By Joe B. Johnson
“Asserting U.S. leadership and influence” includes core public diplomacy programs, according to the White House budget for 2018.
We don’t have a formal strategy or a reorganization plan from the new administration, but a budget may be the most important statement about its new directions. And this page from the State Department lays out nine major statements so far this year.
The Fact Sheet on proposed State Department and USAID funds in Fiscal Year 2018 is a good place to start. It frames our foreign policy in markedly different terms from past administrations.
The key priorities are:
- Defending U.S. National Security
- Asserting U.S. Leadership and Influence
- Fostering Opportunities for U.S. Economic Interests
- Ensuring Effectiveness and Accountability to the U.S. Taxpayer
No mention of climate change as a threat to America. No mention of pressing for human rights under that second bullet point. And no surprise there.
The full paragraph on public diplomacy did provide a pleasant surprise, including the promise to fund “core” programs and personnel. The elimination of educational and cultural programs in an earlier draft of this proposal has changed to “preserving a nucleus of proven programs.” The Global Engagement Center gets robust funding under the National Security rubric. A point on “eliminating earmarks” may affect some exchanges institutions.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors also reports continued funding in the President’s budget, with a modest reduction.
Others are better equipped to parse the numbers for State, USAID and BBG. The cuts are severe, says the Alliance for International Exchange. And the pundits say the Congress will not accept many of the proposed reductions. However, the Fact Sheet and Secretary Tillerson’s explanatory letter, released today, begin the debate and frame its terms.