The Associated Press WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has agreed in principle to a White House proposal to slash foreign aid and diplomatic spending by 37 percent, but wants to spread it out over three years rather than in one dramatic cut.
Officials familiar with Tillerson’s response to the proposal from the Office of Management and Budget said Friday that Tillerson suggested the reductions to the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development begin with a 20-percent cut in the next budget year. Tillerson sent his response to OMB director Mick Mulvaney on Thursday, according to the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the budget publicly until it is presented to Congress.
Tillerson likened his approach to that of landing an airplane safely: a gradual descent rather than a precipitous one-time drop that would have far-reaching consequences for policy as well as political and human costs, according to the officials. The officials cautioned that Tillerson’s response was the beginning of a discussion with the OMB that could lead to a different figure, which would then go to Congress, where more changes could emerge. Some lawmakers, including senior Republicans, as well as current and former military commanders strongly object to steep cuts in foreign aid and diplomacy.
The combined State Department/USAID budget this year was $50.1 billion, a little more than 1 percent of the total federal budget. The White House is looking for massive savings across the non-defense portions of the total budget to offset a proposed $54 billion increase in military spending.
One official said Tillerson agreed with “an aggressive scrubbing of the budget” with an eye toward prioritizing programs based on specific achievable results rather than theoretical goals. The official said Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobil, was seeking a budget that outlines “a clearer vision of what of the end product is.”