WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Trump recently announced his budget proposal, with the goal being to increase American security in the world. To do so, he wishes to increase funding for defense, Homeland Security and the National Nuclear Security Administration. Meanwhile, Trump intends to cut the State Department budget by 28 percent. The State Department (run by the Secretary of State) funds the U.S. Agency for International Development, which helps fight global poverty, as well as increase global healthcare, education and human rights. With this in mind, it is worth exploring what former secretaries of state think about foreign aid.
The current secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, is not concerned with the large cuts to his department. Although there are clear additions to military budgets, Tillerson believes that direct U.S. involvement in military conflicts will eventually decline, reducing the State Department expenditures.
Supporting severe budget cuts to the State Department may indicate that neither Trump nor Tillerson appreciate foreign aid’s integral part in increasing American national security. Tillerson is likely unaware of what former secretaries of state think about foreign aid. Past Republican and Democratic secretaries found that USAID was an integral part of America’s security.
Secretary James Baker served as Secretary of State under President George H. W. Bush, during a volatile time in world history. In 1991, the USSR fell after years of Cold War and states were dissolved into separate countries. Baker took part in meeting with the newly formed countries afterward, in what was known as Operation Provide Hope.
This endeavor offered foreign aid to the former Soviet states, as a means to create diplomacy and friendly ties with the U.S. Baker saw this use of foreign aid as a way to shape history for the better by creating more stable, democratic nations. Baker has recently been cited as disagreeing with some of Trump’s early foreign policy proposals. He told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the world is more secure when the U.S. is involved.
Madeleine Albright served under President Bill Clinton during his second term. She acknowledged that our allies cannot help keep the U.S. (and the world) safe if they are struggling with basic survival. Furthermore, she agreed there are connections between foreign aid, national security and economic prosperity. Albright also noted that when the U.S. helps other nations, it has more respect abroad and countries are more inclined to listen.
Foreign policy and foreign aid agendas were reshaped after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Secretary Condoleezza Rice served as President George W. Bush’s second Secretary of State, four years after the attacks. Rice’s foreign policy was heavily saturated with the belief that democracy is a superior form of government and it also leads to stability and prosperity.
Along with her belief in democracy came Rice’s commitment to foreign aid. She saw foreign aid as one of the better ways to build democracy in developing nations. Whether or not one agrees that all nations should be democratic does not discount Rice’s point that when a nation’s humanitarian needs are met, it can become a more self-sufficient country.
Secretary Hillary Clinton, like her predecessors, served in an unsettled time. Shortly after President Barack Obama took office, the Arab Spring began and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il died. During this time, Clinton spoke of the importance of foreign aid. She argued that foreign aid increases global security. When poverty, disease and hunger terrorize a country, the people are more liable to conflict.
Clinton, along with Baker and Rice, pointed out that foreign aid is not only an investment in national security. It’s also an investment in the economy. The ties created with foreign aid open the doors for U.S. businesses to connect, educate and work in developing nations.
There was a common theme among what former secretaries of state think about foreign aid: the U.S. has the power to shape the world’s stability with its foreign policy. These four secretaries understand that an America-first foreign policy involves investing in the world so it can meet our high standards.
There is still hope that the foreign aid budget will not see the drastic cuts the Trump administration proposes. Many members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, agree with what former secretaries of state think about foreign aid.
Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, does not believe cutting foreign aid and diplomacy would increase national security. Neither does fellow democratic Senator, Jack Reed. Some Republicans are like-minded. Senator Lindsey Graham stated the decreases in the State Department budget could put State Department employees overseas in danger. A fellow Republican member of the House Appropriations subcommittee, Charlie Dent, explained that funding for foreign aid results in a lesser need for military conflict.
Finally, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell plainly stated that Trump’s proposed State Department budget cuts would “probably not” pass. Senators Marco Rubio and Chuck Grassley reminded the media this is simply a proposal. Much work goes into creating the federal budget. Fortunately, many within Congress appreciate the wisdom that foreign aid creates a more stable world, which ultimately puts America first.
– Mary Katherine Crowley