation, according to the United Nations.
It is the first time in recent memory that so many large-scale hunger crises have occurred simultaneously, and humanitarian groups say they do not have the resources to respond effectively. The United Nations has requested $4.4 billion by March to “avert a catastrophe,” Secretary General Antonio Guterres said last week. It has so far received only a tiny fraction of that request.
The details of Trump’s budget proposal have not been released, and large cuts to foreign assistance will face stiff opposition from Congress. So far, US funding for the hunger crises has come out of a budget approved last year under President Barack Obama. But the famines or near-famines in parts of Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen underscore the reliance on continued US assistance to save some of the world’s most desperate people.
In Nigeria, millions have been displaced and isolated by Boko Haram insurgents. In Somalia, a historic drought has left a huge portion of the country without access to regular food, as al-Shabab militants block the movement of humanitarian groups. I
n South Sudan, a three-year-old civil war has forced millions of people from their homes and farms. In Yemen, a civil war along with aerial attacks by a Saudi-led coalition have caused another sweeping hunger crisis.
In 2016, the United States contributed about 28 percent of the foreign aid in those four countries, according to the United Nations.
“Nobody can replace the US in terms of funding,” said Yves Daccord, the director general of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who said of the current crises: “I don’t remember ever seeing such a mix of conflict, drought and extreme hunger.”
American aid officials said they were still trying to discern what the White House was planning to allocate to humanitarian assistance. Even though foreign aid is typically around 1 percent of the government’s budget, that is enough to make the United States by far the world’s largest donor.
Last year, the United States contributed $6.4 billion in humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations, more than a quarter of global funding.
“We remain committed to a US foreign policy that advances the security, prosperity and values of the American people,” said a spokesman for the US Agency for International Development (USAID), who added that he was not authorized to speak on the record.
But asked whether the United States planned to contribute to the new UN appeal for hunger relief, the USAID official said, “We have no new funding to announce at this time.”
Early reports said Trump planned to propose 37 percent cuts to the State Department and USAID budgets. Many experts said they expected that those cuts would exclude US contributions to security assistance.
“That leaves a much smaller component, which takes us directly to cuts in humanitarian assistance,” said Scott Morris, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development.
The four hunger crises pose an enormous challenge for the humanitarian community, which is now torn among those emergencies. The last time a famine was declared in Africa was in Somalia in 2011.
Nearly 260,000 people died, and aid groups later determined that they had waited too long to act. Famine is only declared when at least 30 percent of a population is acutely malnourished, and two adults or four children per every 10,000 people are dying each day.
Humanitarian groups have tried to apply the lessons from the 2011 disaster by moving quickly at the signs of deepening food crises. But the number of countries at risk of famine simultaneously makes a swift, thorough response to each of them very difficult.
“The donors are struggling left, right and center with their own allocations,” said Silke Pietzsch, the technical director for Action Against Hunger. “There are just too many fires to take care of.”
The United Nations was, by its own admission, late to recognize the scale of the crisis in Ânortheastern Nigeria. Last year, when aid workers from Doctors Without Borders began traveling to parts of the country that had been blocked by Boko Haram fighters, they found soaring malnutrition rates and scores of people dying of preventable illnesses. Now, huge swaths of the region are still inaccessible to aid workers.
“No one can go 15 miles outside of the local government capitals,” said Yannick Pouchalan, the country director for Action Against Hunger. “There are still many people without any access to Âhumanitarian assistance.”
USAID has been the largest provider of assistance in the crisis, Pouchalan said. “If that aid stops, it means we won’t reach the people in need,” he said.
None of the crises are strictly about a lack of food aid or humanitarian funding. “These are man-made crises in need of political solutions,” Pietzsch said.
In South Sudan, where two counties are already in the midst of famine, continued clashes between government and opposition forces have restricted the access of aid workers and kept people from farming on their land.
The United Nations and other humanitarian groups have frequently been targeted by armed groups affiliated with both sides of the conflict. During fighting in July, government forces stole 4,500 metric tons of food from a World Food Program compound in Juba, the capital, enough to feed more than 200,000 people.
More than 1 million children in the country are malnourished and could die without a rapid intervention, according to UNICEF.
