Automatic spending cuts in the US from March 1 could impact the visa processing time by the American missions in countries like India and China, the State Department has said.
"We are concerned that if sequestration happens, we could have major setbacks in really the herculean effort we've made to reduce wait times," the State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell, told media persons.
In recent years, the State Department has had a huge influx of hiring of new consulate officers in countries like India, China and Brazil, where lots of middle class folks who are trying to come to the US for the first time and visit and spend their money.
"It's good for the American economy," Ventrell said, adding that sequestration would have an impact on these consular services.
"It is impossible to say exactly how it would impact in each individual country.
"And indeed, as we get closer to this, I'll see what more I can provide for you on sequester would impact this Department, but there's no doubt in my mind and those who look at this closely that one of the areas that there'll be an impact on, obviously, is our ability provide consular services," he said.
"So we are concerned about that and it took a lot of effort to get us to reduce those wait times, and a lot of new hiring, a lot of new staff," Ventrell said in response to a question.
On March 1, an $85 billion budget cuts known as ‘sequester’ goes into effect. They will wipe out a host of federal programmes in everything from national parks to the Pentagon to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Earlier this month, the Secretary of State John Kerry, in a letter to the Congress had said that the spending cuts could have devastating impact on the US foreign policy particularly at a time of troublesome developments in the Middle East and North Africa, besides seriously undermining its efforts to promote American businesses in countries like India, Brazil and Mexico.
The automatic budgetary deductions would not only have an impact on its visa processing time overseas and thus reduce the flow of foreign tourists to the US, but also cuts of this magnitude, Kerry warned.
He said it would "compromise our ability to help US companies capture opportunities abroad in growing markets such as India, Brazil, and Mexico, with trade agreements, investment treaties, direct advocacy, and other diplomatic tools that open markets and ensure a level playing field."
A budgetary cut of the magnitude of $2.6 billion he said, would seriously impair State Department's ability to execute its vital missions of national security, diplomacy, and development.
"Our ability to influence and shape world events, protect US interests, increase job-creating opportunities for American businesses, prevent conflict, protect our citizens overseas, and defeat terrorism before it reaches our shores depends on day-to-day diplomatic engagement and increased prosperity worldwide," Kerry wrote.
"These cuts would severely impair our efforts to enhance the security of US government facilities overseas and ensure the safety of the thousands of US diplomats serving the
American people abroad," he said in his letter dated February 11.
Furthermore, the Department would also have to cut contributions to international peacekeeping operations, efforts to counter terrorism and prevent loose and dangerous
weapons from falling into the wrong hands, and support for law enforcement and counter-narcotics efforts, including efforts to dismantle drug trafficking networks in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, he said.