Might the Trump Administration’s proposed State Department budget and staffing policies harm American security?
The answer is yes, according to State Department veteran Ron Neumann. Trump has proposed a 28% cut in the State Department’s budget, according to reports. Neumann doesn’t feel the budget accepts the importance of diplomacy in foreign policy.
“It doesn’t understand security and working out safe solutions,” Neumann said of Trump’s proposed budget. “There hasn’t been a war with a non-diplomatic conclusion since 1945. We often use diplomats to clean up messes.”
Neumann, currently the president of the American Academy of Diplomacy, spent years in the Foreign Service and served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State (1997-2000) and Ambassador to Afghanistan (2005-2007). Earlier in his career, he was Deputy Chief of Mission in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and in Sanaa in Yemen, Principal Officer in Tabriz, Iran and Economic/Commercial Officer in Dakar, Senegal. He also served as an Army infantry officer in the Vietnam War. The former Foreign Service officer said the cuts in the State Department don’t matter much in terms of the overall federal budget.
“It’s hard to analyze how the cuts will be apportioned,” he said. “But you can’t cut much by cutting the State Department. The Defense Department is 12 times as big. This is seriously damaging to our interests.”
The proposed budget cuts might make multilateral foreign policy tougher. Neumann said the cuts could impact United Nations peacekeeping missions – missions that pull together the militaries of various U.N. nations to tackle various security problems. In the future, the U.N. missions might include stopping the flow of refugees from one country to another or creating stability in failed states. Creating stability could blunt the appeal of terrorist factions, Neumann said.
“These missions usually cost one-eighth of the cost of using U.S. troops,” Neumann said. “The missions often go to places where there is little support in the public at large.”
In January, Trump pushed out people in key State Department posts such as the undersecretary for arms control, the undersecretary for management, the assistant secretary for administration, the assistant secretary for consular affairs and the director of the office for foreign missions. These positions remain unfilled.
“The department depends on political ideas from those people to run,” Neumann said about the unfilled positions. “Those are missing right now.”
Neumann also said the absence of key personnel also hampers the ability of the State Department to engage in basic diplomacy or communicate the government’s message to other states. In turn, other states don’t know how to follow or react to the actions of our government, possibly creating discord between nation states.