THE US Senate last week finally broke Sen. Jesse Helms's logjam holding up the State Department authorization bill, two arms-control treaties, and 18 ambassadorial appointments. The Foreign Relations Committee chairman was holding out for elimination of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, the US Information Agency, and the Agency for International Development.
The compromise calls for $1.7 billion in cuts from the State Department and the three agencies, but sensibly preserves the agencies. The ambassadorships were approved, and work on ratification of the START II nuclear-weapons pact and the Chemical Weapons Convention now moves forward (although not fast enough). The Senate must still reconcile the State bill with a House version eliminating the three agencies (which we oppose).
Helms says he wants to save the taxpayers money. He's looking in the wrong place. The foreign-affairs agencies are some of the government's leanest; a portion of their unnecessary spending results from "Buy American" mandates from Congress.
Meanwhile, morale among foreign-policy professionals is in the basement. State and the three agencies are shedding personnel in near-unprecedented numbers. Many of these are the country's most experienced career diplomats, on whom the government has spent millions in language, area, and functional training. Losing them is the biggest waste of all.