Top US diplomat Kerry warns against deep budget cuts

WASHINGTON - Automatic government spending cuts set to take effect next month would undermine US diplomacy and security policies at a time of turmoil across the Middle East and Africa, US Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress on Thursday.
Across-the-board cuts, known as "sequestration," set to begin on March 1, would take $2.6 billion out of the budget for the 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 Senator Barbara Mikulski, chairwoman of Senate Committee on Appropriations.
The warning from Kerry, who took over from predecessor Hillary Clinton 10 days ago, follows similarly stark alerts from Pentagon chief Leon Panetta and other Obama administration officials over cuts that will take place unless lawmakers and President Barack Obama reach an agreement to stop them.