Last Updated on February 2, 2021.

During the week of June 12, 2017, top Trump administration officials testified on Capitol Hill about President Trump’s proposed budget. Below are quotes from Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, and a range of bipartisan voices criticizing Trump’s proposed cuts to diplomacy and international aid:


Secretary Mattis:

  • “The State Department, and the Defense Department are tied very tightly. [An] example is ISIS, we had a conference and the State Department hosted it… not to talk just about the combat part… but 85% was spent talking about the post combat, about how when we defeat them how do we keep the next group from rising up… these take the whole-of-government effort… not a week goes by when Sec. Tillerson and I aren’t personally sitting down together for hours… as we try to make this a real tight team to address the situation.” House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Defense budget
  • “I think America has two fundamental powers: the power of inspiration and the power of intimidation. You have to work together, and State Department represents inspiration overseas.” Senate Approps Hearing
  • Rep.Hal Rogers: After listing various cuts in Trump administration State Department budget proposal, he asked Mattis “you would agree these cuts are severe, correct?” Mattis: “I would, sir”  House Approps Hearing (DoD)

General Dunford:

  • “Every challenge that we are dealing with right now, there is a military dimension to the challenge, but also we require assistance from the State Department, Justice Department, other elements of the government, what we call whole-of-government solutions…” House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Defense budget


Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD):

  • “I do think [the FY18 Trump Budget proposal] has a chilling impact on the State Department with the career people trying to carry out their missions, believing that their supervisors have a different vision as to what is necessary to carry out that mission.”  Senate Foreign Relations
  • “I am deeply concerned that your administration’s approach does not place America first, but rather leaves America alone and places our interests and values at risk.” Senate Foreign Relations
  • “I would just urge you, with regards to the Pickering and Rangel Fellows, that is one of the avenues that has been a bright spot for diversity in the State Department that your personal attention to allow that process to continue would be very important.” Senate Foreign Relations

Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE):

  • “I am gravely concerned that the proposed deep cuts to development assistance and diplomacy suggest that we don’t value diplomacy and development as tools of foreign policy at a time when we badly need them and need more of them.” Senate Foreign Relations
  • “I have a concern about the message we are sending to our vital allies.  I am haunted by a question asked of me by an Eastern European diplomat at the Halifax security forum not long after the inauguration where he said, ‘How can we count on you to defend our democracy when we don’t see you defending your own democracy.’” (in terms of Russian meddling in the presidential elections) Subcommittee on State Foreign Operations
  • “In terms of an overall budget that is trying to defend American interests and advance American values, I don’t see how it makes sense in an increasingly difficult and contested world to unilaterally withdraw support from vital allies who have chosen us and our values and our side in a contest of ideas with Russia, China, and others.” Subcommittee on State Foreign Operations
  • “I really hope that we will work together to advance human rights, to advance diplomacy, to advance development through this budget.” Subcommittee on State Foreign Operations

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL):

  • “And yet when it comes to a world that is plagued by famine and problems we face, we’re just saying we really don’t need money to solve problems.  It turns out my experience in life is you don’t solve a problem by throwing money at it unless the problem is lack of money, and when it comes to the poorest people on earth it’s lack of money, lack of investments in these people and in their lives.  And I take a look at some of things being suggested here and I am embarrassed.  I am at the policy of this country now when it comes to accepting refugees of the world.” Subcommittee on State Foreign Operations
  • “It just doesn’t work, Mr. Secretary, for us to walk away from our global responsibility and then to hurt those who are accepting much more than others.” Subcommittee on State Foreign Operations
  • “They [Jordan] don’t have have enough water to accommodate all these refugees and we’re going to cut the funding?” Subcommittee on State Foreign Operations

Sen. Van Hollen (D-MD):

  • “Part of your budget calls for a 27% reduction to the contributions to international organizations and those mandatory contributions, many of them go to fund the IAEA, which has indicated that they need those resources to verify Iranian compliance with the nuclear agreement.” Subcommittee on State Foreign Operations

Rep. James Langevin (D-RI):

  • “I believe that the value of our American power projection lies in our diverse and flexible abilities beyond traditional warfighting domains. Today these strengths are jeopardized by the administration’s short sighted budget proposal which fails to recognize the overlapping impacts of these varied interests. For example, underfunding the State Department will strain US efforts to maintain our present level of diplomatic and military influence across the globe…” House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Defense budget

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT):

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY):

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ):

