'Soft power' success of sport threatened by steep budget cuts

During the same week the Director of the United States Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, previewed President Donald Trump's 2018 budget, U.S. sport diplomacy remained in action. The U.S. Department of State welcomed 16 international emerging leaders to its "Sport for Community" program while New Jersey Congressmen Chris Smith and Tom MacArthur sought assistance from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on behalf of a women’s Tibetan soccer team denied visas to participate in a prestigious soccer tournament in Dallas, The Dallas Cup.

Only days into the five-week mentoring program, designed to empower people with disabilities and promote equal rights and inclusion worldwide, Mulvaney delivered stunning news bound to jeopardize the program’s future and the future of U.S. sport diplomacy.

“The participants selected for this program have already demonstrated tremendous leadership, passion, and ingenuity in creating sports opportunities for persons with disabilities,” said Sarah Hillyer, Director of the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society at the University of Tennessee.

Speaking with Tennessee Today about the pairing of participants with American executives at top disability sport organizations across the country, Hillyer stated her "job is to help them ["Sport for Community" participants] channel their passion, employ their skills, make new connections, and amplify their reach."

2017 Global Sports Mentoring Program “Sport for Community” emerging leaders visit a Washington, DC area YMCA for <a rel="nofo
2017 Global Sports Mentoring Program “Sport for Community” emerging leaders visit a Washington, DC area YMCA for aerial yoga and boxing.

Through soft power diplomacy, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) utilizes sport as an integral part of the State Department's efforts to build relations between the U.S. and other nations. The budget Mulvaney outlined, proposing $10.9 billion in cuts to the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), takes aim at domestic and international programs like "Sport for Community." It would be a 28.5 percent reduction from fiscal year 2016, the last year Congress enacted full-year spending legislation.

"It is not a soft-power budget. This is a hard-power budget, and that was done intentionally," Mulvaney stated. "The president very clearly wants to send a message to our allies and to our potential adversaries that this is a strong-power administration.”

Cutting almost one third of the State Department's budget would force it to refocus economic and development aid to countries of strategic importance to the U.S. It would shift some foreign military aid from grants to loans. It would also require the State Department and USAID to reorganize and consolidate, putting programs like State’s “Sport for Community" program, Empowering Women Through Sports initiative and USAID’s ‘Live, Learn and Play’ partnership at risk.

"As I’ve said before, one of the reasons that you’re seeing such a dramatic reduction in the State Department on a percentage basis is not that this President thinks that diplomacy is not important -- in fact, nothing could be further from the truth," said Mulvaney. "The President believes in diplomacy, and we believe that this budget protects that core function of the State Department."

According to the State Department, sports diplomacy uses the universal passion for sports as a way to transcend linguistic and sociocultural differences to unite people. The Sports Diplomacy Division, formerly known as SportsUnited, is ECA’s Division devoted to sports diplomacy, taps into sports' ability to increase dialogue and cultural understanding between people around the world. Having engaged thousands of people from over 100 countries, the Division’s use of sports as a platform exposes foreign participants to American culture while providing them with an opportunity to establish links with U.S. sports professionals and peers. In turn, Americans learn about foreign cultures and the challenges people from other countries face.

In 2016, the U.S. Department of State, <a rel="nofollow" href="https://ge.usembassy.gov/nba-sports-envoys-visit-georgia-jr-nb
In 2016, the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Embassy in Georgia, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the Georgian Basketball Federation (GBF) collaborated to launch Georgia’s first-ever Jr. NBA-GBF League. The league was held in six cities, with 30 local schools and basketball clubs in Batumi, Gori, Kutaisi, Rustavi, Tbilisi and Telavi representing the 30 NBA teams.

“Seeing the images of dragon boat racers in the Philippines or goalball players in post-disaster zones of Ecuador makes all of the hard work worth it," said Ashleigh Huffman, Assistant Director of the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society. "The smiles, friendships, independence, and sense of accomplishment reflected in those photos are a testament to the "Sport for Community" alumni and mentors who work tirelessly to make this program a success.”

Since 2012, alumni from "Sport for Community" have mobilized close to 5,000 volunteers and impacted nearly 100,000 people through sports workshops, clinics, and conferences. A 2013 study of ECA’s SportsUnited Programs key findings concluded 92% of survey respondents reported that their views of Americans had improved after participating in programming. Eighty-seven percent of respondents reported that their views of the U.S. Government were “more favorable” or “much more favorable.”

All three SportsUnited programs covered in the study have had a profound impact on participants. Foreign program participants that visited the U.S. with either a Sports Visitor or Sports Grant program reported that their exchange experience had deepened their understanding of U.S. culture, people and values, as well as provided them with new skills and knowledge that they were able to apply in their homelands. Simultaneously, American Sports Envoys that traveled overseas communicated key American values, such as the importance of tolerance and inclusion, to the individuals and organizations that participated in related activities.

