THE BLOG
07/03/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Senate Budget Committee Sees Prevention of Global Crises as Secondary With 2011 International Affairs Budget

Just when we're hearing that countries around the world have a renewed hope in American leadership on global issues, the Senate Budget Committee has approved a budget resolution that shortchanges an already tiny International Affairs budget. This decision, coming at a time when a major humanitarian crisis rests on our doorstep and increasing global health and security threats cry out for our country's leadership, sends the wrong message and is actually setting the stage for higher spending down the road.

The Senate Budget Committee's approved budget resolution for fiscal year 2011 would fully fund the Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs accounts. Only the tiny International Affairs account - 1.4% of the total budget - is singled out for underfunding. The committee innocently claims they're actually providing a 7.7% increase for international affairs relative to funding for this year. Don't be fooled. In its math, the committee ignores additional 2010 funding requested by the Obama administration for the wars and humanitarian crises. This is funding the committee knows full well will likely be provided in the next month or two. When compared with all expected 2010 international affairs funding, the committee is actually proposing a $2 billion cut.

The International Affairs account is the fence at the top of the cliff that allows us to head off crises, conflicts and threats to our health and security before they get out of control. But instead of fully investing in what we all know is valuable prevention, the committee decides to spend 13 times as much on military, homeland security and other programs that are in essence ambulances that provide services once the troubling situations have fallen off the cliff and emergency care is needed.

Twenty years ago, when the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, the U.S. was urged to help stabilize the Afghanistan/Pakistan region by investing broadly in the development of schools and communities. Instead, we decided to save money and largely turned our backs. The region became a spawning ground for Islamic extremism, and today we are reaping the dividends of our so-called savings.

Luckily for those of us concerned about peace and prosperity, the budget resolution from the Senate Committee is only advisory. Appropriations Committee Chair Inouye, who makes the final decision on international affairs spending, has already indicated his concern with the Budget Committee's proposal. Let's hope his wisdom holds.