U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has defended President Donald Trump’s proposal to sharply cut spending on diplomacy and foreign aid while proposing large increases in military spending.
The president’s 2018 proposed budget would cut spending at the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) by 32 percent and boost Defense Department spending by about 10 percent.
During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee budget hearing Tuesday on Capitol Hill, Senator Ben Cardin, the committee’s top Democrat, criticized Trump’s budget proposal – saying it would endanger the lives of Americans.
“Slashing our foreign operations and foreign assistance makes the world more dangerous for Americans and for America,” Cardin said. “Yet that is precisely what that budget would do. The budget takes a penny wise, pound foolish approach that would cost lives and endanger Americans here at home.”
"I'm convinced we can maximize the effectiveness of these programs and continue to offer America's helping hand to the world," Tillerson told committee members during his first public testimony on Capitol Hill since his confirmation hearing in January.
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.
Committee Chairman Bob Corker, a Republican, predicted Trump’s budget proposal would not remain intact as it makes its way through Congress.
“The budget that’s been presented is not going to be the budget that we’re going to deal with,” Corker said.
Tillerson told lawmakers a review of the State Department and USAID is underway to determine how to reorganize them. He said the review would be completed at the end of 2017.
The Trump administration has defended the cuts by maintaining that other countries must do their "fair share" as the U.S. plans to reduce the amount of money it has traditionally committed to overseas spending.
Sixteen retired generals and other former military officers said they would submit joint testimony to the Senate Wednesday emphasizing the importance of foreign aid to national security.