Appropriators cut $8 billion from State Department programs

Appropriators cut $8 billion from State Department programs

As part of the budget deal struck to avoid a government shutdown, the White House has agreed to reduce the State Department and foreign operations budgets for the rest of fiscal 2011 by $8 billion. Meanwhile, the fight over the president’s fiscal 2012 budget is already underway.

White House senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer wrote on the White House blog that the administration had agreed to take $8 billion from the international affairs fiscal 2011 budget. "These significant cuts to the State Department and foreign assistance will mean we will not meet some of the ambitious goals set for the nation in the President’s budget," he wrote. The details of those cuts were left to House and Senate appropriations staffs to work out, and were released Tuesday morning.

The biggest cut is to the State Department’s Economic Support Fund, which will get $1.8 billion less than the president requested. The Millennium Challenge Corporation will see its fiscal 2011 request reduced by $380 million and contributions to the U.N. and other international affairs organizations will be reduced by $304 million from the president’s request.

House State and Foreign Operations ranking Democrat Nita Lowey (D-NY) praised the budget deal and said it was much better than the original bill (H.R.1) passed by the House Republicans, which would have cut the overall State and foreign operations budget by 16 percent.

"National security is a three-legged stool of defense, diplomacy, and development," Lowey said in a statement.  "H.R. 1 would have chopped two of these legs at the knees. I am pleased the agreement reached by the White House and Congressional negotiators would restore many of the ill-advised cuts passed by the House of Representatives in February."

Other programs that will lose large portions of their requested funding include the operating expenses for USAID ($122 million less than the request), the Civilian Stabilization Initiative (-$144 million), the office of the Global AIDS Coordinator (-$155 million), the Peace Corps (-$71 million), the International Clean Technology Fund (-$215 million), the International Strategic Climate Fund (-$185 million), and Worldwide Security Protection (-$61 million).

The United States Institute of Peace will be able to continue operating until the end of the fiscal year Oct. 1, facing only a $7 million budget cut.

The impact of these cuts on the respective offices is even more severe because the 2011 fiscal year is half over, meaning that the cuts must be made before the end of the fiscal year Oct. 1.

Meanwhile, the budget battle for next year is already heating up. If the GOP leadership has its way, the current State and foreign operations budget cuts are just the beginning. The Paul Ryan (R-WI) budget would reduce international affairs spending by 29 percent in fiscal 2012 from the president’s 2011 request; the Republican Study Committee has already proposed the drastic defunding of USAID.

The actual bills for fiscal 2012 are being written over the next couple of weeks. As part of that process, the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are tasked with sending their recommendations to their respective budget committee chairmen, to help them decide how much funding should be allocated to each part of the budget.

SFRC Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) sent his recommendations to Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) last month. His letter (PDF), obtained by The Cable, calls for fully funding the president’s $53 billion fiscal 2012 request for international affairs.

"I realize that we are facing a very difficult budget climate with significant domestic economic challenges and rising federal deficits," Kerry wrote. "But at this moment we can ill afford not to invest critical resources in support of our foreign policy priorities."

Last month, we brought you the documents submitted by House Foreign Affairs Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), which called for the elimination of over a dozen State Department and foreign aid programs. She pledged to fight "locality pay" increases for Foreign Service officers and recommended cutting off assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces, the West Bank and Gaza, the Asia Foundation, the U.S. Institute of Peace, and the East-West Center.

Kerry defended funding for those institutions specifically. "Curtailment of preventive diplomacy initiatives today could well necessitate more costly responses in the future to regional conflict and humanitarian crises," he wrote.