The letter, released by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, was signed by Condoleezza Rice (secretary of state from 2005-2009), Colin Powell (2001-2005), Madeleine Albright (1997-2001), George Schultz (1982-1989) and Henry Kissinger (1973-1977).
“We recognize the gravity of America’s fiscal situation and that all programs must contribute their fair share to reducing our nation’s debt,” they wrote. “Yet, the International Affairs Budget – only 1.4% of the federal budget – already received deep and disproportionate cuts this year.
“These programs are facing additional reductions in FY12 disproportionate to other security accounts – cuts that could be the steepest since the end of the Cold War.”
With further cuts expected this week, the former secretaries of state argued that the foreign “programs are critical to America’s global leadership and represent strategic investments in our nation’s security and prosperity.”
U.S. lawmakers are working this week on another short-term measure to fund the federal government. The so-called “minibus” spending bill under consideration in the U.S. Senate covers several areas, including State Department-foreign operations appropriations.
The administration last February requested $59.65 billion for programs and activities funded through the State-foreign operations appropriations bill for the 2012 fiscal year.
In July, the House Appropriations subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs marked up a bill proposing $43.7 billion (a base of $39.7 billion and $7.6 billion in ““Overseas Contingency Operations” funds).
The Senate Appropriations Committee in September reported out its State-foreign operations bill proposing $53.8 billion in FY2012 ($45.1 billion plus $8.7 billion in OCO funding).
Noting that the International Affairs Budget had “shouldered nearly 20 percent of the total cuts to FY11 discretionary spending,” U.S. Global Leadership Coalition Executive Director Liz Schrayer urged lawmakers to heed the calls from “five of the most respected national security and foreign policy experts in our country.”
More than 80 percent of the administration’s FY2012 request is made up of three components – bilateral economic aid (39 percent, down from 46 percent in the FY2011 request), State Department administration (25 percent, up from 22 percent in last year’s request), and security aid (19 percent, up from 12 percent in the FY2011 request).
Accounting for the remainder of the total are multilateral aid (six percent), international organizations (six percent), USAID administration (three percent), international broadcasting (one percent) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (one percent).
Foreign aid has been in the firing line on several occasions during the GOP presidential campaign, most recently during Saturday night’s debate in South Carolina.
“The foreign aid budget in my administration for every country is going to start at zero dollars,” said Texas Gov. Rick Perry, to applause. “Zero dollars.”
“Then we’ll have a conversation in this country about whether or not a penny of our taxpayer dollar needs to go into those countries.”
Citing the situation in Pakistan, he added, “American soldiers’ lives are being put at jeopardy because of that country and the decisions that they’re make – and it’s time for us as a country to say no to foreign aid to countries that don’t support the United States of America.”
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney agreed that foreign funding should start “at zero” and for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich the proposal “made absolutely perfect sense.”
“You ought to start off at zero and say, ‘Explain to me why I should give you a penny,’ ” Gingrich said.
During an earlier debate, in Las Vegas on Oct. 18, Perry called for “a real debate about foreign aid,” pointing to funding for the United Nations in particular.
“We’re spending more on foreign aid than we ought to be spending,” said Romney. “I happen to think it doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to borrow money from the Chinese to go give to another country for humanitarian aid.”
Rep. Ron Paul called foreign aid “the easiest thing to cut,” adding, “It’s not authorized in the Constitution that we can take money from you and give it to particular countries around the world.”
As CNSNews.com reported earlier this year, most of the biggest recipients of U.S. foreign aid oppose U.S. positions in voting at the United Nations more often than not.
Of the 10 top recipients of aid in FY2010, only one voted the same way as did the U.S. more than 50 percent of the time. That country was Israel, whose voting matched that of the U.S. 91.8 percent of the time.
The other nine FY 2010 top aid recipients, listed in order of their voting coincidence with the U.S., were Mexico (37.5 percent), Afghanistan (34.3 percent), South Africa (33.8 percent), Jordan (33.8 percent), Nigeria (33.3 percent), Ethiopia (32.8 percent), Kenya (31.7 percent), Egypt (31.4 percent) and Pakistan (21.3 percent).