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    Smullen: Washington's 'Diplomatic Arm Should Be as Strong as It Can Possibly Be'

    © AFP 2017/ BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI
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    President Trump said he wants to raise the defense budget by $54 billion by cutting foreign aid among other things. Former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell Bill Smullen told Radio Sputnik that he was worried that the US State Department could receive less funding to accommodate the proposed 10 percent hike in military spending.

    "I am concerned that the State Department is going to be underfunded. I would be very cautious to take money away from the State Department for example to give it to the Defense Department because I am a big believer in what we call soft power which is the equivalent of finding diplomatic approaches to doing business rather than hard power [which entails] using military might to do business. So I am a big advocate of making sure that the diplomatic arm of the United States is as strong as it can possibly be," he said.

    On Monday, President Donald Trump announced that he wants to drastically increase the US defense budget, a U-turn to the Obama administration's policy of cutting military spending. The 10 percent increase is supposed to be brought about by limiting funding to what the Trump administration sees as low priority initiatives, including foreign aid and environmental programs.

    Smullen, Syracuse University Director of National Security Studies, said that there will be a debate to determine Washington's priorities and allocate the available funds accordingly, but added that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) appears to be "on the hit list."

    "I think that there will be a huge debate with respect to the money that the president has cited that he wants to spend on increased defense," he said. "That happens every year when the wish list comes forward from the various agencies. I think there is going to be a real debate between defense priorities and domestic priorities. As someone who has been a former soldier and a former diplomat, I think there has to be compromise."

    Smullen expressed doubt that the US Congress is going to approve a 10 percent hike in military spending.

    "I am not as optimistic as some that it indeed is going to come to reality," he said. "My guess is [that Trump] is probably not going to get as much as he asks for."

    Smullen further noted that the proposed hike in spending should not come as a surprise due to Washington's multiple defense commitments around the globe and the need to upgrade the Pentagon's military capabilities.

    "Any country should routinely modernize its military. That takes money. And I would also say that the United States has a larger defense budget than many other countries combined because our military force is deployed in more places than many other countries combined. So I am not surprised by the attempt to increase the budget by $54 billion," he observed.

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    Tags:
    cuts, military spending, defense budget, US Department of Defense (DoD), U.S. Department of State, Bill Smullen, Donald Trump, United States
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