More than 120 retired generals and admirals are calling on Congress not to slash funding for diplomacy and foreign aid after the Trump administration said its budget proposal would do just that.
“As you and your colleagues address the federal budget for Fiscal Year 2018, we write as retired three and four star flag and general officers from all branches of the armed services to share our strong conviction that elevating and strengthening diplomacy and development alongside defense are critical to keeping America safe,” they wrote in a letter to congressional leaders Monday.
“We know from our service in uniform that many of the crises our nation faces do not have military solutions alone — from confronting violent extremist groups like ISIS [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] in the Middle East and North Africa to preventing pandemics like Ebola and stabilizing weak and fragile states that can lead to greater instability.”
The letter was addressed to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Notable signatories include retired Gen. David Petraeus, former CIA director; retired Gen. John Allen, former special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIS; retired Adm. James Stavridis, former supreme allied commander of NATO; and retired Gen. Keith Alexander, former head of the National Security Agency. In all, the letter was signed by 121 retired generals and admirals.
The letter was organized and released by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, a network of 500 businesses and nongovernmental organizations that advocates for U.S. spending in diplomacy and foreign aid.
The Trump administration on Monday announced a budget that would increase defense spending by $54 billion above budget caps, while cutting nondefense spending by the same amount.
Office of Management and Budget officials would not specify where the cuts are coming from. But when asked about foreign aid, an official said the administration “expects the rest of the world to step up in some of the programs this country has been so generous in funding in the past.”
Reports have also said the State Department’s budget could be cut by as much as 30 percent.
In their letter, the retired generals and admirals said that such funding helps the military by preempting the need for force.
“The State Department, USAID, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Peace Corps and other development agencies are critical to preventing conflict and reducing the need to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way,” they wrote. “As Secretary James Mattis said while commander of U.S. Central Command, ‘If you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.’”
They said they understand that investments in diplomacy and development need to be “effective and accountable,” but that Congress has passed reforms in the last 15 years.
“We urge you to ensure that resources for the international affairs budget keep pace with the growing global threats and opportunities we face,” they wrote. “Now is not the time to retreat.”