The United States has given more than $2.1 billion to South Sudan since the start of the conflict in December 2013. USAID claims that American food donations reach 1.3 million people every month and have “saved lives and helped to avert famine for three consecutive years,” according to a State Department statement last week.
Yet as the situation there worsens and food prices continue to rise as a result of an unusually bad harvest across much of Africa, the need for humanitarian assistance is expected to grow. In South Sudan, 700,000 people are already in “phase four” of the hunger crisis, the last stage before famine.
In Somalia, Save the Children has warned that the country has reached a “tipping point” and could quickly enter a famine “far worse than the 2011 famine.”
Of the four crises, Somalia’s is the most clearly linked to drought conditions, but insecurity caused by al-Shabab militants frequently keeps humanitarian workers from reaching civilians.
Donald Trump’s Insecurity Budget
Win Without War
In Donald Trump’s first speech to a joint session of Congress he outlined his thoughts on the state of the union and his plans for the coming year. The embodiment of those plans will be the budget his Administration is beginning to roll out, and so far, it’s terrifying.
Trump is calling his budget a “security budget,” which is a cute way of saying he’s unleashing an orgy of spending on the already massive budget at the Pentagon. To pay for his $54 billion handout to arms makers and defense contractors, the President apparently plans to slash investments in foreign aid, diplomacy and environmental protection by billions of dollars. 
Today, Sen. Chris Murphy called this what it is, an “insecurity budget” that threatens American lives, our safety, and our economy while ignoring everything we’ve learned about what actually keeps us safe. Today Sen. Murphy promised to fight back, hard, against this immoral budget when it comes to Congress in a few weeks, but he can’t do it alone!
While we don’t yet know what Donald Trump will say when he addresses the nation tonight, his actions are already speaking volumes. Despite his rhetoric about protecting America, his budget would slash vital investments that make our country safe and strong, while pouring money into the pockets of corporations who profit off the Pentagon.
As Sen. Murphy said, this budget will not keep America safe.
“You can’t address the economic and public safety crises in Central America, which drive undocumented migration to the United States, with the military. You can’t dry up terrorist recruitment online with soldiers or tanks. You can’t stop the spread of Russian efforts to bribe, intimidate, and corrupt politicians in neighboring countries with another aircraft carrier. And you can’t stop the quickening threat of climate change with another infantry brigade.”
What we know is the real answers to the security threats we face — from climate change to terrorism rely on progressive solutions. Our national strength starts from a strong economy, built on investing in workers, not padding the pockets of CEOs and Wall Street.
Violent extremists are defeated not by bombs but by rooting out corruption, countering propaganda, and addressing crises like climate change that fuel the instability that enables recruitment and radicalization.
Budgets are moral documents, a statement of how we see the world and the changes we want to make. Whatever Donald Trump says tonight, it’s already clear that his budget does not reflect the America we love or the nation we want to be. Congress can stop this budget before it ever becomes law, but only if we help them.
Please take two minutes to email your members of Congress and let them know you oppose Donald Trump’s insecurity budget. Click the link below to get started:
P.S. You can read Sen. Chris Murphy’s full op-ed on Donald Trump’s Insecurity Budget below.
Trump’s Insecurity Budget
It’s like no one in the White House was awake for the last 15 years
Sen. Chris Murphy / The Huffington Post
WASHINGTON (February 28, 2017) — Yesterday, President Trump released the outline of what he’s calling a “security budget” — one that increases defense spending by $54 billion dollars and cuts funding for diplomacy, crisis prevention, and humanitarian relief by nearly a third. Gutting our nation’s ability to confront challenges through non-military means would leave us vulnerable and, in fact, insecure.
What about the American misadventures in the Middle East since 2001 is an advertisement to solve our problems solely through the projection of military force? What we have learned, first and foremost, in the last fifteen years, is that the new threats presented to the United States cannot be met with the blunt force of military power alone.
As our current Secretary of Defense said in 2013, if you cut funds for the State Department, you’re just going to need to buy more bullets for the Defense Department.
