Andrew Hess

Research Associate
202-546-3950

Sequestration and International Affairs: What's the Deal?

We've all heard about sequestration, a mandatory cutting of federal expenditures on apocalyptic levels if a budget deal is not struck in Congress before the New Year.  However, does anyone really know what it will mean for international affairs budgeting if sequestration takes effect?

The short answer is: it doesn't look good.

To begin, let's run through what would happen on the macro level if sequestration kicks in.  If sequestration is not avoided, the Office of Management and Budget will cancel $110 billion in spending for fiscal year 2013, with a grand total of $1.2 trillion in savings through fiscal year 2021.  The amount of money saved by sequestration will be split 50/50 between Defense programs and non-Defense programs, with Social Security, Medicaid, and the majority of Medicare escaping unscathed.

Using fiscal year 2013 as a model and assuming percentage cuts between seven and ten percent, that would mean that Defense spending would drop by $55 billion and non-Defense discretionary spending would be cut, again, by $55 billion, which includes the International Affairs Budget.

What does this mean for the International Affairs Budget?  If everything goes according to projections, the post-sequestration International Affairs budget in fiscal year 2013 would be approximately $47.7 billion.  This total is $7.2 billion less than the fiscal year 2012 enacted amount ($54.9 bn) and $8.7 billion less than the fiscal year 2013 request ($56.2 bn).  What does this kind of cut mean in terms of what will be impacted?  The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, a network of experts, businesses, and NGOs, has put together a fantastic little chart on what some of the cuts would be:

Responsible Leadership in Maine and Indiana

The evidence supporting America’s mandate for responsible leadership in Washington grows.  With the support of the Global Solutions PAC, Angus King and Joe Donnelly won their elections and now join the ranks of responsible leaders in Washington.

In the state of Maine, Independent Angus King handedly took the open Senate seat, defeating Republican Charlie Summers by over 150,000 votes and Democrat Cynthia Dill by over 275,000 votes.  On the topic of foreign policy, Angus King knows what is at stake and possesses the right mindset to tackle the issues.  

Concerning multilateral engagement, King said that, “The United States has a strong heritage of multilateral action on important global issues, and should continue as a collaborative leader in world affairs.”  This commitment to cooperation shows that we have a representative that will work on the important international issues in the most effective way.  King has also voiced his support for the ICC in situations where a fair and codified court may not be available, as well as his approval of ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.  These convictions show that King is a leader that will do what is right, regardless of what is popular or easy.

Shifting to Indiana, we see another example of a leader with the right stuff getting into the Senate.  Joe Donnelly edged out the infamous Richard Mourdock by 139,000 votes.  On the issues, Donnelly’s record speaks for itself; during his tenure in the House of Representatives, Donnelly earned an “A” in our 2008 report card and a “B-“ on our 2010 report card.  On the topic of US involvement in the UN, Donnelly has said that he supports future involvement in the UN as well as the fulfillment of our promises including funding and personnel commitments when they are made. 

Victory in Montana and New Mexico

Keeping with the theme of voters selecting leaders that champion smart American foreign policy, we have two more races that highlight the frighteningly stark differences between two different worldviews. As with the previous post, these are officials that were supported by the Global Solutions PAC that won their elections.

We will begin with the Montana Senatorial race, where incumbent Jon Tester bested Dennis Rehberg in that race. Tester has a proven track record as a champion of American involvement globally, including votes in favor of addressing climate change, the New START Treaty, and the preservation of foreign aid funding. During his time as Senator, Tester has earned two "A-" grades on our report card in 2010 and 2012. On the other end of the spectrum, Rehberg's lack of support for international nuclear regulation, initiatives to address climate change, and proper funding to the UN earned him a "D-" in 2010 and a "D" in 2012.

Another example of this shift to responsible leaders occurred in New Mexico's election for their next Senator. Ultimately, Martin Heinrich beat Heather Wilson by more than 40,000 votes. The evolution of Heather Wilson's foreign policy stances is an interesting phenomenon to watch. According to our 2004 report card, Wilson earned a "44" due to her voting against issues such as women's rights and US involvement in the ICC. However, in 2005, Wilson jumped to a respectable "B+" as a result of her support for UN funding as well as action in Darfur. From 2006 to 2008, she slid to a "C+" and maintained that grade due to her lack of support for nuclear regulation, US involvement in the ICC, and the rights of foreign combatants.