The Biggest Loser: USAID

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President Trump offered his proposed budget today, slashing spending from major federal departments. Reuters has provided a great graphic to illustrate where money is being cut and which departments are seeing an increase.

As a fiscal conservative, I believe that the federal government is bloated and that certain departments’ budgets can certainly be cut. The federal government cannot continue to spend at the current rate or we will never make inroads on the continuously ticking national debt.

I am also not opposed to increased defense spending. I believe that the military must always continue to upgrade its infrastructure to ensure that America continues to have the strongest and most advanced military in the world.

However, President Trump equates the number of military weapons and the size of the defense budget as the only indicator of ensuring national security.

This idea is wrong. The State Department works in conjunction with the Defense Department to ensure America is protected. Soft power and hard power are tools in our national security arsenal and both are extremely important to ensure American safety.

The biggest loser in President’s Trump proposed budget so far is USAID.

USAID stands for the United States Agency for International Development. President Trump is proposing cutting the USAID budget by 28.7%.

USAID falls under the purview of the State Department. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson commented that “we are going to be able to do a lot with fewer dollars.” I can only hope that Secretary Tillerson is correct.

It’s easy to see how hard power, military might, equates a stronger national security system. Drones, fighter jets, and aircraft carriers are very illustrative things that people can see and naturally feel safer because of them.

Soft power, programs that fall under USAID, are less visible to the American public.

Here some of the things USAID has done:

  • Provided a $25 million commitment to Let Girls Learn to help develop teacher apprenticeship programs in Afghanistan for adolescent girls,
  • Sponsored NGOs to partner with metal health organizations to help provide psychological services for adults and children impacted by the war in Ukraine,
  • Sponsored a program called Feed the Future to help combat global hunger and provide knowledge and resources on better agriculture practices for countries battling hunger, like Tanzania,
  • Partnered with EngenderHealth, providing training to health workers in the Philippines to help develop a midwife network for pregnant women and patient-counseling for parents on family planning,
  • Invested in Somalians to train them on how to build livestock markets to rehabilitate Somalia's struggling and underdeveloped economy.

These are a just a few examples of what USAID through soft power can do. These activities might not seem directly related to national security because they are hard to visualize for most Americans. But training locals on how to better develop their economy, providing families the opportunity to feel safe, and creating access to education, are all ways that USAID strengthens our national security.

When others in the world are able to take control of their lives and provide better futures for their families, this prevents them from falling into extreme poverty and pursuing desperate avenues of support, like joining a terrorist organization to attempt to feed their family.

I’m not saying that the USAID budget cannot be cut at all. I think the fiscal situation America is in calls for all departments and programs to face hard choices. It is my fear however that this administration will be blinded by the idea that military spending alone equates stronger national security. This notion is far from the truth.