Cutting U.S. Diplomacy Budget May Have Costs: The Ticker

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By Katherine Brown

As part of the congressional $1 trillion dollar spending deal, the core international affairs budget was cut by 9 percent, to $43.7 billion for 2012. Specifically, the State Department's operations budget decreased by $2.6 billion and the U.S. Agency for International Development's went down $258 million.

These cuts could have been much deeper. Republican legislators in the House had threatened to slash the overall foreign operations budget by 27 percent. Democrats such as Representative Nita Lowey, ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, argued that this would have crippled foreign operations and threatened U.S. leadership around the globe.

This 9 percent cut will not completely shackle U.S. diplomatic and development professionals -- but it won't make much of a dent in the $1.3 trillion budget deficit, either.

Legislators approved a supplemental, known as "Overseas Contingency Operations," of $11.2 billion for the budget that is specifically allocated for Afghanistan and Iraq. This actually brings the total 2012 international affairs budget to $54.9 billion. As U.S. civilians assume responsibility for the U.S. mission in Iraq this month -- and will likely do the same in Afghanistan with a 2014 troop drawdown -- this extra funding is vital.

Increasing supplemental funding while cutting the core budget, however, is a dangerously myopic approach to  national security: U.S. diplomacy and development efforts are not just essential for wartime. On Dec. 15, Congress allocated $662 billion for defense, more than 10 times the amount for diplomacy. But while U.S. troops mainly respond to crises, U.S. diplomats and aid workers work to prevent them.

(Katherine Brown is on the staff of Bloomberg View.)

-0- Dec/22/2011 19:18 GMT