One month ago, a media frenzy broke out after the WaPo reported of mass voluntary resignations at the State Department, to protest the arrival of Rex Tillerson. Shortly after, it was revealed that not only was it not a "mass resignation" (there were only four high level resignation) but it was all procedural, meant to streamline the transition from one administration to the next.
However, the bloodbath at the State Department - for years Hillary Clinton's kingdom, and populated with many pro-Clinton staffers - may have been merely deferred because as AP reports, the Trump administration is proposing deep cuts in spending for diplomacy and foreign aid programs to help pay for increased military spending.
Officials familiar with the proposal say it calls for slashing more than a third, or 37%, of the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development budgets. Development assistance would take the biggest hit.
In the current fiscal year, the State Department and USAID got $50.1 billion, a little more than 1 percent of the total federal budget. As AP sources add, a 37-percent cut would likely require reductions in staff, including security contractors at diplomatic missions abroad.
As the WSJ adds, people familiar with the deliberations said the Trump administration is examining the growth in spending by the State Department during the Obama administration, including that caused by the addition of special envoys, though they said that would not cover the proposed cuts. One U.S. official said that the State Department is looking at development assistance to other countries as a significant source for the cuts.
Word of the proposed cuts met with swift objections from Republicans and Democrats.
Senator Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican who heads the Foreign Relations Committee, said the budget process was only beginning. He said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in the process of preparing a response.
Others quickly slammed the idea: ”if it’s anywhere in the ballpark of what I’ve seen about the State Department, that’s definitely dead on arrival,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, said of Trump’s State Department cuts. “That guts soft power and puts our diplomats at risk.”
Asked if Congress would support such deep State Department cuts, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “Probably not.”
Tillerson’s own response wasn’t immediately known, though he and Trump discussed the need to overhaul the department when he was interviewed for the job, according to a transition official familiar with the conversation.
"The department is working with the White House and OMB to review its budget priorities,” acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. “The department remains committed to a U.S. foreign policy that advances the security and prosperity of the American people."
Trump is sure to meet similar push back from other US agencies as the threat of money being pulled away becomes all too real.