DN - Defence Notes

State seeks massive budget cuts

12th February 2018 - 11:02 GMT | by ‚ÄčAgence France-Presse in Washington DC

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The US State Department published its budget proposal for 2019 calling for deep cuts, though Congress has already dismissed the idea as a non-starter.

On 12 February the US Department of Defense put forward a series of requests that would see a significant increase in its budget, with naval and land forces primed to benefit.

In the case of the State Department and USAID, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson requested $37.8 billion, up only slightly from the $37.6 billion 2018 request.

To this was added an extra $1.5 billion, in a separate addendum to reflect higher caps allowed under a recent Congressional budget deal, bringing the total request to $39.3 billion.

In 2017, the last year of the previous US administration, the department spent $55.6 billion, so if Congress - which is working on a joint budget for 2018 and 2019 - had approved the 2018 request, it would have meant a more than 30% cut.

Instead, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle argued that such a draconian reduction would be dangerous, with US diplomats working on a number of international crises.

Tillerson has commissioned a 're-design' of the State Department, despite resistance from career staff, and he is struggling to fill key senior posts.

When last year's authorisation request was filed, Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said even studying it would be a 'waste of time'.

Corker's colleague Senator Lindsey Graham said the 2018 plan was 'dead on arrival,' adding: 'This budget destroys soft power, it puts our diplomats at risk and it's going nowhere.'

Although the top line figure remains around the same as the previous suggestion, Tillerson's latest plan does move some funding around to take into account new US priorities.

The budget line for 'embassy security, construction and maintenance,' for example, increases from $1.42 billion in the 2018 plan to $1.66 billion in the 2019 draft.

This comes as the White House pushes to accelerate implementation of its controversial decision to re-locate the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

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