The Washington Post

Budget season approaches, agency “fact sheets” abound

A Navy jazz band concert at George Mason University in 2010. (MU1 Jeff Snavely)

For example, we got a “fact sheet” from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) entitled “Ten Things You Should Know About the State Department.”

“We create American jobs,” the handout says, and “directly support 20 million U.S. jobs” by promoting open markets and such. They also provide emergency aid to Americans abroad, try to “make the world a safer place,” work to improve global health, development and the like.

The department has put out this information in the past but it doesn’t seem to get through. The polls consistently show strong majorities of Americans favor cutting aid programs and think foreign aid is up to 25 percent of the budget. (Actually, the cost for State and AID combined is about 1 percent of the budget, the fact sheet says.)

Former secretary of defense Robert Gates used to draw laughs when he quoted former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice as saying that “we have more people in military bands than they have in the Foreign Service.” The bands cost an estimated $500 million a year.

So maybe if the foreign service officers practiced and got better at playing tubas and timbales, they could wow visiting congressional delegations and boost the budget?

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.


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