Senior Pentagon Officials Fight Foreign Aid Cuts, The Hill Reports

Senior Pentagon officials have expressed opposition to proposed foreign aid cuts, The Hill reports, highlighting the challenges they face in making their case to preserve this funding.

The House-passed fiscal year 2011 budget bill “included a $121 million cut to the annual United States Agency for International Development (USAID) budget, which would amount to a 9 percent funding hit,” The Hill writes. “The State Department has pushed back against the proposed cuts, and senior Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Gen. David Petraeus, have become vocal and powerful allies.”

According to the newspaper, Gates has supported “robust State Department and foreign aid budgets” for a number of years and has said that investing in development projects is cheaper than deploying U.S. military forces. Last week, “House Armed Services Committee member Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) warned about potential cuts to the annual USAID budget. Petraeus argued against any USAID cuts at the hearing, saying foreign aid should be viewed as a national security expense,” according to The Hill, which notes that Patraeus’ counterinsurgency strategy relies on the participation of the State Department and USAID.

“Foreign development efforts are so crucial to Gates that he recently asked Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) to allow Defense and State officials to testify jointly about their 2012 budget requests,” The Hill reports. “It was intended as a sign of Defense and State solidarity. But last week’s hearing did not go as executive-branch officials had hoped … Instead of spreading the word about the need for State and USAID aid programs, Conrad and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the panel’s ranking member, bashed the Obama administration for seeking larger budgets for those organizations, the Pentagon and a list of other federal agencies” (Bennett, 3/18).

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