THE BIG QUESTION, Jan. 16:
What’s the first call Hillary Clinton should make as Secretary of State?
Liz Schrayer, Executive Director, U.S. Global Leadership Campaign, said:
Hillary Clinton’s first phone call as Secretary of State should be to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. In her confirmation hearing earlier this week, she laid out the Obama Administration’s “smart power” approach to foreign policy, augmenting a strong defense with new investments in our civilian-led tools of diplomacy and development. Tools such as these in the International Affairs Budget will provide critical resources for the new Administration to respond to the global challenges confronting America. Thus, as Clinton rightly said in her confirmation hearing, “One of my first priorities is to make sure that the State Department and USAID have the resources they need.”
Since the 9/11 attacks, there have been necessary investments in our military. But the 22% of our Federal budget that goes to defense has not been matched by increased funding for our diplomatic and development efforts, which account for just 1.2% of the Federal budget even after significant increases by President Bush and Congress. And we have gone from 4,500 USAID officers during the Cold War investing in the long-term stability of other countries to just 1,100 now. While our defense capabilities remain second to none, our ability to win the peace and ensure our prosperity has suffered.
As Defense Secretary Robert Gates said this summer, “Over the long term, we cannot kill or capture our way to victory” in the War on Terror. Poverty leads to despair and is a breeding ground for terrorism, especially in developing nations. We must maintain a strong military, but we must also prevent these conditions from taking hold by placing more emphasis on our non-military tools of engagement. Cost-effective investments in curing diseases, training teachers, building roads and creating opportunities for people in foreign lands today will help keep our brave men and women in uniform out of harm’s way tomorrow.
Greater investment in our International Affairs Budget will also help to address our economic crisis, which has shaken markets, killed jobs and reduced confidence in America and our ability to lead the world. The far reaching effects of this crisis extend beyond our borders and beyond just the bottom line. U.S. foreign assistance programs help create consumers for American goods and services, spurring new jobs and economic progress.
When Clinton makes her case to the OMB Director, she will have the support of the President-elect, who has made clear his commitment to increasing funding for development and diplomacy. She will also have the support of 217 Members of Congress – 51 Senators and 166 Representatives – who last month sent letters to President-elect Obama calling for a robust International Affairs Budget in his FY 2010 Federal Budget request.
Now is the time for our government to increase our investment in diplomacy and development. As Clinton noted in the hearing, “the relatively small but important amount of money we do spend on foreign aid is in the best interests of the American people” because “it promotes our national security and advances our interests and reflects our values.”