In an attempt to create a blueprint to manage America’s fiscal nightmare, House Budget chairman Paul Ryan — a Republican in Wisconsin — recently released his fiscal year 2013 budget resolution. But his proposal for international development and aid, in particular, is irresponsible, flawed and absolutely the wrong approach.
Specifically, the congressman seems to believe that international aid and development serves no purpose to American National Security. Ryan’s proposal would slash the international affairs budget from roughly $48 billion in FY-12 to $43 billion in FY-13. Eventually, the chairman would like to see account levels fall to roughly $38 billion by FY-16. Moreover, the expectation is that the State Department and United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, would only begin to see modest increases in their respective budgets in 2022.
On the other hand, Ryan proposes increasing the national defense budget from about $560 billion to $603 billion over the same period. Even more, his budget asks for more than $550 billion for the Pentagon — an amount roughly $30 billion more than President Barack Obama requested earlier this year.
The congressman’s draconian cuts showcase his extreme ideological tendencies, as opposed to his self-proclaimed fiscal pragmatism. For instance, take note of the language Ryan evokes in his 99-page so-called “Path to Prosperity.” The chairman attacks President Obama for supposedly preferring “to subordinate national security strategy to his other spending priorities.” He references the planned $350 billion reduction in military spending that is part of Obama’s budget plan as a clear indicator of his plan to hasten America’s decline.
But the congressman does have an alternative. To secure the United States’ role as the world’s dominant superpower, he suggests inflating the Pentagon’s budget to nearly $710 billion by 2022. Of course, there is no mention of any potential conflicts or emergencies that would justify such a dramatic increase. Ryan’s only explanation is that his plan will ensure national security remains the government’s top priority.
Part of the reason the chairman seems to be getting away with such irresponsibility is the misconception surrounding the foreign affairs budget. Polls consistently show that a substantial number of Americans believe that foreign affairs spending represents about 40 percent of the federal budget. It actually represents less than 1 percent. If anything, we should be talking about increasing — not scaling back — international aid and development, instead of automatically deeming it and slashing it.
In 2010, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen criticized the general Republican approach to U.S. foreign policy, stating that “U.S. foreign policy is still too dominated by the military.” Even former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called for an increase in the State Department budget in 2007 and went on to say the U.S. needed to move past its intense focus (and reliance) on “the guns and steel of the military.”