You can’t address the economic and public safety crises in Central America, which drive undocumented migration to the United States, with the military. You can’t dry up terrorist recruitment online with soldiers or tanks. You can’t stop the spread of Russian efforts to bribe, intimidate, and corrupt politicians in neighboring countries with another aircraft carrier. And you can’t stop the quickening threat of climate change with another infantry brigade.
If Trump’s goal is to improve America’s safety and stability in a chaotic world, he’s going about it all wrong.
These new threats to the United States can be countered, but not by a massive expansion of spending on the military. It is the desperately underfunded tools of the State Department and USAID that can best meet these emerging threats to U.S. national security.
Economic stability funding for Central America. Counter-propaganda efforts to beat back extremist messaging. Anti-corruption programming in developing democracies on Russia’s periphery. Diplomacy to build on the international commitments made in the Paris Accords.
If Trump’s goal is to improve America’s safety and stability in a chaotic world, he’s going about it all wrong by proposing only an increase in military spending. And he fatally compounds his error by paying for this expansion through cuts in non-military international programs. His massive proposed cuts to the State Department would effectively withdraw America from the world.
In Trump’s version of the world, America would roll up its global presence and retreat behind a great big wall, hoping and praying that the world’s developing instability would stay away, like the young boy keeping his feet up on his bed to avoid the monsters underneath. Turning our back on the world would invite more crises and instability, all of it eventually landing on our shores no matter how high we build that wall.
We have the mightiest military in the world — as we should. Peace does come, in great part, through the projection of military strength. But our adversaries have adapted to the post-Cold War world in which America is an uncontested military power.
Russia and Iran and Sunni extremist groups decided that could not beat us with conventional military power, so they developed new tactics and tools to grow their influence and harm our interests.
Trump’s budget is completely blind to this reality. It’s as if our president has been asleep for the last fifteen years. A massive expansion of military spending at the expense of all our other policy tools would be an epic disaster.
Republicans and Democrats in Congress alike know it to be true, and we should unite to stamp out this dangerous proposal, and start thinking about a comprehensive approach, using military and non-military tools, to protect America from a diverse and diffuse array of global dangers.
Trump Pitches 37 Percent Cut
To State Department Budget
Mark Hensch / The Hill
(February 28, 2017) — The Trump administration is proposing a 37 percent spending cut for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), according to multiple reports.
US officials say the suggested decrease would likely require laying off employees, including security contractors at diplomatic facilities overseas, The Associated Press said Tuesday.
The AP said development assistance would likely take the biggest hit, citing officials familiar with the proposal.
The agencies together received $50.1 billion during the current fiscal year, it added, a little more than 1 percent of the total federal budget.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said he would oppose drastic cuts to the State Department.
“Probably not,” he said when asked if Congress could pass a 37 percent reduction at the department, according to Fox News.
The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday reported that the new administration is examining the growth in spending at State under former President Barack Obama.
Trump administration officials are scrutinizing the addition of special envoys during Obama’s tenure, the Journal reported, though reducing their number would not cover the entirety of the proposed cuts.
One US official told the Journal that the State Department is looking at its development assistance to foreign countries as a significant source for budget trimming instead.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) earlier Tuesday noted the importance of the State Department’s foreign aid to America’s domestic safety.
The administration announced Monday it is proposing a budget that would increase defense spending by $54 billion and shrink nondefense spending by the same amount.
Reports emerged later that Trump is expected to demand big cuts at the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to fund his defense spending boost.
Office of Management and Budget officials have not specified where the overall reductions would occur.
The EPA’s reductions are less severe, with as much as 24 percent of its budget possible getting pruned according to reports Monday.
Trump officials will purportedly float a $6.1 billion budget for the EPA next year, a $2 billion cut from current levels.
Reports said the plan could result in layoffs for 20 percent of EPA staff, reducing its total employment to 15,000 to 12,000 workers.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Tuesday said Trump’s reported plans for his first budget were “dead on arrival.”
“It’s not going to happen,” he said, according to NBC News. “It would be a disaster. A budget this lean would put those who serve overseas for the State Department at risk. And it’s not going to happen.”
Trump’s first budget proposal is slated for a March 16 lease, but a lack of details about its contents is already fueling bipartisan concerns.
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