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Clinton and Helms Nearly Ruined State. Tillerson Wants to Finish the Job. (POLITICO)

May 4, 2017

From the article:

As President Donald Trump prepares to slash the civilian side of U.S. foreign policy, he would do well to examine the last time this was tried. The quote above is from Secretary of State Warren Christopher, not Rex Tillerson, and it ushered in a major deterioration in civilian national security readiness. Over the course of his administration, President Bill Clinton allowed the foreign affairs budget to fall to half the level (adjusted for inflation) that it had enjoyed at its peak under President Ronald Reagan. Clinton also signed off on debilitating cuts—championed by Senator Jesse Helms—to U.S. civilian presence and staffing levels overseas. Ironically it was a Republican president, George W. Bush, who reversed this trend—but only after his military-centric foreign policy (sound familiar?), combined with hollowed-out capacity at State and USAID, led to disaster in post-war Iraq.

Why rehash this history now? Because Trump seems to see the Clinton-era cuts and Bush’s overreliance on the military as a good start, rather than a cautionary tale. The White House is seeking to gut civilian foreign affairs budgets in fiscal year 2018 while bulking up a military budget that is already tenfold larger. Tillerson is proposing to cut State Department staffing by 9 percent. And rumors abound of plans to fold USAID into the State Department.

Read full article here.

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Senior Policy Fellow