  • “A budget is a statement of values and the administration has put forth a budget for the State Department that I don’t think shares American values.” Senate Foreign Relations
  • “Our support for these programs overseas is not solely in pursuit of lofty ideals. History has proven that over the long term, governments around the world with strong demo institutions that respect the rights of all citizens are more stable, more prosperous, more resilient to the tentacles of radicalization and stability, and would ultimately make better partners for the United States.” Senate Foreign Relations

Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL):

  • “President Trump’s budget is both morally and fiscally irresponsible, using smoke and mirrors to make false claims about its real fiscal impact. It also makes us less safe, cutting critical anti-terrorism programs—which hurts cities like Orlando—and slashing State Department funding during a perilous time in the world. This budget especially punishes children and families, seniors in nursing homes, college students with debt, families that rely on Planned Parenthood for life-saving health care, communities that need better roads and bridges, and all of us who depend on clean air and water.” [Murphy Statement 5/23/17]

Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-NV):

  • “In 2013 you [Sec. Mattis] said yourself that if you don’t fund the State Department fully then I need to buy more ammunition, ultimately. We know that the President’s budget slashes funding for the State Department and foreign aid about 32%… Prevention is 60 times less costly than war and post conflict costs.” House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Defense budget

Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA):

  • “Moreover, this budget request utterly fails the American people by calling for inconceivably large cuts to domestic programs that keep our country strong, in order to fund massive tax cuts to the wealthy. We will not be safer if we cut programs that keep our population healthy, educated, and prepared to serve in the military. We will not be safer if we kneecap our citizens’ chances for broad-based economic opportunity by cutting basic research, CDC and NIH funding, and the safety net. We will not be safer if we de-fund diplomacy and development, which are often the least expensive methods of achieving our national security objectives. By doing so, we would end up with fewer allies and larger problems in all the places that we fight.” HASC Statement

Rep. Cole (R-OK):

  • “Quite frankly, I associate myself with some of my Democratic colleagues’ remarks; if we don’t get to a good number in the non-defense area, we will inevitably end up doing something that people on both sides of the aisle don’t want to do and that is present you [Mattis] the kind of dilemma that you  have outlined here.” House Approps (DoD) Hearing

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN):

  • “What I appreciate is what you’re doing today is bringing forth the debate that we’ve needed to have for a long time and that is not focusing on everything we can do, but what we should be doing as a nation.” Senate Foreign Relations

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC):

  • “[the Trump budget is] radical and reckless when it comes to soft power” Sen. Approps Hearing
  • “I think this budget request is radical and reckless when it comes to soft power and I look forward to working with you, Mr. Secretary to finding a better budget and also a better State Department.” Subcommittee on State Foreign Operations
  • “I believe after 42 trips to Iraq and Afghanistan we are never going to win this war by killing terrorists alone, that there has to be a soft power connection.” Subcommittee on State Foreign Operations
  • “You’re going to have a hard time convincing me that soft power can stand a 29% cut.” Subcommittee on State Foreign Operations
  • “All I can say given the threats that I see, now is not the time to decrease embassy security funding unless you’re going to really close a lot of embassies, and I’m not so sure now is the time to be closing a lot of embassies.” Subcommittee on State Foreign Operations
  • “So you have famine and you have man made wars and disasters, look what we’re doing with assistance.  We’re cutting it at a time when disaster needs assistance.” Subcommittee on State Foreign Operations
  • “This is just really the wrong message to our friends [like Georgia] and certainly the wrong message to Russia.  I am at a loss of why we would cut aid to Georgia given what Russia is doing in the region [Afghanistan] now. ” Subcommittee on State Foreign Operations
  • “ISIS.  You’re going to beat them militarily but if you don’t have a plan for the day after you’re going to lose again.”
  • “Defeating ISIS permanently has to have a hold-and-build strategy.” Subcommittee on State Foreign Operations
  • GRAHAM: “Do you believe, as General Mattis and other generals, that soft power is an integral part of our national security strategy.”
    • TILLERSON: “Without question.”
  • “But I just don’t believe a 29% reduction is ever going to make sense given the threats we face.  I think this budget will cost influence, it will put lives at risk, and it will be seen as retreat.  That’s why I can’t support it.” Subcommittee on State Foreign Operations

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY):

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL):

  • “We’ve got to do better, we’ve got to get more bang for our buck in terms of money we invest in foreign aid and foreign engagement. I’m a big believer in foreign engagement because it certainly has paid extraordinary dividends and it’s always important to remind people when it comes to foreign aid, it’s less than one percent of the budget…and it’s brought real successes.” Senate Foreign Relations
June 22, 2017