Foreign Policy Blogs

The Battle of the Budget and State's White Knight

As most American readers are probably aware, the US House of Representative has passed spending cuts of some $61 billion from the federal budget, in an attempt to reduce the national defecit. Members deliberated into the early morning over where to trim aid for schools, health care, environmental protection and foreign aid. Now, despite the threat of presidential veto, the cuts will be passed along to the Senate, which is expected to amend it further.

As I understand it, House Republicans have lumped State Department funds in with “domestic discretionary spending.” Now, Democrats are warning that subjecting these funds to massive cuts might dismantle America’s strategy in Iraq, which depends on the drawdown of Department of Defense and a corresponding increase to State Department operations. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, spoke Thursday on behalf of the State department, warning a Senate committee the the mission in Iraq (and the “gains” we have made) will be critically threatened if State doesn’t get the money it has requested to fund its work as U.S. forces exit this year. Yes, it is strange for one Department head to defend another agency’s funding…but desperate times call for uncommon measures.

Faced with the fact that the training of Iraqi police and other programs once handled by the Pentagon could be permanently abandonded, Gates compared the situation to the 1980s when “we spent billions to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan, and we couldn’t get a million dollars to build schools in Afghanistan in 1989 and 1990,” leading to a Taliban takeover.

“The same thing is going to happen in Iraq,” he said if the State Department gets shortchanged.

This battle will likely be decided in the Senate, which stands between the ravenous House and President Obama’s White House. On Monday, the president released his budget which proposed spending just $16 billion in Iraq – a significant decrease as US diplomats take over from combat troops.



Reid Smith

Reid Smith has worked as a research associate specializing on U.S. policy in the Middle East and as a political speechwriter. He is currently a doctoral student and graduate associate with the University of Delaware's Department of Political Science and International Relations. He blogs and writes for The American Spectator.