Secretary of State George P. Shultz said today that tentative cuts made by Congress in State Department and foreign assistance budgets represent "a tragedy for United States foreign policy" that would sap U.S. influence around the world.
Shultz, en route home from a 17-day trip including the Tokyo summit and visits to South Korea and the Philippines, said he may have to "drop everything else" to rescue the foreign affairs budget from the congressional ax.
Speaking to reporters as his U.S. Air Force plane traveled from Hawaii to California, Shultz said the initial ceilings imposed by the Senate and House budget actions would require closing many U.S. diplomatic posts abroad and sharp cutbacks in U.S. aid that would create an international perception that "the United States is withdrawing from the world."
Shultz seemed particularly irate at big cutbacks voted by congressional committees in the unprecedented $4 billion program for improving the security of U.S. embassies against terrorist attacks.
The administration asked for $1.4 billion in fiscal 1987 for the embassy security program, which includes major alterations or new construction at many posts deemed vulnerable. This sum was cut to $491 million by Senate action and $1.1 billion by House committee action, according to Shultz.
"One of these days there'll be another tragedy at some embassy" and lawmakers will accuse him of being "derelict" because people were killed, Shultz said. But he will point the finger back, he said, and tell Congress, "You are derelict in your duty, because you wouldn't appropriate the money to provide for the security of people who are living constantly under threat."
Shultz's aides emphasized his statement about the responsibility for potential cuts in the embassy program by handing out copies of the above quotation following his airborne news conference.
Shultz had expressed increasing concern about budget cuts during his Asian trip and had a long telephone discussion from Manila with Rep. William H. Gray III, chairman of the House Budget Committee, during the committee markup.
In the foreign aid portion of the budget being fashioned on Capitol Hill, the probable full funding of $5.3 billion in proposed assistance to Israel and Egypt would leave room for little or no aid under a sharply reduced ceiling for large parts of Africa, South America and the Caribbean, and may require drastic cutbacks in the U.S. contribution to multilateral banks and international organizations, according to Shultz.
This "will be felt everywhere" in ways damaging to the U.S. position in the world, Shultz said.