WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump’s budget announced Tuesday proposes steep cuts to former President Barack Obama’s signature counterterrorism training program, long criticized on Capitol Hill as too broad to be effective — but it maintains billions for dollars for train-and-equip efforts.
The $40 million is proposed as a means to "enhance the capacity of law enforcement to confront terrorist ideology and recruitment; and accelerate efforts to defeat ISIS, decimate a resurgent al-Qa’ida, and crack down on Iranian-sponsored terrorism," according to budget materials. Target countries may include Bangladesh, Cameroon, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Nigeria and Tunisia, among others.
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The Trump administration does propose $1.8 billion for a Counter-Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Train and Equip Fund — a continuation of three accounts consolidated in the 2017 budget Congress passed earlier this month. That fund is meant to support Iraqi government forces as they retake Mosul, Iraq, and vetted Syrian forces as they retake Raqqa, Syria, from the Islamic State group. The proposed funding is under the off-budget overseas contingency operations (OCO) account.
The White House's request includes $850 million for a new consolidated Security Cooperation fund to replace CTPF, which was transitioned in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act to a new, broader authority that includes counterterrorism, crisis response, border security and other security cooperation support to partner nations.
"Security Cooperation funds provide the ability to enable partner nations to deter and defeat existing and evolving terrorist and other transnational threats," budget materials state. "Training and equipping partner nations allows U.S. forces to be more readily available for other contingency operations, build better relationships with partners, and promote global security in a more cost effective manner."
"The counterterrorism partnerships fund was a dismal failure," one Senate aide said Tuesday. "That money can definitely be used in more effective ways."
The 2017 defense policy and appropriations bills moved the CTPF money into the DoD Operation and Maintenance Defense-Wide account under the heading "Security Cooperation," which made it available for a wide range of security cooperation activities, including counterterrorism. The intent, according to a congressional aide, was to increase transparency and sustainability of security cooperation funding rather than continuing the habit of creating new standalone "funds" every time a new emphasis area popped up.