"Regarding some of the reductions, you’ll see a fairly dramatic reduction in State Department. That is not a commentary on the President’s policies towards the State Department. That is a comment on the President’s policies towards what’s in their budget. The foreign aid line items in the budget, many of them, just happen to fall within the State Department functions. The President ran saying he would spend less money overseas and more money back home. So when you go to implement that policy, you go to things like foreign aid, and those get reduced. If those had been in the Department of Education, you’d see a more dramatic decrease in education. If they had been in energy, you’d see the decrease there. It just so happens, under the way we spend money in this country, that the foreign aid line items fall within State Department. So I think the number you’re going to see in the State Department is fairly significant." - Press Briefing by OMB Director Mick Mulvaney Previewing the President's FY18 Budget

In addition to re-imagining the State Department, discretionary funding for at least 19 agencies and 61 other programs will be eliminated. Two of the 61 federal program that engage physical education, sport and play [as tools for empowerment, development and peace] are the 21st Century Community Learning Centers under the Department of Education and the Community Development Block Grant Program under the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

While funding to the United Nations and affiliated agencies would be reduced, the administration did not provide details. "We're absolutely reducing funding to the U.N. and to the various foreign aid programs, including those run by the U.N. and other agencies,” Mulvaney said emphatically during a White House press briefing. “That should come as a surprise to no one who watched the campaign. The President said specifically hundreds of time -- you covered him -- I'm going to spend less money on people overseas and more money on people back home. And that's exactly what we're doing with this budget."

Women's basketball is bouncing back in Somalia! <a rel="nofollow" href="https://twitter.com/USAIDSomalia" target="_blank">USA
Women's basketball is bouncing back in Somalia! USAID Somalia supports sports activities that provide a healthy option to idleness or violent extremism.

The UN’s work, including the use of sport, covers a broad array of issues and impacts U.S. interests in virtually every corner of the globe. The total amount of U.S. contributions to the UN consumes a very small portion of the nation’s annual budget. Through the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace, the UN recognizes the historical implications and role of sport and play in all societies. Sport can no longer be considered a luxury within any society, but is rather an important investment in the present and future, according the Office.

Sport has united people across cultural and political boundaries, fostering a spirit of inclusiveness and Olympism. There are endless examples of how sport creates bridges between divided communities, supports reconciliation and fosters peace. The U.S. State Department, and United Nations, deserve better. As Director Mulvaney and the Trump Administration tout their budget for approval, the American sport community must be prepared to vigilantly fight for and stake its claim.

"Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they can understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.” Nelson Mandela

Facts & Figures

2016 Comprehensive Annual Report on Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting Activities | U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy (ACPD) | Pages 111-114

  • The Sports Diplomacy Division, formerly known as SportsUnited, leverages the universal passion for sports to transcend linguistic and sociocultural differences and bring together people from different countries on sports exchange programs with foreign policy themes. | Sports Diplomacy Division Financials - FY 2013 Actual: $5.400 million; FY 2014 Actual: $3.776 million; FY 2015 Actual: $5.540 million; FY 2016 Planned: 5.500 million; FY 2017 Estimated: N/A
  • Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) Financials | FY 2013 Actual – $574 million; FY 2014 Actual – $569 million; FY 2015 Actual – $590 million; FY 2016 Enacted – $591 million; FY 2017 Request – $640 million

Education and Cultural Affairs Programs Ranked by Cost Per Participant in FY15 Budget

  • #25 (out of 93) Empowering Women and Girls through Sports Initiative: $29,429 (Cost per Participant); $1,338 (Cost per Participant per Day); 3.1 (Length of Program in Weeks)
  • #47 Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP): espnW GSMP and Sport for Community: $20,600 (Cost per Participant); $589 (Cost per Participant per Day); 5.0 (Length of Program in Weeks)
  • #85 International Sports Programming Initiative: $5,617 (Cost per Participant); $330 (Cost per Participant per Day); 2.4 (Length of Program in Weeks)
  • #88 Sports Visitor Program: $2,432 (Cost per Participant); $203 (Cost per Participant per Day); 1.7 (Length of Program in Weeks)
  • #92 Sports Envoy Program: $40 (Cost per Participant); $6 (Cost per Participant per Day); 0.9 (Length of Program in Weeks)

What Trump cut in his budget | The Washington Post The 29% proposed cut to the State Department refocuses economic and development aid to countries of the greatest strategic importance to the U.S., and it shifts some foreign military aid from grants to loans. It also requires State and USAID to reorganize and consolidate. | By Kim Soffen and Denise Lu

<a rel="nofollow" href="https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/what-trumps-budget-says-about-his-priorities/" target="_blank">W
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