Graham chides Trump in seeking to shift $54B from ‘soft power’ to military 

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham on Tuesday criticized the Trump administration for proposed cuts to foreign aid and domestic programs to offset a $54 billion increase in defense spending.   

“It’s dead on arrival. It’s not gonna happen,” Graham said, NBC News reported. “It would be a disaster. If you take soft power off the table, then you’re never going to win the war. What’s most disturbing about the cut of the State Department’s budget — it shows a lack of understanding of what it takes to win the war.”

In his attempts to shore up the nation’s military, the White House said Monday it is seeking to pump an additional $54 billion into an already sizable defense budget of approximately $600 billion per year, the Associated Press reported. The increase in spending would represent a close to 40 percent share of the world’s military expenditure, according to an April 2016 report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.    

To offset the increase in defense spending, the Trump administration is proposing cuts in equal amount to State Department programs that some in Congress, like Graham, deem vital to U.S. interests abroad. Also in the crosshairs of proposed cuts is the Environmental Protection Agency.

White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney lauded the budget proposal, calling it “a true America-first budget.”

“It will show the president is keeping his promises and will do exactly what he said he was going to do,”  Mulvaney said. “It prioritizes rebuilding our military, including restoring our nuclear capabilities, protecting the nation and securing the border, enforcing the laws currently on the books, taking care of vets and increasing school choice.”

CNN reported an official in the White House Office of Management and Budget expects “the rest of the world to step up in some of the programs this country has been so generous in funding” over the years.

But as Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida tweeted Tuesday, “Foreign Aid is not charity. We must make sure it is well spent, but it is less than 1% of budget & critical to our national security.”

Foreign aid is part of a larger strategy attached to the philosophy of soft power, or the influence a country yields outside of its borders through means other than military force.

Some 121 retired U.S. generals and admirals sent a letter  Monday addressed top lawmakers in Congress. It argued against the defunding of the State Department, saying America can strengthen diplomacy alongside its military development.

“We urge you to ensure that resources for the International Affairs Budget keep pace with the growing global threats and opportunities we face,” the letter reads. “Now is not the time to retreat.”   

President Donald Trump on Tuesday night is expected to discuss in more detail his administration’s first proposal to a joint session of Congress ahead of the budget’s March 16 release.