White House demands deep cuts to State, UN funds

Posted at 2:33 AM, Mar 14, 2017
(CNN) -- The White House has instructed the State Department and the US mission to the United Nations to cut their budgets for UN programs nearly in half, including US peacekeeping and development assistance, two senior US officials told CNN on Monday.
The dramatic cuts, which include a 37%, or $20 billion, slash in funding for the State Department and the US Agency for International Development, reflect a desire by the Trump administration to reduce US commitments to international organizations.
Foreign Policy first reported the details of the White House's proposal to dramatically reduce spending on foreign aid.
US diplomats in New York had warned their UN counterparts about the likely "steep" cuts to US funding for the UN, one Western diplomat said, but not provided any details.
The White House wants to cut the programs funded out of the State Department's Bureau of International Organization Affairs by half, the US officials said. While the cuts would impact UN programs the most, the White House also wants to reduce US dues to other international organizations and ask other member states to pick up the slack.
For example, the US pays 21% of the operating budget of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which promotes democracy and good governance, particularly in Europe. Japan pays the second-highest dues at about 12%. The White House wants to drop US dues to Japan's level.
"Everyone else is going to have to step up," one senior official said.
The White House also wants to reduce funding for voluntary assessments and programs for all international organizations. The United States funds certain programs or positions in organizations such as the UN, the Organization of American States and other international bodies beyond its regular dues as a member state. Officials said such expenditures would end under the new plan.
It is unclear what the exact timeline is for the cuts, officials said. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has proposed making the reductions over three years, arguing that he needs more than one budget cycle.
After "several tough exchanges" with Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, one official said Tillerson has been granted some flexibility as to where the State Department budget cuts are directed.
"He said, 'You give me a number and I will make the cuts,' " one senior administration official said. "He doesn't want to be told what to cut."
Trump and Mulvaney warned that deep cuts were coming to foreign aid programs last month while previewing the administration's first budget proposal at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
"The President said we're going to spend less money overseas and spend more of it here," Mulvaney noted while referencing the proposal last month. "That's going to be reflected with the number we send to the State Department."
But Trump could face a fight when it comes to trimming the wings of state -- possibly from within his own administration.
Defense Secretary James Mattis, for instance, warned against cutting diplomatic resources during congressional testimony in 2013.
And last month, several prominent generals like David Petraeus and admirals like James Stavridis, the former supreme commander of NATO, wasted little time in mobilizing to challenge his proposals.
They joined a list of 121 military figures who warned that State Department diplomacy, aid and programs were vital to preventing conflict overseas and could mitigate the need for costly and bloody military deployments.
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