For four years now, the US Congress has rejected President Donald Trump’s efforts to cut diplomacy and aid funds. Now that there are only a few days left in office, top Trump officials are taking one final step and outlining this in an internal memo from Foreign policy Massive billions in budget cuts that would target a variety of foreign aid programs, including the global distribution of vaccines at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
It is highly unlikely that the proposed $ 27.4 billion cuts, including nearly $ 17 billion to fund foreign aid and diplomatic programs, will be approved by Congress, according to several Congressional sources. But the effort represents a farewell shot by government officials on diplomatic and foreign aid programs that violate the president’s “America first” agenda.
Currently, the funding set in the plan, known as the “withdrawal package”, is on hold and cannot be used. This is creating practical and logistical problems for the State Department and US foreign aid agencies less than a week before the new Biden administration takes office. The lockdown would normally take 45 days to get congressional approval, but many officials expect the Biden government to quickly withdraw the resignation package by then.
In a letter to the President of Foreign policyRussell Vought, head of the Office of Administration and Budget of the White House (OMB), said the proposal “emphasizes the need to cut wasteful spending on foreign aid in the State Department and USAID and other international affairs agencies” by other federal agencies.
The sudden announcement enraged some diplomats and U.S. aid officials, who describe the move as a scorched-earth attempt to indiscriminately derail foreign aid programs en route government to the door.
The cuts, which include $ 16.6 billion in foreign aid and diplomatic programs, would allow the executive branch to attempt to cancel funds already allocated by Congress in a process known as “resignation”.
The programs covered by the withdrawal package include: development aid, global health programs for the State Department and the US Agency for International Development, migration and refugee aid, educational and cultural exchange programs, and funding for international military training. according to an internal memo of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Foreign policy.
The resignation package provides $ 4 billion for Gavi, a public-private partnership that distributes vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccine doses, to low and middle-income countries worldwide. It would also save US $ 1.5 billion in food aid and approximately US $ 2 billion in programs to fight AIDS.
“For four years the government has been playing with our national security when it comes to American aid programs, and it seems they are back with an attempt to resign in the 11th hour. I’m 100% sure that a strong bipartisan choir in Congress won’t even take this seriously, ”said Liz Schrayer, president and CEO of the US Global Leadership Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy group, in a statement.
“It is particularly worrying and completely unrealistic that in the midst of a global pandemic, OMB is choosing yet another lost battle on American aid that targets global health and humanitarian programs,” she added.
Current and former officials said the cuts fit into a broader pattern of last-minute foreign policy action that the government wants to see its way into pinch the incoming Biden administration on some of their top political priorities.
Last week, Foreign Secretary Mike Pompeo re-listed Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism and identified the Iran-backed Houthi group in Yemen as a terrorist organization with potentially catastrophic humanitarian consequences. It also lifted restrictions on US officials’ dealings with Taiwanese officials, upset the careful balance of the US’s longstanding “One China” policy, and angered Beijing, which regards separate and democratically ruled Taiwan as its own territory.