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Tillerson: Funding Level Doesn't Equate to Goal Achievement

  • VOA News

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson takes his seat on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 13, 2017, prior to testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says he believes the Trump administration can continue to carry out American foreign policy goals despite massive proposed funding cuts to diplomacy programs and foreign aid.

President Donald Trump's proposed budget for 2018 would slash State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) spending by 32 percent, but Tillerson said the amount of funding doesn't necessarily correlate with the results achieved.

Watch: Tillerson Defends Proposed Budget Cuts for 'Soft' Diplomacy

Congress is responsible for setting the federal budget and the president's budget proposal faces bi-partisan opposition in both the Senate and the House.

“Throughout my career, I've never believed, nor have I never ever experienced, that a level of funding devoted to a goal is the most important factor in achieving it,” Tillerson told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday. “Our budget will never determine our ability to be effective. Our people will.”

Senate Armed Services Committee member Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 5, 2017.
Senate Armed Services Committee member Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 5, 2017.

Proposal 'radical and reckless’

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, which Tillerson testified in front of Tuesday, called the proposal “radical and reckless when it comes to soft power.”

Democrat Rep. Gerald Connolly on Wednesday similarly called the Trump budget request a “radical alteration” to American foreign policy.

Tillerson disagreed, though, telling members of the Foreign Affairs Committee the Trump proposal was not a withdrawal from America's global responsibilities, but instead “an elevated level of engagement.”

“With the fall of the Soviet Union, a whole array of dynamics were unleashed globally. After 9/11, a whole array of threats were unleashed. And we have continued to address those with the old constructs,” he said. “Not that the constructs are not valid ... But we have to begin to examine the effectiveness of those.”

FILE - In a April 10, 2014, photo, Rep. Gerald Connolly. listens during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.
FILE - In a April 10, 2014, photo, Rep. Gerald Connolly. listens during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Budget plan reflects catchphrase

According to Tillerson, there is a lot of redundancy of roles and operations within the State Department and USAID, and the agencies are currently going through a review to find the best way restructure them.

He said the Trump budget proposal reflects Trump's “America First” catchphrase, but Tillerson said putting America first “does not mean America alone.”

“We have to ensure our partners and allies understand what that moniker conveys,” Tillerson said. “We live in some really challenging times, and a lot of things are changing. We have to ask our allies to do more ... I see no indication that our relations have been undermined.”

Cuts defended

The Trump administration has defended the cuts by maintaining that other countries must do their “fair share” as the United States plans to reduce the amount of money it has traditionally committed to overseas spending.

Connolly said Tillerson's assertion the Trump budget represents an “elevated involvement in the world” would “embarrass even Orwell.” Referring to British author George Orwell.

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