1.    House Passes FY13 Continuing Resolution

Following conclusion of the Republican and Democratic conventions, lawmakers returned to Washington this week with the primary order of business being passage of a six-month Continuing Resolution (CR) that will delay FY13 appropriations decisions until early next year.  The House approved the measure (H.J. Res. 117) yesterday by a vote of 329-91, with 70 Republicans and 21 Democrats in opposition.  The bill now moves to the Senate, where passage is expected next week.

The CR – which lasts through March 31, 2013 – is largely “clean” in that it does not include new, controversial policy riders and largely maintains spending at current (FY12) levels, with a few exceptions related to defense and homeland security.  It funds discretionary spending at $1.047 trillion, the level adopted for FY13 last year as part of the Budget Control Act and the amount the Senate used in drafting its appropriations measures for FY13.  The House had used a lower mark for FY13 – $1.028 trillion – but agreed to approve a CR at the higher Senate level.  Because the $1.047 trillion cap is slightly higher than current levels, the CR allows appropriations accounts to grow by 0.6%.

The CR provides a total of $55.2 billion for International Affairs, slightly higher than the $54.9 billion current level and slightly higher than either the House or Senate FY13 appropriations recommendations.  The “base” appropriations level grows about $300 million above current levels.  The Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account – war-related funding for Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and a few other strategic targets – continues at current $11.2 billion levels.  The CR gives the Administration a degree of flexibility in managing the OCO account, allowing the State Department to apply funding allocations for activities in the Frontline States at the FY13 request if they differ from FY12 amounts.

FY13 CR:  Snapshot for International Affairs Accounts

 

FY12 Enacted 

FY13 Request 

FY13 House Appropriation 

FY13 Senate Appropriation 

FY13 CR

Base

$43.7b

$48.0b

$41.4b

$51.6b

$44.0b

OCO

$11.2b

$8.2b

$8.2b

$2.3b

$11.2b

TOTAL

$54.9b

$56.2b

$49.6b

$53.9b

$55.2b

The composition of “base” and OCO funding levels in the CR, however, is quite different than the FY13 House or Senate appropriations bills and is something that will be need to be resolved whenever FY13 appropriations bills are finalized early next year.

During yesterday’s debate in the House, Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) made clear that appropriators will try to finalize and move individual appropriations bills in the lame duck session after the election.  “We intend to use the lame-duck session to the fullest extent. Just because this CR will last until March 27 of next year, we will not rest on our laurels until that time,” Rogers stated.  The outcome of the election will ultimately determine whether much action will occur during the lame duck or whether that will wait to the new Congress in January.

2.    Legislation on Reform Measures Move Forward

Three authorization bills relevant to the International Affairs Budget have either been introduced recently or are scheduled to receive committee consideration next week.  One measure – to enhance greater foreign aid transparency and accountability – may win adoption by both the House and Senate this year.

Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2012.  Responding to numerous recommendations to strengthen U.S. foreign aid transparency and to apply uniform, government-wide evaluation systems for all foreign assistance, Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), along with Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), introduced the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act (H.R. 3159) last October.  Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) introduced the identical bill (S. 3310) in the Senate in June.

The legislation addresses two key foreign assistance effectiveness issues that aid reform advocates have been calling on for several years.  On transparency, the bill expands upon the Foreign Assistance Dashboard established by the State Department and USAID in 2010.  The legislation requires the President to create a website that posts information from all U.S. agencies that provide foreign assistance, showing not only country and global aid funding levels, but also country assistance strategies, budget documents and justifications, evaluations, and other relevant foreign aid reports.  Such a tool will allow policymakers and the public to see how much and where the U.S. is spending foreign aid, why it is important, and what results it has achieved.  Thus far, data for only State, USAID, and the MCC has been added to the Dashboard while information on strategies, evaluations, and figures for multiple other U.S. foreign aid agencies have yet to appear.  The legislation will essentially codify the Dashboard and make mandatory the addition of other agency data.

H.R. 3159 also directs the President, in consultation with the State Department, USAID, MCC, and the Department of Defense, to establish guidelines for all U.S. foreign assistance programs regarding measurable goals, performance metrics, and monitoring and evaluation plans that are uniform across the government.  With more than twenty government agencies managing foreign aid programs, the goal of achieving greater coherency for this sometimes fragmented system has been a consistent recommendation made by foreign aid reform advocates.  The MCC, and in more recent years USAID, have each established highly respected evaluation systems, but the record for other government agencies is mixed.

Next week the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to consider S. 3310 and it is possible the House Foreign Affairs Committee will take up H.R. 3159.  With a limited number of days left in this Congress, proponents of the legislation believe it is essential that the bills remain closely similar in text and structure if they are to clear conference and enacted in 2012.  Adoption of major amendments during Committee action could significantly complicate expedited consideration and passage this year.

The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review Act of 2012.  In July 2009, Secretary Clinton announced that she would undertake the first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), an effort to elevate civilian power to advance U.S. national interests.  The QDDR was intended to assess of how the State Department and USAID could become more effective, accountable, and efficient in addressing the increasingly complex and challenging missions the agencies confront around the world.  Patterned somewhat after the long-standing Defense Department’s Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), the Secretary released the QDDR in December 2010 and put in motion a process to implement the more than 50 specific recommendations.

In an effort to institutionalize and regularize the QDDR, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) introduced the QDDR Act of 2012 (S. 3341), directing the Secretary of State, in consultation with State and USAID officials, to undertake a QDDR every four years.  The Senate Foreign Relations is scheduled to take up the QDDR bill on September 19th.  There are no plans at present for the House to consider this measure or other similar legislation this year.

Economic Growth and Development Act.  With the emergence of greater attention on public-private partnerships in development and calls for better government mechanisms to leverage the private sector and to help establish improved enabling environments for business activities abroad, legislation has been introduced by Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) to create a more effective working relationship between U.S. government global development aid agencies and the American private sector.  The legislation — H.R. 6178 and S. 3495 — directs the President to create an interagency mechanism to strengthen the coordination between the programs of these aid agencies and private sector investment activities.  The bills specifically require the State Department and USAID to conduct independent constraints to growth analysis as part of all country, sector, and global strategies.  Neither bill is expected to be acted upon in ether the House or the Senate this year.  The bills are likely to be reintroduced in the next Congress.

3.    New Law Removes Several State and USAID Positions from Confirmation Requirement

On August 10th, President Obama signed into law the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011 following House passage on August 2ndCo-sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the bipartisan legislation eliminates the need to obtain Senate confirmation for about 170 executive branch posts.  While senior-most positions at the State Department, USAID, MCC, and related agencies will still require Senate confirmation, several fall within the scope of the International Affairs Budget, including:

  • Assistant Administrator for Management, USAID;
  • Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, State Department;
  • Assistant Secretary for Administration, State Department;
  • Governor and Alternate Governor, African Development Bank;
  • Governor and Alternate Governor, African Development Fund; and
  • Governor and Alternate Governor, Asian Development Bank.