Last month, the Trump Administration produced a budget request that chops deeply into critical diplomacy and public health programs. The reductions are strongly opposed by medical and national security experts and many Republicans in Congress because they lack a basis in evidence. Where is the evidence supporting these cuts and what would it mean for North Carolina and the United States? How did it come to this?
As chief executive officers of nonprofit research organizations headquartered in Durham and Research Triangle Park, we employ thousands of North Carolinians. As partners to the federal government on programs key to America’s public health and national security, we are acutely aware of the nation’s debt and the need to safeguard taxpayer investments. Consequently, our cultures are dominated by accountability, performance, evidence and results.
In contrast, the FY 2018 budget request sets aside performance and evidence for indiscriminate cuts. This approach is shortsighted and harmful to America’s interests. Take the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Support from U.S. taxpayers allows NIH to focus on the nearly half of all Americans who have a chronic medical condition and the millions affected by Alzheimer's. It represents thousands of highly productive researchers, scientists and laboratories engaged in high-risk, high-reward work.
Equally concerning to us are the extraordinary cuts to development aid. There are three “Ds” to national security: development, diplomacy and defense. By cutting away at diplomacy and development, the administration removes two legs from the national security stool. Our military leaders know this is counter-productive. In a remarkable show of force, more than 120 retired generals and admirals warned Congress against cuts for their civilian counterparts on the frontlines, writing that while the military will lead the fight against terrorism on the battlefield, “it needs strong civilian partners in the battle against the drivers of extremism– lack of opportunity, insecurity, injustice, and hopelessness.”
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Many in Congress also get this. North Carolina’s Senator Thom Tillis recently joined Republicans and Democrats on a letter to the heads of Congressional budget committees urging robust funding for the international affairs budget. Writing about programs that represent less than 1 percent of federal spending, the Senators argued “the strategic tools that are essential to promoting our national security, building economic prosperity, furthering humanitarian and democratic principles, and demonstrating American values. At a time when we face multiple national security challenges around the world, deep cuts in this area would be shortsighted, counterproductive, and even dangerous.”
The Administration’s budget request marks an inflection point for the United States and North Carolina. The 60thanniversary of Research Triangle Park is just around the corner. Since its sleepy founding, we have grown into the nation’s most successful research park. The Park is powered by technology firms, world class universities, research and development organizations and public investments. We all believe strongly in the need for accountability, performance, evidence and results and the evidence is irrefutable that the programs we have supported in health, education, and economic development have produced results, advanced our national interests, and contributed to our security.
Our elected officials should reject the President’s budget blueprint and produce a spending plan that takes into account the evidence of what’s working.
Patrick Fine, MEd, is chief executive officer of FHI 360, a nonprofit human development organization based in Durham with more than 4,000 employees. Wayne Holden, Ph.D., is president and chief executive officer of RTI International, a 5,000 employee nonprofit research institute headquartered in Research Triangle Park.