The Cable

Pawlenty would defend State and foreign aid budget

Almost every GOP legislator and presidential hopeful is attacking the foreign assistance budget, which is under unprecedented scrutiny this year. But former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty may be the only GOP presidential candidate who intends to preserve full funding for U.S. aid abroad. "These are difficult economic times and you have a significant part of ...

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Almost every GOP legislator and presidential hopeful is attacking the foreign assistance budget, which is under unprecedented scrutiny this year. But former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty may be the only GOP presidential candidate who intends to preserve full funding for U.S. aid abroad.

"These are difficult economic times and you have a significant part of the Republican Party calling for retrenchment. The governor doesn’t accept that view and believes we ought to maintain defense spending and maintain the international affairs account," Pawlenty’s senior foreign policy advisor Brian Hook said at yesterday’s U.S. Global Leadership Coalition conference. "

"Governor Pawlenty believes very much in projecting an American foreign policy that is very much focused on clarity and strength, with the capabilities to back it up. And that means not cutting the international affairs account and defense spending," Hook said.

"Leaders need to be honest with voters and admit that we are not going to pay down the deficit with savings in the [international affairs] account…. He believes a strong and effective civilian capacity can help prevent conflicts before they occur."

Hook, a former assistant secretary of state for international organizations, was part of a panel that also included Mitt Romney advisor Ambassador Pierre-Richard Prosper, Jon Huntsman’s advisor Ambassador C. Boyden Gray, and Rick Santorum’s advisor Mark Rodgers.

Hook did criticize the Obama administration’s use of foreign aid in specific circumstances. For example, he said Pawlenty would not have cut funding for Egyptian democracy programs or condition that aid on whether each recipient had been approved by the Mubarak regime, as the administration did in 2009.

In his June 29 speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, Pawlenty said, "We must redirect foreign aid away from efforts to merely build good will, and we must direct those efforts toward building good allies, genuine democracies governed by free people according to the rule of law. And we must insist that our international partners get off the sidelines and do the same."

Prosper said that Romney believes that soft power has been underutilized by the United States and that, as president, he would use diplomatic, economic, and business tools to effect change around the world. But he also indicated that Romney agrees with at least some of the GOP congressional criticisms about how State and USAID do business.

"[Romney] wants the aid to be focused, he wants to see better coordination," said Prosper, criticizing the fact that foreign assistance programs are now spread across many federal departments. "He feels we can be more effective by consolidating our approach … where every dollar is spent well and accounted for."

Gray spoke about Huntsman’s focus on the domestic situation inside the United States and linked success at home to America’s ability to project power and influence abroad, including through foreign aid.

"We have a lot of repair work to do here at home," he said. "There’s a sense that our aid programs, our diplomacy, are very less effective than they might be because our own internal model doesn’t look like it’s so successful at the moment. How can we say that our aid efforts are the solution when we’re not doing so well here at home? We have to attend to our own garden as we try to maintain our leadership abroad."

All of the candidates’ advisors said democracy promotion was important and also expressed support for more free trade agreements. None of them chose to endorse the idea of a unified national security budget that would join the Pentagon and State Department budgets together, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has repeatedly called for.

For its part, USGLC is pushing the argument that foreign aid is a net benefit for jobs in the long run, because building sustainable economies in the developing world creates markets for U.S. companies. Take a look at their adorable new video on the subject, narrated by children, here:

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