It seems that the Obama administration by leading with a budget proposal that recommends modest cuts, is laying the groundwork for negotiations with Republicans in Congress over somewhat bigger cuts at the end of the day, if in fact a budget is to be passed and signed into law for the new fiscal year. In the big picture, the overall goal of rebuilding USAID and generally elevating Diplomacy and Development as part of an overall “national security strategy” is at least deferred until some years down the road when the fiscal tradeoffs might seem easier or less politically expensive. On the other hand, we see here “American incrementalism” at its finest on both sides. We don’t spend a lot on foreign assistance, relatively speaking now, and we will keep doing most of things we are doing now in the same basic way we are doing them, with a very few programs eliminated and overall budgets squeezed some.
Regarding the current fiscal year, now almost half over, Josh Rogin writes at The Cable blog at Foreign Policy:
Of course, nobody knows what the fiscal 2011 funding levels will be, because congressional Democrats failed to pass an appropriations bill before the fiscal year began on Oct. 1. The House Republican leadership released its overall allocations for the next CR on Feb. 11, which would provide a total of $44.9 billion for the State Department and foreign operations for fiscal 2011.
A news release by House Appropriations State and Foreign Ops subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-Texas) praised the $44.9 billion number and said it was a reduction of $3.8 billion, or 8 percent from total 2010 appropriations and a reduction of $11.7 billion, or 21 percent, from the president’s 2011 budget request. Granger and GOP congressional leaders are promising to cut Obama’s 2012 request even further.
“The reductions made to my section of the bill are a good start. As long as I am Chairwoman of the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, I will ensure that our foreign aid is not used as a stimulus bill for foreign countries. This bill is about our national security and the funding levels reflect that,” Granger’s statement read.
The new continuing resolution still has a long way to go before it becomes law. But if enacted as the House GOP leadership wants, it would slash U.S. funding for international financial institutions, eliminate U.S. contributions to several international funds, and cut allocations for global health and childhood survival programs by $784 million compared with fiscal 2010. USAID would also face a $121 million cut to its operating budget as compared with fiscal 2010 under the current House GOP plan.
Funding for international financial institutions was hit especially hard in the GOP bill, with a cut of $892 million from fiscal year 2010 levels. Funding for global health and childhood survival programs also took a hit, losing $784 million compared with 2010.
“Targeted cuts to the bill were partially made by rescinding funds from appropriations that remain unspent, freezing federal employee pay raises at the State Department, not funding programs that require authorizations, scaling back contributions to the United Nations and other international organizations, and eliminating wasteful, duplicative and ineffective programs,” Granger said.
The lawmakers proposed keeping aid to Egypt and Israel intact. However, the continuing resolution would cut off foreign aid to the Lebanese armed forces unless Secretary of State Hillary Clinton certifies such funding is in the United States’ national security interest.
Update: Here is the link from today’s special briefing on the State Department’s 2012 Budget Request with Deputy Secretary Thomas Nides.. One of the more interesting things here is the innovation of splitting the State Department budget into a $47B “core budget” and “[f]or the first time, OMB is presenting our war funding as they do with the Department of Defense, in a separate account called OCO, Overseas Contingency Operations. This will allow for a full transparency and a unified approach for the costs we believe are not part of our core budget. The State and USAID OCO request for 2012 is $8.7 billion . . . “