In the coming days, Congress will vote on major spending legislation that will include funding cuts for foreign policy and defense programs.
Among the items on the chopping block is the United States Institute of Peace, a government-funded think tank devoted to furthering development and peace in the world.
In a world where North Korea has just conducted its sixth nuclear weapons test, individuals in Burma may be facing genocide, famine is occurring in South Sudan, and conflict is plaguing the Middle East, now is an inadvisable time to defund a think tank devoted to cultivating peace and addressing conflict in the world.
The Institute of Peace’s work alleviates strain on the U.S. government by conducting on-the-ground research to develop best practices in aid and development. It is a “do-tank” that puts policy into action.
The Heritage Foundation and the Institute of Peace work closely together, brainstorming solutions to religious freedom challenges, persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Burma, and extremism in Pakistan.
Religious freedom is a top priority for the Trump administration, and the Institute of Peace has a proven track record in working with people of all faiths to advance religious liberty abroad.
For example, Heritage and the Institute of Peace hosted a seminal event in January featuring Pakistani leader Bilawal Bhutto, son of assassinated former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Islamic extremists murdered Bhutto in 2007.
The event sought to elevate moderate Muslim voices and provide hope for a more prosperous and democratically free Pakistan.
The Heritage Foundation’s Jim Carafano, vice president for foreign and defense policy, and Lisa Curtis, former senior fellow for South Asia at The Heritage Foundation—now senior director for South and Central Asian affairs at the National Security Council—argue:
Programs that contribute directly to the vital U.S. goals of conflict prevention and peace building throughout the world, however, should be spared. Many such programs are run by the United States Institute of Peace.
There is, no doubt, a need to balance the federal budget and cut unnecessary programs. The Institute of Peace is not one of them. Congress should think carefully before defunding such a vital think tank.