The Focus Shifts

September 22, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

Yesterday the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its $53.34 billion FY12 State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill, which is a significant improvement over the House bill, providing $5 billion more in funding for non-war related programs.  The focus on State-Foreign Operations appropriations – and the International Affairs Budget overall – now shifts to conference negotiations to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate bills.  The House yesterday failed to pass its continuing resolution (CR), leaving congressional leaders still scrambling to pass a stopgap measure before the end of the week.  Also yesterday, the USGLC’s Mark Green spoke about U.S. Global Leadership with KT McFarland on Fox News Live, saying “This is the time when we need American leadership. It’s never been more important than it is right now.”

Must Read

Who’s in the News

Raj Shah: The young gun fixing USAID (Nina Easton, Fortune Magazine)

Raj Shah was just 34 and already a rising star when his mentor Bill Gates, in a 2007 Harvard commencement speech, said of the war on global poverty: “The barrier to change is not too little caring; it is too much complexity.” Four years later Shah is applying that lesson to one of the most notoriously bureaucratic bureaucracies in Washington: USAID, the nation’s chief dispenser of foreign aid. As President Obama’s handpicked director, the 38-year-old medical doctor, former Gates Foundation health guru, and political junkie is determined to inject Gates-style thinking into the $22 billion that his agency ladles into poor nations each year.

An end to AIDS is within our reach (Desmond Tutu, Washington Post)

Barack Obama has achieved great things thus far in his presidency. He has helped reform the U.S. health-care system to ensure that all citizens have access to the medical attention they may need. He has implemented the Global Health Initiative to streamline U.S. development aid programs. Last year he announced a $4 billion commitment to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the premier multilateral funding instrument dedicated to controlling these diseases.

Hillary Clinton to Attend Busan Forum: Demonstrating Development Diplomacy? (Noam Unger and Homi Kharas, Brookings Up Front Blog)

We view Clinton’s attendance as a positive step, having made the case for it privately in meetings and openly in publications (see our policy paper and this recent brief). But how does her attendance fit into the context of reforms to elevate global development within the U.S. government? And how can her participation lead to a better High-Level Forum? But there are many ways the State Department can support development by drawing on its comparative advantages. For example, in conflict-affected states where an international military presence is required, State can use its expertise and influence with other departments, governments and international organizations to shape coherent stabilization efforts that are conducive to development.

Smart Power

Obama says US ability to provide international aid hinges on passage of his jobs bill (Washington Post)
President Barack Obama says America’s ability to provide aid to other countries partly depends on whether Congress passes his jobs bill.  Obama says the mix of tax cuts and direct spending in his $447 billion jobs plan will help get Americans back to work and provide a boost to the U.S. economy. But he says it will be more difficult for the U.S. to provide international aid if the economy doesn’t start growing again.

Senate panel approves $53B foreign aid bill (Donna Cassata,
In a blunt message to the Palestinians, a Senate panel on Wednesday threatened to close the Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Washington if it defies the United States and Israel by pursuing a unilateral bid for statehood at the United Nations. The vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee came as the U.S. and France pressured Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to abandon his bid for membership and return to negotiations with Israel. The diplomatic maneuvering unfolded in New York as the United Nations opened its annual meeting, with Abbas expected to submit his letter of application on Friday and the U.S. vowing a veto in the U.N. Security Council.

G8 promises concrete actions to support Arab Spring countries as they build democracy (Associated Press)

The world’s major industrialized nations pledged Tuesday quick and concrete action with a long-term political and economic impact to support Arab nations as they move along the road to democratic reform after uprisings that toppled authoritarian rulers. So far, roughly $80 billion in aid for Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Jordan and Morocco had been pledged over the next two years, according to French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe.

What if Your Child Was Hungry in Africa? (Carolyn S. Miles, The Huffington Post)

American foreign assistance is on the chopping block by Congress and the timing couldn’t be worse. More than 3.5 million people in the Horn of Africa need help. Half of them are children. Now is not the time to cut aid. This investment not only keeps children alive, it’s an investment in security at home. Aid creates economic growth and stability abroad. Cutting international aid would increase poverty and hunger and could create economic or political instability. And the last thing we need is more global instability.  Reducing America’s debt is crucial, but balancing our budget on the backs of hungry African children — when poverty-focused programs account for about 1 percent of the federal budget – is just plain wrong.

Peace Corps Is Worth Every Foreign Policy Penny (Ross Szabo, Huffington Post Impact)

Believe it or not it’s hard to escape the giant Congressional budget fights even when serving in the Peace Corps in Botswana. The debates are big news everywhere. Most of the people I work with have asked me questions about what is happening and how our government works. During one of these chats it really set in that just about anything I say greatly impacts their view of all Americans.  You may be thinking that I should have realized this much sooner, but to be honest when I prepared for Peace Corps service I never really thought about how much it would mean to others to know an American.

Foreign aid used for education helps fight terrorism (Naresh Kumar, Standard-Examiner)

Americans across the political spectrum acknowledge that the deficit is an urgent problem. Many suggest cuts to foreign spending, but don’t realize it only represents 1 percent of the budget. And half of that 1 percent is for the least fortunate.  Many don’t realize that modern foreign aid is actually an investment. The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States reports that “education that teaches tolerance, the dignity and value of each individual, and respect for different beliefs must be a key element in any global strategy to eliminate terrorism.”

Politics/Foreign Policy

Supercommittee may be stuck arguing over sliver of spending (Jake Sherman, Politico)

Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and other Republican leaders have vowed to reject a penny of tax increases. President Barack Obama says Medicare benefits are untouchable if Republicans won’t raise taxes on the rich. Defense hawks — including Democrats like Defense Secretary Leon Panetta — are concerned about Pentagon spending levels. What could be left on the table for actual cuts is nondefense discretionary programs — only about 18 percent of federal spending — that already were raided by the government shutdown debate of the spring and the debt-limit deal in August. It sets up an almost impossible task — wring the bulk of $1.4 trillion in savings out of small slivers of the federal budget — while avoiding once again the hard decisions that address how the United States got into this debt crisis in the first place.