News & Politics

Military Loans Instead of Grants? What a Concept

F18 fighter jets on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Another joy of having a real businessman in the White House instead of just another politician:

President Donald Trump’s budget proposal this week will include provisions to end many foreign military grants administered by the State Department and replace them with loans, a move that could affect up to $1 billion in aid to dozens of countries if Congress approves, U.S. officials said.

An internal State Department memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal names Pakistan, Tunisia, Lebanon, Ukraine, Colombia, Philippines and Vietnam as among countries that could be affected.

Typically, the State Department’s Office of Security Assistance receives about $6 billion to dispense as military aid grants. That sum includes $3.1 billion for Israel, about $350 million for Jordan and about $1.3 billion for Egypt. Those grants will be preserved in the 2018 budget, officials said.

Pakistan, which usually receives about $265 million in grant assistance, will see that number go down to about $100 million under the new budget, officials said. Most other countries will see their assistance converted from grants to loans. The grants have allowed countries to buy U.S. equipment such as ammunition, vehicles, protective equipment and naval vessels.

What a good idea. The United States has no special relationship with Pakistan, Ukraine et al., so let them pay for themselves or manufacture their own equipment — which of course they can’t. Eventually, Israel will have to be weaned from the American teat as well, although at least there we can argue that we have a moral and strategic obligation to Israel to maintain its status as an ally and watchtower in the middle east. Ditto, to a lesser extent, Jordan, which plays an unsung dangerous game as one of our least-appreciated Arab allies. About Egypt, the less said the better.

Already, the naysayers are out in force — anonymously, as usual.

Congressional officials, along with current and former U.S. officials, said a key concern is that eliminating the military-grant program would cause countries to look to U.S. rivals, such as Russia and China. The internal State Department memo outlines what officials see as the likely effects of cuts.

“Without such assistance, partners will likely either not develop/sustain those capabilities, or may turn to other countries (e.g., Russia, China) to assist them in developing them,” the memo says.

The internal memo says most countries offered loans are unlikely to take them. “Converting FMF grants to a loan support mechanism will not assist the vast majority of countries that receive this support, since they would not desire to take out, or would not qualify for an international loan,” the memo says.

So what? The same effect can be achieved by having the federal government buy weapons directly from American manufactures and then either use them ourselves or dump them in the sea.