By Nicole Gaouette Updated 9:57 PM ET, Mon February 27, 2017
Report: Massive cuts at State Department 02:20
Washington (CNN)More than 120 retired generals and admirals signed a letter Monday pushing back on the White House’s proposal to make major cuts to diplomacy and development.
Retired Gen. David Petraeus, a former CIA director, and retired Adm. James Stavridis, the former NATO supreme allied commander, are among the former three- and four-star generals who wrote that State Department funding is “critical to keeping America safe.” They sent the letter to congressional leaders, two Cabinet officials and the White House national security adviser.
President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal would increase military spending by about $54 billion dollars, with administration officials telling CNN they would cut funding elsewhere by a similar amount this year, in large part by targeting the Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department.
“The State Department, USAID, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Peace Corps and other development agencies are critical to preventing conflict and reducing the need to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way,” the generals wrote.
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They went on to quote a 2013 remark by Defense Secretary James Mattis while commander of US Central Command: “If you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.”
Foreign aid makes up about 1% of the federal budget and is seen by most military and foreign policy experts as an excellent investment in US national security interests.