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"The Fulbright Program is facing an existential threat”

The US Fulbright Alumni Association has launched the "Stand for Fulbright" campaign, because "the Fulbright Program is facing an existential threat: The Administration has submitted a budget that would result in a 47% cut to the Fulbright Program for Fiscal Year 2018."

I predicted in a Tweet in February that Donald would cut the Fulbright budget. For obvious reasons. The goals of the Fulbright program and the current US administration are polar opposites. From Senator Fulbright’s remarks on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Fulbright Program in  1986:

Perhaps the greatest power of such intellectual exchange is to convert nations into peoples and to translate ideologies into human aspirations. To continue to build more weapons, especially more exotic and unpredictable machines of war, will not build trust and confidence. The most sensible way to do that is to engage the parties in joint ventures for mutually constructive and beneficial purposes, such as trade, medical research, and development of cheaper energy sources. To formulate and negotiate agreements of this kind requires well-educated people leading or advising our government. To this purpose the Fulbright program is dedicated.

More surprising was that President Obama proposed a 13% budget cut in 2014. The "Save Fulbright" campaign from alumni was successful then. The funding was even increased by $1.8 million.

But will a campaign work with Trump and a House and Senate with Republican majorities? I am very sceptical, but the Washington Post points out:

Previous administrations have tried to pare back the Fulbright budget but never succeeded, in large part because it enjoys broad bipartisan support in Congress.

“President Trump’s budget is a blueprint,” said a statement by Sen. John Boozman, a Republican from Fulbright’s home state of Arkansas who supported a funding increase the program received this year. “Congress has the power of the purse and I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Budget and Appropriations Committees as the FY18 process gets underway.”

Among the more effective lobbyists for the Fulbrights are the three members of Congress who themselves are alumni.

The US Fulbright Association as a petition, an advocacy toolkit and, of course, a hashtag. Interestingly, one of the campaign arguments is the benefit for local economies. "Returning Fulbright participants bring expertise, innovation, and global connections to economies all over the U.S. International visitors spend their grants locally, putting millions of dollars directly American communities." Yes, it's important to use those arguments that resonate the most with politicians.

Endnote: Last August I received an invite to celebrate 70th anniversary of the Fulbright program in DC in November 2016. I joked on the German Fulbright mailing list that there would not be a Fulbright program to celebrate if Donald would be inaugurated in November rather than January.

In 2011, a few days after Bin Laden's death, the 2011 Fulbright-Hays dissertation fellowships were cancelled due to budget cuts. 5,8 Mio US-$. I wrote at that time the blog post Tomahawk Missiles Instead of Fulbright Scholars:  

The same amount of money buys you less than four Tomahawk missiles. The United States fired more than 190 Tomahawk missiles against Libyan air defenses and command centers in the first ten days of the war. Besides, many national security hawks doubt whether the Libya mission is advancing US national security interests and the US Congress has not yet expressed approval of the war either.

I commented then that the post-9/11 era is over as funding for Fulbright-Hays was increased after 9/11 as the US realized the need to improve non-Western foreign language proficiency and areas studies. The inward looking trend has not started with Trump.

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