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White House 'America First' Budget Proposal Calls For Deep Foreign Spending Cuts


According to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump's 2018 budget plan "reflects the president's 'America First' agenda." (file photo)

WASHINGTON -- Funding for U.S. diplomacy and foreign aid funding will be cut by almost a third, and military spending increased substantially under President Donald Trump's $4.1 trillion budget plan for 2018.

The proposal, released by the White House on May 23, must still be approved by Congress, which has already signaled deep reservations about many of the proposed cuts, and how new spending increases will be paid for.

Titled "The New Foundation of American Greatness," the plan sets funding levels for the State Department and the Agency for International Development -- the lead U.S. agency for foreign aid and development -- at $37.6 billion for next year.

That's down from $54.9 billion in the current fiscal year.

Under the Constitution, Congress holds the final authority to pass any budgets and allocate funds, which will mean months of haggling between the White House and lawmakers eager to preserve pet projects.

Still, the proposal is seen by some analysts, and some members of Congress, as a sign that U.S. soft power is being sacrificed at the expense of a huge rise in military spending.

The Trump plan proposes, among other things, a 10-percent increase in spending for the Department of Defense and related military programs.

The plan "prioritizes the well-being of Americans, bolsters U.S. national security, secures our borders, and advances U.S. economic interests," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement released in Washington as he and Trump headed to Rome from the Middle East.

"This budget request reflects the president's 'America First' agenda," he said.

'Withdrawal From Active Leadership'

The plan calls for significant funding cuts for global health programs, food aid, and international peacekeeping, as well as educational and cultural exchanges and climate change programs.

U.S. funding for global health programs, including efforts focusing on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, would see a 24-percent cut, to about $6.5 billion for 2018, according to the proposal.

The budget also proposes a 44-percent reduction to funding for international organizations, though it does not specify where the reductions will come from except to note "funding for organizations that work against U.S. foreign policy interests."

The plan also proposes an 8.4-percent cut for the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the federal agency that oversees U.S. civilian international media operations. That includes RFE/RL, as well as Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, and others.

Andrew Natsios, who formerly headed USAID and now is a professor at the Bush School of Government and Public Service Texas A&M University, criticized the cuts.

"The United States' friends and allies in the developing world now have tangible evidence, in place of vague speculation, of what they had most feared since Donald Trump's election in November: the withdrawal of the United States from active international leadership in the world," he said.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and The Washington Post
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