Eight former Secretaries of State serving both Democratic and Republican presidents signed a letter to members of congress today urging them to support President Obama’s international affairs budget request. Last week the Senate Budget Committee proposed stripping $4 billion from the budget. Every living former Secretary of State apparently believes that is a wrong-headed move.
The $58.5 billion FY 2011 budget request funds most of America’s non-military foreign policy apparatus. The letter, organized by the US Global Leadership Coalition, argues that it is in America’s long term interests to boost the International Affairs Budget. Here is the letter in full:
Dear Member of Congress:
As former Secretaries of State who have served in either Democratic or Republican administrations, we urge you to support the FY 2011 International Affairs Budget request. There is broad bipartisan agreement in Congress ‐‐ as well as among current and past administrations ‐‐ that programs funded by the International Affairs Budget provide critical investments in global development, diplomacy and democracy. We know from our collective experience that these strategic tools are essential to achieving our goals of protecting national security, building economic prosperity, and providing humanitarian assistance.
In order to accomplish those goals, the U.S. requires a full range of civilian and military options. Yet, despite modest increases over the last decade, the International Affairs Budget remains under‐funded. It represents less than 1.5 percent of all federal spending. As a result, our civilian‐led development and diplomatic efforts are often hindered, thus placing unnecessary burdens on our men and women in uniform.
Increasing the investment in our civilian international capabilities will keep America safer by, among other things, addressing the root causes of terrorism and extremism, supporting key allies, and demonstrating America’s proud tradition of global leadership. This is why we join Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and national security and foreign policy experts from across the political spectrum to support an increase in the International Affairs Budget. We must guarantee that our nation is fully equipped to address the array of challenges and opportunities that exist around the world today. We urge you to support the funding level proposed by President Barack Obama for the International Affairs Budget and to oppose any effort to cut that requst. This is one area where Democrats and Republicans can agree and should come together to help ensure a more secure and prosperous future for our nation.
UPDATE: The budget passes! Peter Yeo, Executive Director of (our friends) the Better World Campaign says:
“Passage of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act signals another significant step in Congress’ commitment to supporting American engagement through diplomacy. The global challenges that confront us today — whether they are climate change, terrorism, disease, or natural disasters — cannot be tackled by one country alone.
“The Kerry-Lugar bill not only authorizes full funding for the UN but enables the U.S. to permanently raise the arbitrary 25% cap on payments to UN peacekeeping operations, so that the U.S. can pay its bills in full. As a veto-wielding member of the Security Council, the U.S. has voted for and supported the expansion of all 17 ongoing peace operations around the world, and it is critical that we pay our fair share. The legislation also rightly authorizes resynchronizing U.S. payments to the UN and all treaty-based international organizations on a timetable that makes sense — at the beginning of each calendar year.
“But the hard work is not done. We now call on the full Senate to pass this legislation and for the President to enact it into law.”