President Donald Trump’s proposed budget would cut 32 percent of the State Department's funding in preference for increased spending at the Department of Defense, which, in December, was caught burying evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste. Currently, 1.5 percent of federal funding goes to diplomacy and foreign aid, or, in other words, less than two pennies of every tax dollar goes to preventing conflicts. This is miniscule considering defense receives over 25 percent of the budget. Cuts will also be made to education, transportation, our police and justice system, the Coast Guard, FEMA, NASA, and coastal restoration. The negative impact such cuts could have on Louisiana’s economy, budget, disaster response, and coastal restoration efforts have been well documented. The impact of reduced State Department funding on our men and women serving in our military, however, may be far greater. More than 120 retired generals and admirals are asking Congress to not slash funding for diplomacy and foreign aid as President Trump has requested. “As you and your colleagues address the federal budget for Fiscal Year 2018, we write as retired three and four star flag and general officers from all branches of the armed services to share our strong conviction that elevating and strengthening diplomacy and development alongside defense are critical to keeping America safe,” they wrote in a letter addressed to Speaker Paul Ryan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer. “We know from our service in uniform that many of the crises our nation faces do not have military solutions alone — from confronting violent extremist groups like ISIS [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] in the Middle East and North Africa to preventing pandemics like Ebola and stabilizing weak and fragile states that can lead to greater instability.” President Trump and Congress must listen to the military officials and career diplomats who have seen firsthand the links between State Department’s diplomatic work and our military’s success. The State Department needs financial support to prevent international conflicts so that our active duty service members do not have to fight wars on the other side of the world. No one wants American blood and treasure wasted on the Syrian battlefield, but without a well-funded State Department, the conflict could continue on for decades. As Secretary of Defense James Mattis said while commander of the U.S. Central Command, “If you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.” With our friends and family serving our country in the military, I’d prefer we did not have to buy more ammunition. Take a stand for those sacrificing their lives for our safety and call your member of Congress today to ask him to amend President Trump’s budget proposal and fully fund the State Department.

Marlee Pittman

fellow, Truman National Security Project

Baton Rouge