Ana Swanson writes: Candidate Trump promised to boost American exports. But President Trump’s budget proposes to eliminate a small agency that does just that.
The U.S. Trade and Development Agency, which links U.S. exporters with development projects in emerging economies, was one of 19 agencies that the White House proposed eliminating entirely in the budget it released last week. The budget blueprint, which would have to be approved by Congress before it becomes law, did not provide reasoning behind the cuts.
In a federal government made up of giant agencies — like the 40,000-employee Commerce Department — the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) looks like a gnat. It has just 50 or so full-time employees and a current annual budget of $60 million — about as much as the Secret Service reportedly asked for to cover protection and travel costs for the new administration next year.
But the agency claims a hefty return on its investment. It says it generates $85 in exports for every $1 spent on its programming, and directly boosted U.S. exports by $3 billion last year.
“Any private sector business person would appreciate that as a phenomenal return of investment. I’m baffled, and I have to believe [the administration] just doesn’t understand what it is the agency does,” said Lee Zak, the director of USTDA under Obama who left her post Jan. 20.
“Everything about the agency is consistent with the administration’s priorities and as a matter of fact it should be scaled up, not eliminated,” she said. [Continue reading…]