Plan International USA applauds the bipartisan rejection of cuts to foreign aid during Congressional hearings this week. Both Republican and Democratic Senators and Representatives expressed dissatisfaction and skepticism while questioning Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about the proposed State Department and USAID budget for fiscal year 2018. Leading Republicans like Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) described the proposed cuts as “deeply concerning,” while Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) made it clear that the proposed budget would not be passed in its present form.
As U.S. development programs face a proposed 32% budget cut, Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT) raised concerns about the potential for America to lose influence throughout the world. He said that “as a moral leader, the U.S. must continue investing in successful programs like PEPFAR so the rest of the world joins us in the promotion of our values.” Looking at the budget as a reflection of the country’s priorities, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NY) said he was “concerned about the magnitude of the cuts that suggest America is stepping back from its engagement in the world. I hope that’s not true.” Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), warned that if America steps back, countries with opposing values may step in to fill the vacuum.
Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) reiterated that the U.S. must address development issues or face increases in terrorism later. During another hearing with Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) argued that the U.S. should not increase defense spending by cutting development since both are essential.
Several underlined that investing in foreign aid helps America at home. Royce cited the response to Ebola — preventing the epidemic from reaching the U.S — as an example of how foreign aid directly impacts people in the U.S. Although some people in the U.S. argue that the urgency of the national debt outweighs the benefits of foreign aid, Graham argued that cuts to a program that comprises only 1.4% of the budget will have dangerously detrimental effects on U.S. national security and standing in the world, yet make no difference to the national debt. To Graham these cuts seem “penny wise and pound foolish.”
In support of these statements, Plan urges Congress to continue to fund critical development initiatives around the world. U.S. investments in foreign aid are beneficial for the country as a whole and provide a significant value for the U.S. taxpayer.