Letter to Donald Trump, President of the United States - Funding for the State Department and US Agency for International Development
Dear President Trump,
We are deeply concerned that your budget framework proposes to cut $17.3 billion in funding to the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), a 31 percent reduction. These proposed cuts come at a time when the global community faces significant threats, including the possibility of another catastrophic famine in the Horn of Africa.
United States international affairs operations have helped save lives, secure unstable regions, and build democracies. The drastic cuts you propose will undoubtedly limit American global leadership and shortchange the contributions we make across the globe to development and humanitarian assistance. As the world begins to mobilize in response to the drought in the Horn of Africa, funding cuts could cost lives and prevent our diplomatic agencies from continuing the work they do to promote American security and economic interests.
As Members of Congress who represent one of the largest East African populations in the United States, including the largest Somali diaspora, we are aware of the catastrophic results that can come from inadequate responses to global disasters. In 2011, Somalia suffered a famine that took more than 260,000 lives. Many of our constituents lost loved ones and are concerned that history will repeat itself. We share their concern and strongly urge you to consider the impact that cuts to the international affairs budget will have on the ability of the United States to help countries like Somalia respond to humanitarian crises and security threats.
Two consecutive seasons of poor rainfall have caused large-scale crop failures and forced Somalia to declare the current drought a national disaster. More than half of Somalia's population, 6.2 million people, are in need of humanitarian assistance. In the last two months alone, nearly 160,000 people have been displaced.
The United Nations has recently called it the largest humanitarian crisis since the world body was founded in 1945. Bad actors often use instability caused by humanitarian disasters and to be sure, al-Shabaab will likely seek this as an opportunity to undermine the progress that Somalia has made over the last several years. We should not let that happen. The actions that USAID has taken, including USAID's recent commitment of an additional $131 million to address the urgent needs of drought-affected people in Ethiopia and Somalia, represents a positive first step. Given the magnitude of the disaster we must do more and work with our international partners to provide an adequate emergency response.
Lasting peace and stability does not come from military solutions alone. The work of the State Department and USAID underpins the work of the Department of Defense by building alliances, trust, and stability. Moreover, many of these programs at the federal level complement the work that private citizens, businesses, and health providers from Minnesota have undertaken to improve the quality of life for individuals across all of Africa. While we must be vigilant in ensuring our assistance is delivered efficiently and effectively, dramatic cuts undermine our strategic and economic goals and are not in the best interest of the American people.
We strongly urge you to reconsider cuts to the final international affairs budget you send to Congress. As a bipartisan group of members from the House and Senate, we stand ready to work with you to maintain the international affairs budget in FY 2018 appropriations legislation.