For Immediate Release
Contact: Oriana Pina
Washington, DC – The Trump administration released its budget calling for an unprecedented cut of 28 percent to the Department of State, and significant but unspecified cuts to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). ECA funds and oversees a wide range of critical international exchange programs which enable people-to-people diplomacy.
“The cuts to the State Department budget recommended by the administration, if enacted, would greatly harm our nation’s public diplomacy efforts and, ultimately, our national security and economy,” said Ilir Zherka, Executive Director of the Alliance for International Exchange.
Educational and cultural exchange programs have been a critical component of our national security policy since the end of World War II. Often described as part of our “soft power” strategy, these programs bring internationals to the United States for short term, full immersion stays that range from weeks to an entire academic year. Students, professors, emerging political leaders, and others receive grants to visit the United States. Internationals strengthen their English, experience our democratic values, and develop deep ties to our country. Exchange alumni enable closer relationships between America and other countries. In fact, the State Department reports that 1 in 3 current world leaders have been on an exchange program in the United States. In another Department study, 92 percent of participants from Muslim majority countries reported having a more favorable view of the United States.
The vast majority of the ECA’s budget is spent in the United States. Grants from ECA fund travel, lodging, and meals at U.S. businesses. The grants are administered by American nonprofit organizations that employee thousands of people here and enrich the lives of millions across the country. This investment creates the conditions for international students to come to the United States. Over a million such students studied here in 2015, adding over $32 billion dollars to our economy and supporting over 400,000 jobs.
“Defense Secretary James Mattis has previously suggested that the way to reduce the possibility of war is to increase people-to-people diplomacy,” added Zherka. “We should heed his advice. We applaud Senators Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, as well as House leaders who have already rejected deep cuts to the State Department’s budget. The Alliance urges Congress to strengthen our national security and economy by supporting robust funding for international exchange programs.”