Drastic cuts for State Department in White House budget

Tracy Wilkinson, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- Ignoring warnings from diplomats and even a powerful GOP-controlled Senate committee, the Trump administration went ahead Monday with drastic cuts to the State Department and USAID, the two most important arms of American diplomacy.

The budget unveiled by the White House allots $39.3 billion for the department of about 24,000 foreign and civil service employees and the U.S. Agency for International Development -- down from about $55 billion last year.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had embraced the cuts when the White House first proposed them, and was met with steep criticism from the foreign policy establishment and numerous members of Congress. The Senate Appropriations Committee last fall said the reductions "serve only to weaken America's standing in the world."

Tillerson has insisted he is not "hollowing out" the State Department -- which has lost scores of diplomats through attrition, resignations and dismissals -- but making it more efficient.

"This budget focuses resources on national security at home and abroad, on economic development that contributes to the growth of our economy, and on renewed efforts to modernize the operations of both the State Department and USAID for greater effectiveness," Tillerson, who is traveling in the Middle East, said in a statement released in Washington.

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The cuts will likely jeopardize environmental, health and educational projects, as well as so-called democracy-building programs at grass-roots levels, experts said.

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