To: Interested Parties
From: Robert O. Boorstin and Caroline Wadhams
Budgets – and budget cuts – reflect priorities and values. And the budget cuts to the President's $82 billion request that were suggested this week by House Republicans demonstrate once again that they have their priorities wrong. While Congress will rightly support money for our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq (some $75 billion), Americans should look closer at the remaining funds and how their taxpayer dollars are being spent.
If House Republicans have their way, they will cut almost in half the White House's $5.6 billion request for monies for foreign assistance and peacekeeping operations. This at a time when the leadership is mouthing its support for efforts to build and stabilize democracies all over the world. From Afghanistan to Indonesia, people are in need of long-term help for reconstructing and stabilizing their embryonic democracies. And the House Republicans say no.
The House Appropriations Committee's proposed changes to the supplemental include:
- Decrease in tsunami relief funds: Despite the deaths of more than 170,000 people and the ravaging of communities in South Asia from the tsunami, House appropriators plan to cut $45 million in debt relief for countries affected by the tsunami.
- Continued U.S. neglect of Afghanistan: Appropriators propose to cut $570 million for reconstruction projects in Afghanistan, such as power plants, industrial parks, courthouses and the rebuilding of the airport in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. This should, sadly, not come as a surprise, given the administration's history of neglecting Afghanistan after its first election. Afghanistan has received far less reconstruction assistance per capita than other countries with recent nation-building operations, including Iraq, East Timor and Bosnia.
- Decrease in peacekeeping funds: Appropriators want to cut $200 million from requested funds for contributions to United Nations peacekeeping missions. This at a time when the U.N. is desperately seeking funds for a new peacekeeping operation in Sudan, where millions of people are at risk. At best, the House Republicans can be called shortsighted; at worst, they can be accused of undermining the best path to helping people who have been the subjects of what former Secretary of State Colin Powell called "genocide."
- Cuts in the War on Terror. The Committee also wants to cut $200 million for the so-called "Solidarity Fund," which provides security assistance to nations with troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. This move directly undermines the President's commitment to internationalizing the war in Iraq and his recent trip to drum up support from our allies in Europe.
- More defense pork: In contrast to the cuts, the House bill would add $1.86 billion in funding for defense. But take a closer look at what Republicans want to fund. Most of this supplemental money goes to projects that were cut from this year's budget. Those who missed their serving of pork the first time around have ordered again. For more information on this topic, see: http://www.taxpayer.net/TCS/PressReleases/2005/3-03defensedatabase.htm
Robert O. Boorstin is the senior vice president for national security at the Center for American Progress. Caroline Wadhams is a policy analyst also with the Center.