Netanyahu, Kerry at the US Capitol 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
Automatic spending cuts set to take effect in the US next month could “lead to
reductions in military assistance to Israel, Jordan and Egypt, undermining our
commitment to their security at such a volatile time,” US Secretary of State
John Kerry said in comments publicized on Thursday.
cuts, known as “sequestration,” set to begin on March 1, would take $2.6 billion
out of the budget for the US State Department and USAID, America’s development
assistance agency, Kerry said.
“Cuts of this magnitude would seriously
impair our ability to execute our vital missions of national security, diplomacy
and development,” he wrote in a letter to Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat from
Maryland and chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations.
warning from Kerry, who took over from Hillary Clinton a week and a half ago,
follows similarly stark alerts from Pentagon chief Leon Panetta and other Obama
administration officials over cuts that will take place unless lawmakers and US
President Barack Obama reach an agreement to stop them.
The worst of the
planned cuts might not come into force as lawmakers try to find ways to avoid
severe cost reductions.
Democrats in the Senate on Thursday rallied
around a $110b. tax increase and spending cut plan that would postpone the
The proposal is expected to be shot down by
Republicans, but some of its components could be included in future budget
Sequestration would cut $200 million from humanitarian
assistance, more than $400m. for global health funds to fight AIDS and child
deaths, and more than $500m.
in security assistance, Kerry said in his
letter, dated February 11 and made public on Thursday.
assistance cuts could include $300m. in the Foreign Military Financing program
and “lead to reductions in military assistance to Israel, Jordan and Egypt,
undermining our commitment to their security at such a volatile time,” wrote
Some $3b. goes to Israel annually in US military aid, 74 percent
of which must be spent in the US.
“This cut will be felt at home,
resulting in a loss of sales to US industry and a potential loss of US jobs,”
Additional job losses would occur as budget cuts force the
slower processing of visas for foreign tourists and business visitors, Kerry
The cuts would total about $85b. this year across the entire US
budget. With a deal to avoid them looking less and less likely, administration
officials are rallying to warn of the pain that would be imposed on various
Kerry also said cuts would impair efforts to beef up security
at US diplomatic facilities, a sensitive issue after the attack by armed
militants on the US mission in the Libyan city of Benghazi. US ambassador
Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in that
Americans living or traveling abroad would also feel the pinch,
Kerry warned, as cuts “constrain our ability to assist US citizens overseas,
often at their darkest times.”