Mythili Sampathkumar / The Independent – 2018-02-14 00:00:38
Military Leaders and Veterans Call on
Donald Trump Not to Slash Diplomacy Budget
The retired generals and admirals say
‘today’s crises do not have military solutions alone’
Mythili Sampathkumar / The Independent
Trump on US Nuclear Arsenal:
‘We’re going to be far, far in excess of anybody else’
NEW YORK (February 12, 2018) — More than 150 retired generals and admirals have asked US President Donald Trump not to make its proposed steep cuts to diplomacy in a proposed budget that focused heavily on defence.
Joining them, more than 1,200 military veterans from all branches of the armed forces called for the same in separate open letters addressed to Congressional leadership, who ultimately have to approve Mr. Trump’s proposed budget.
The administration has proposed to cut the budgets for the US State Department and foreign aid programmes by 32 percent from last year. The defence budget has been proposed to be $686 billion, a 13 percent increase from 2017.
“As you and your colleagues look ahead to the federal budget for Fiscal Year 2019, the world has not grown any safer since many of us wrote a similar letter to you last year,” the general and admirals’ letter began.
Generals David Petraeus, Stanley McChrystal, Wesley Clark, among others wrote that “today’s crises do not have military solutions alone.” They made reference to the growing conflict and humanitarian crises in Yemen, Somalia, Venezuela, and Burma as well as the looming famine that could affect up to 30 million people in places where the US is also combating violent extremism.
“While we have seen military progress against Isis, the question that looms is whether we are prepared to protect those battlefield gains and prevent bad actors from stepping into the void,” added the generals in their letter.
They criticised the administration leaving so many high-level vacancies, from deputies to Ambassadors, and cutting budgets of “America’s essential civilian national security agencies” like the State Department, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and Peace Corps.
The veterans wrote: “As members of the military, many of us served on the frontlines alongside America’s diplomats and development professionals. We saw firsthand how our civilian forces must continue to be part and parcel of a comprehensive national security strategy.”
The former soldiers wrote that shoring up funding for diplomacy, aid, and development programmes was crucial to “solidify” any gains earned in the fight against Isis.
The letter made note that the US should be actively working to prevent conflict so that troops are only sent into situations “as a last resort.”
Both letters used a quote from Defence Secretary James Mattis: “America has two fundamental powers, the power of intimidation . . . America’s awesome determination to defend herself, and the power of inspiration.”
While Mr. Mattis, known as the “warrior monk,” was hailed after his confirmation last year, some experts have criticised his inability to reign in the unpredictable Commander-in-Chief wanting to cut diplomatic budgets and threats of military action in North Korea.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said that there is “no better partner than a Secretary of Defence who believes in diplomacy,” someone he has in Mr. Mattis.
According to a recent study, Mr. Tillerson’s agency has also seen 12 percent of experienced foreign service officers and six percent of the career civil service force quit.
This coupled with his “restructuring” of offices within the State Department has prompted many Washington insiders to question agency morale.
Retired Generals Urge Congress
Not to Cut Funds for Diplomacy
Rebecca Kheel / The Hill
(February 27, 2017) — More than 120 retired generals and admirals are calling on Congress not to slash funding for diplomacy and foreign aid after the Trump administration said its budget proposal would do just that.
“As you and your colleagues address the federal budget for Fiscal Year 2018, we write as retired three and four star flag and general officers from all branches of the armed services to share our strong conviction that elevating and strengthening diplomacy and development alongside defense are critical to keeping America safe,” they wrote in a letter to congressional leaders Monday.
“We know from our service in uniform that many of the crises our nation faces do not have military solutions alone — from confronting violent extremist groups like ISIS [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] in the Middle East and North Africa to preventing pandemics like Ebola and stabilizing weak and fragile states that can lead to greater instability.”
The letter was addressed to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Notable signatories include retired Gen. David Petraeus, former CIA director; retired Gen. John Allen, former special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIS; retired Adm. James Stavridis, former supreme allied commander of NATO; and retired Gen. Keith Alexander, former head of the National Security Agency. In all, the letter was signed by 121 retired generals and admirals.
The letter was organized and released by the US Global Leadership Coalition, a network of 500 businesses and nongovernmental organizations that advocates for US spending in diplomacy and foreign aid.
The Trump administration on Monday announced a budget that would increase defense spending by $54 billion above budget caps, while cutting nondefense spending by the same amount.
Office of Management and Budget officials would not specify where the cuts are coming from. But when asked about foreign aid, an official said the administration “expects the rest of the world to step up in some of the programs this country has been so generous in funding in the past.”
Reports have also said the State Department’s budget could be cut by as much as 30 percent.
In their letter, the retired generals and admirals said that such funding helps the military by preempting the need for force.
“The State Department, USAID, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Peace Corps and other development agencies are critical to preventing conflict and reducing the need to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way,” they wrote. “As Secretary James Mattis said while commander of US Central Command, ‘If you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.'”
They said they understand that investments in diplomacy and development need to be “effective and accountable,” but that Congress has passed reforms in the last 15 years.
“We urge you to ensure that resources for the international affairs budget keep pace with the growing global threats and opportunities we face,” they wrote. “Now is not the time to retreat.”
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