A plan released on Sept. 21 by the Congressional Republican Study Committee (RSC) proposes dramatically cutting expenditures on a wide array of programs, including eliminating the Millennium Challenge Corporation. The RSC report, dubbed "Operation Offset," calls for cuts across the government totaling $139 billion for 2006. Of that, $1.75 billion would come from money intended for the MCA and $900 million would come from other foreign aid spending, including level funding for peacekeeping operations, the Global AIDS Initiative and the Peace Corps. The RSC report was produced by Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX).My view? The proposals on foreign assistance would have only a minor impact on the budget deficit but would have a major impact on the ability of the U.S. to act in its national interest abroad, for two reasons. First, these cuts would substantially undermine the credibility of the President, and of the United States more broadly, at a time when much of the world questions our motives and objectives. The President boldly proposed both the MCC and the Global AIDS Initiative, and both were strongly endorsed by Congress. To eliminate one and level fund the other would reinforce the view that the United States was never fully serious about these initiatives, and that they were designed just to garner favorable publicity. This would raise serious doubts about future "commitments" made by the President.Second, and more importantly, these cuts would directly undermine the ability of the United States to achieve some of its most important foreign policy goals at a critical juncture in U.S. global leadership. Foreign assistance is a key tool for the United States in global leadership towards promoting its vision for a more open, prosperous and democratic world, especially through innovative mechanisms like the MCA and the AIDS Initiative.At a time when an increasing number of groups around the world promote radical ideologies that blame the United States and the values we and others espouse as the problem, not the solution, the United States needs poor countries as well as rich countries to support the values we champion, and to believe that they, too, can climb out of poverty and achieve economic and political freedom. It is directly in our national interest to help low-income countries achieve these goals, and these innovative programs are important instruments towards that end. Ironically, these initiatives sprang from widespread recognition that our international efforts were insufficient to meet our goals, and to cut them now would be short-sighted and against our own long-run interests.
CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.