WASHINGTON — A recent U.S. Senate report dismisses the Trump administration’s plans to kill U.S. subsidies for foreign allies to buy American-made weapons and replace the subsidies with a loans program.
The move came in a Senate Appropriations subcommittee report, which accompanied its version of the State Department spending bill. The State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee is led by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who is among lawmakers who have said transforming the Foreign Military Financing program would be detrimental to national security and the U.S. defense sector.
“The Committee does not support transitioning FMF assistance from grants to loans, as proposed in the President’s budget request,” the report reads. “The Committee notes that prior to the submission of the [president’s budget] no study was conducted on the impact of the proposal to the U.S. national security interest or the security and stability of allies and partners, including the loss of influence through increased arms sales by [China] and Russia to FMF grant recipients.”
Foreign Military Financing has largely taken the role of a grant given to U.S. allies to allow them to buy defense equipment. With the exception of Israel, all countries that receive FMF have to spend it on goods made in the United States, a boost for the domestic defense industry.
The subcommittee approved the bill last week with the full committee approving it days later. The bill would provide the State Department with roughly $51 billion, which is $10.6 billion more than the president’s budget request.
Altogether, the bill would allocate a total of $8.3 billion in international security assistance through the wartime funds, which are exempt from budget caps.
The report was marked by its broader rebuke of the administration’s foreign policy, which it said showed an “apparent doctrine of retreat.” It ripped the president’s budget request for a 30 percent cut to international affairs accounts.
“The lessons learned since September 11, 2001, include the reality that defense alone does not provide for American strength and resolve abroad,” the report reads. “Battlefield technology and firepower cannot replace diplomacy and development. The administration’s apparent doctrine of retreat, which also includes distancing the United States from collective and multilateral dispute resolution frameworks, serves only to weaken America’s standing in the world.”
The Senate Appropriations Committee also supports the establishment of a panel to coordinate security-sector assistance to partner-nation security forces. It’s a category of aid characterized by tangled bureaucracies and turf battles between the Department of Defense and State Department.
The report language directs the secretary of state and defense secretary to form a joint “State-DoD Security Sector Assistance Steering Committee” and inform Congress about the organization and objectives of the steering committee, “including personnel requirements and metrics for measuring progress in improving the management and oversight of such assistance.”
Joe Gould was the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He had previously served as Congress reporter.