WASHINGTON – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry said Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s reported plan to slash the State Department’s budget would harm American interests and further strain the military.
The GOP congressman from Texas warned that any cuts in foreign assistance and diplomatic funding – Trump reportedly wants to cut the $50 billion State Department budget by 37 percent — would put further strains on the military.
“Part of the reason we have asked the Department of Defense to do more and more is because other departments of government have not been able to do it,” he said.
He is pushing for a bigger spending hike in the Pentagon’s budget than the $50 billion increase proposed by the Trump administration. Speaking to a gathering of reporters on Wednesday, Thornberry reiterated his stance that a baseline defense budget of $640 billion is required to address readiness, troop size and modernization needs. Trump’s proposal would set the DoD budget at $603 billion.
The U.S. National Security Strategy is based on two fundamental tenets: soft and hard power. While the Department of Defense is largely responsible for exerting hard power, the State Department and USAID engage with other countries through diplomacy and developmental assistance to further American interests. However, in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military took on some soft-power duties like building schools and roads and helping local governments create civic institutions.
For Thornberry, soft power is a vital component of the national security strategy. “I do not believe soft power can substitute for hard power, but we need to have a wide range of tools to further our national interests,” he said. “We can’t look to the military to do everything.”
Although opposing budget cuts for the State Department, he said the agency is in urgent need of reform. “I don’t think the State Department and USAID are as effective for national security as they should be,” he said.