THE budget ax, which evokes trepidation across the federal
bureaucracy, is poised to fall hard on Foggy Bottom.
At the State Department, officials are gravely concerned about
imminent cutbacks needed to produce the government downsizing
called for by the 104th Congress.
They say the possible loss of up to one-third of the
foreign-affairs budget over the next several years comes at a
particularly bad time: just as the end of the cold war has
broadened the agenda of United States foreign policy and as the US
consolidates a new diplomatic presence in about two-dozen nations
formed after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
"The implications of the pending budget cuts are still hard to
quantify, but our capacity for carrying out our basic mission will
be very much diminished," says Richard Moose, State Department
undersecretary for management.
"A whole range of unconventional foreign affairs issues that
affect us domestically - including trade promotion and narcotics
control efforts - will fall out if Congress only funds passports,
visas, and overseas security," he adds.
"Rethinking the foreign-affairs budget in the post-cold-war era
is a useful exercise," notes David Gordon, foreign-policy adviser
at the Overseas Development Council in Washington. "But there's a
danger that these changes will be done in an ad hoc way, devoid of
any serious discussion of long-term US interests and without
reference to US spending on defense and intelligence-gathering."
Mr. Gordon says the cuts will force hard decisions on, among
other things, whether the US should continue to fund the Middle
East peace process at the same level and how to balance foreign aid
with other international obligations, including operating
embassies, contributing to international organizations, and funding
Many conservative lawmakers favor deep cuts, arguing the State
Department is poorly managed, that the US wastes millions each year
on failed foreign-aid programs, and that separate agencies dealing
with issues like arms control have become anachronisms in the
Even before the current budget crunch, the State Department had
trimmed its overseas operations. Eighteen consulates and two small
African embassies were shut down in 1993 and 1994. Thirteen of 19
more US facilities slated for closure in 1995 and 1996 have been
phased out. If the worst budget projections materialize, department
officials say, the US might have to close down as many as 160
The only way the US can maintain the "near universality in
representation" required of the world's only superpower will be to
scale back on the scope of its overseas activities, Mr. …