The United States may cut the amount of military aid it gives to African and Latin American militaries as it tries to cut US$400 billion from its military budget, according to Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen.
Bloomberg reports Mullen as saying that foreign military aid may be given a lower priority while spending on personnel, current conflicts and weapons projects is given a higher priority.
Mullen described military aid as “preventative investments” and called the billion dollars of military aid given to Egypt every year as a “relatively inexpensive investment.”
President Barack Obama has called for the military to cut US$400 billion off its budget in order to help ease the United States’ budget deficit. The US deficit is now running at about US$1.4 trillion this fiscal year that ends on September 30.
However, the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defence Review last year called for the militaries of allies to be strengthened.
Last week outgoing US defence secretary Robert Gates warned the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation that it faced “collective military irrelevance” unless the alliance spent more money on defence.
Gates separately said that shrinking America’s defence budget could challenge global US leadership. “As we make the tough choices needed to put this country’s finances in order … there will undoubtedly be calls to shrink America’s role in the world, for us to sharply reduce our international commitments and the size and capabilities of our military,” he said.
“The lessons of history tell us we must not diminish our ability or our determination to deal with the threats and challenges on the horizon,” Gates said.
The US’s Foreign Military Financing programme provides loans and grants to assist countries in purchasing weapons and equipment produced in the United States, as well as acquiring services and training.
Last year the United States spent an estimated US$5.42 billion on Foreign Military Financing, according to the US Department of State. This year spending on military aid is projected to reach US$5.47 billion. The biggest recipients last year included Israel (US$2.7 billion), Egypt (US$1.3 billion), Jordan (US$300 million), Mexico (US$265 million) and Pakistan (US$238 million).
Last year sub-Saharan Africa received approximately US$18.7 million in Foreign Military Financing and is projected to receive US$23.7 million this year. (Egypt received US$1.3 billion, Morocco received US$9 million and Tunisia received US$15 million). The sub-Saharan African countries that received the most foreign military assistance last year included the Democratic Republic of Congo with US$1.45 million, Djibouti with US$2 million, Liberia with US$6 million, and Nigeria with US$1.35 million.
Mullen did not say which countries might face cuts in military aid.