Ryan's budget, Breen said, would "cripple" U.S. military troops' in Afghanistan because the conservative lawmakers "want to put two guys in that Humvee--they want to take those two guys from State and USAID out."
One senior Democratic congressional aide called steep military spending cuts and foreign affairs cuts "absolutely the wrong approach."
Proponents of international programs have a "narrative problem," the senior aide says, "because the American people seem to think foreign affairs spending is something like 40 percent of the federal budget. It's less than 1 percent."
Smaller international affairs budgets leaves Washington unable to increase its diplomatic and development work in places like Africa, where China is busy making big business deals and new friends.
"We're ceding the ground to China," the senior aide says. "These kinds of investments matter."
Ryan vetted his spending plan with Republican congressional leaders and the party's leading presidential candidates, Adams says. "What Ryan is doing, presumably with the support of Republican leadership and the candidates, is planting a political flag," Adams says. "Public opinion polls say most Americans say defense budgets should be cut. … It's a sign the campaign will be run on the line that Democrats are soft on defense."