100+ retired generals warn against cutting diplomacy budget

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More than 100 retired U.S. generals are pushing back against a White House proposal to cut nondefense spending to offset a planned hike in the military budget.

The group of 121 retired three- and four-star flag and general officers from all branches of the armed services sent a letter to congressional leaders defending spending on diplomacy, as well as the military. The letter responded to President Trump’s request for an additional $54 billion in spending for the Department of Defense, a request that also included commensurate spending cuts for nonmilitary purposes.

Among the group of prominent generals who signed the letter are Gen. Keith Alexander, former director of the NSA under President Bush and President Obama; Gen. John R. Allen, commander of the NATO International Security Force under Obama; Gen. Bryan Doug Brown, commander of U.S. Special Ops Command under Bush.

The letter, which was sent to House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, quoted Defense Secretary James Mattis who, as commander of U.S. Central Command, said, “If you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.”

“You need to have a mix of hard and soft power, and you can’t rely on hard power alone,” retired Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis told Fox News, siding with the generals' message. “We can’t forget that a lot of warfare is prevented if we apply the soft power effectively.”

Maginnis told Fox News that the combination of hard and soft power relies on the budget and the transferring of funds from the State Department and other parts of the federal government.

“The State Department is about diplomacy and building bridges and the Defense Department is about breaking those bridges down when the enemies threaten our national interest,” Maginnis told Fox News. “So while taking money from the State Department may be a good budget decision, it is dangerous if we send the wrong message. We don’t want to be known only as the country carrying the stick and not putting out our hand in diplomacy to work with those who need assistance.”

Trump said this week, “We’re going to spend a lot more money on military,” referring to Monday’s $54 billion figure. However, Trump also cited an additional “$30 billion more than that.” Fox News contributor Gen. Jack Keane said that $30 billion is necessary. He cited a January "white paper" by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, detailing a $640 billion base defense budget in FY2018 and an additional $430 billion above current defense plans over the next five years.

“I think more money is absolutely necessary,” Keane told Fox News. “Our viewers need to understand how seriously depleted our military has been over the past couple of years – we don’t have the credible deterrent we used to have.”