U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was asked to testify on the Foreign Affairs Budget for 2019 before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Tuesday. The hearing was postponed on short notice, but it's no secret that the State Department has been one of the agencies President Donald Trump hasn't given much priority during his first year in office. There have been extensive staff cuts and democrats on the committee asked for a briefing as far back as November 2017
According to budget data relayed by the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO), the State Department is also set to have to deal with hefty budget cuts in the coming years until 2022. As our infographic shows, it has never been a big budget department, its share of the overall budget outlay will have peaked at 0.78 percent in 2016. However, a drop to 3.7 percent in 2022, or from 29.4 to 17.8 billion dollars, would constitute a 39.5 percent decline.
One of the underlying reasons for cutting back the State Department's budget might seem very apparent, as Trump got elected into office on an "America First" ticket. So, what would make more sense than cutting back on money the United States spends on entertaining its diplomatic presence in the world - if the world is supposed to take a back seat?
The United States has gone through isolationist phases before. After its somewhat reluctant engagement in the First World War (1914-1918) it actively withdrew from the international stage. However, the Second World War (1939–1945) forced America back on to the world stage, and she then decided not to retreat after defeating Nazi Germany and imperialist Japan.
This later worldwide military clash is often cited as the point of no return, when the United States once and for all took on the role as a leading power in the international arena, after European powers, such as Great Britain, were worn out. American policy makers then understood that actively engaging the world was a boon for America, or even a must, when confronted with a strong emerging foe with an economic and political alternative on offer, the Soviet Union.
Arguably, the United States today, though not emerging victorious from a devastating world war, but having been bogged down in military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, is nevertheless in a similar position as it was before. There is a rival to American leadership out there who will behind closed doors laud American leadership for actively vacating the position of the world's most engaged power, and getting out of the way. China won't resist the temptation.