Top US diplomat John Kerry warns against deep budget cuts
Across-the-board cuts, known as "sequestration," set to begin on March 1, would take $2.6 billion out of the budget for the State Department and USAID, America's development assistance agency, Kerry said.
"Cuts of this magnitude would seriously impair our ability to execute our vital missions of national security, diplomacy and development," he wrote in a letter to Senator Barbara Mikulski, chairwoman of Senate Committee on Appropriations.
The warning from Kerry, who took over from predecessor Hillary Clinton 10 days ago, follows similarly stark alerts from Pentagon chief Leon Panetta and other Obama administration officials over cuts that will take place unless lawmakers and President Barack Obama reach an agreement to stop them.
The worst of the planned cuts might not come into force, as lawmakers try to find ways to avoid severe cost reductions.
Democrats in the Senate on Thursday rallied around a $110 billion tax increase and spending cut plan that would postpone the sequestration cuts. The proposal is expected to be shot down by Republicans, but some of its components could be included in future budget negotiations.
Sequestration would cut $200 million from humanitarian assistance, more than $400 million for global health funds to fight AIDS and child deaths, and more than $500 million in security assistance, Kerry said in his letter, dated Feb. 11 and
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