Today, the Trump administration released their recommendations for unprecedented cuts of 28 percent for the Department of State, and significant but unspecified cuts to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). See page 33 of the administration’s budget. The outline suggests that the Fulbright Program will be funded at some level, but other funded programs may be dramatically cut. At this point there is no indication of cuts to the Office of Private Sector Exchange which includes our Summer Work Travel, Internship, and Trainee programs. The Alliance for International Exchange, which represents the international exchange industry, issued a press release warning that these cuts could do significant long term damage to US foreign diplomacy and national security. It is more important than ever that we clearly communicate the low cost and strong benefits of our international exchange programs. In doing so we will keep the following in mind:
• The administration’s budget is a set of recommendations to Congress. Although Congress will actively negotiate with the administration, Congress ultimately has the authority and responsibility to develop and pass a federal budget.
• The international community has already begun advocating for exchange funding. Spirit joined other members of The Alliance for International Exchange in meetings with 171 congressional offices on March 9th. We received many supportive comments from Hill offices during these meetings.
• There is already strong, bi-partisan congressional support for international exchange programs. In fact, leaders in the Senate and House have either rejected or voiced deep skepticism about making dramatic cuts to State’s budget.
• The budget details for ECA will be released later this spring, most likely in May when the entire budget is released. The 2018 budget is likely to be resolved sometime in the fall or early winter.
• There will be additional advocacy activities in the weeks and months to come through which we can all engage congressional offices. So stay tuned!
Our programs have the power to transform individual lives and make the world a safer place. We have a track record of reaching future leaders and delivering a positive experience in the USA. In fact, the State Department reports that 1 in 3 current world leaders have been on an exchange program in the United States. I am confident that those results will become clear over time and that we will successfully navigate these choppy waters.
Thank you for everything you do to make our international exchange programs successful,
Spirit Cultural Exchange