The President’s Speech

April 13, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

As Washington moves toward completing work on FY11 spending to focus on next year, the House’s FY12 budget resolution, which includes deep cuts to the International Affairs Budget, heads to the floor tomorrow.  Democrats released their alternative budget resolution today, which fully funds the President’s request for the International Affairs Budget – $53 billion for Core funding and $8.7 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations.  The measure notes that U.S. national security depends upon a well-coordinated strategy that includes international affairs programs.   Later this afternoon, President Obama will weigh in with a major policy address at George Washington University to address tackling entitlements and revenue growth.  Tomorrow morning, USGLC Chairman Dan Glickman and Senior Director Mark Green will testify before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations to detail how critical funding in the International Affairs Budget is to U.S. national security and economic interests.

Must Reads

Who’s In the News

Staying Committed to Development (Bill Gates, The Huffington Post)

Last week I traveled through Europe to convey one message: The money governments invest in development is saving millions of lives, and improving hundreds of millions. The most important thing we can do now is build on that progress and continue working toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Spending Deal Scales Back State and Foreign Ops (Sara Sorcher, National Journal)

Yet Liz Schrayer, executive director of the USGLC, said the organization is “concerned” about the reductions in this budget that’s about 11 percent below last year’s levels. “As Congress begins deliberations on the fiscal 2012 budget, we urge continued bipartisan support to avoid deep and disproportionate cuts to the international affairs budget,” she said in a statement. “Further reductions will not only diminish our national security priorities, but also our competitiveness in the global economy.”

International, Financial Organizations Face Deep Cuts in Spending Bill (Emily Cadei, CQ )

Liz Schrayer, the executive director of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, issued a statement thanking the “many champions on Capitol Hill” who defended diplomacy and development funding, but warned that the cuts “will have an impact on our national security.” Added Shrayer: “As Congress begins deliberations on the FY 2012 budget, we urge continued bipartisan support to avoid deep and disproportionate cuts to the international affairs budget.”

Smart Power

Appropriators cut $8 billion from State Department programs (Josh Rogin, The Cable blog)

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.

Lawmakers Prepare To Vote On 2011 Budget Deal (Michele Kelleman, NPR)

I’m Michele Kelleman and I cover the State Department, where diplomats and development experts are trying to find ways to do more with less. One of the biggest hits is to U.S. contributions to the United Nations, at $377 million less than in 2010. Millions of dollars are also being trimmed from peacekeeping and international financial institutions.  Foreign assistance makes up less than 1 percent of the federal budget.

Defense Spending Rises In Budget Bills, Despite U.S. Drawdown In Iraq And Afghanistan (Amanda Terkel, Huffington Post)

The State Department and Foreign Operations, on the other hand, receive $48.3 billion, which is a $504 million reduction from last year’s level and an $8.4 billion reduction from President Obama’s FY 2011 request. Matt Dennis, communications director for Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who is the ranking member of the House Appropriation Committee’s State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, stressed that while the level is not ideal, they were generally pleased with how the deal came out — especially with the fact that the global gag rule was not reinstated and funding for international family planning was preserved. “Obviously, we can’t declare total victory here. There are lower funding levels than what we would have for a whole variety of accounts,” said Dennis, adding, “In this political environment, meeting the President’s request was always going to be difficult.”

Foreign Policy: Cutting From Foreign Aid Doesn’t Help (Joseph S. Nye Jr, NPR)

On Tuesday, the axe fell: The State Department and foreign operations budget was slashed by $8.5 billion — a pittance when compared to military spending, but one that could put a serious dent in the United States’ ability to positively influence events abroad. The sad irony is that the Obama administration had been moving things in the right direction. When Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, she spoke of the importance of a “smart power” strategy, combining the United States’ hard and soft-power resources. Her Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, and her efforts (along with USAID chief Rajiv Shah) to revamp the United States’ aid bureaucracy and budget were important steps in that direction.

The ‘Business’ of International Aid (Jonathan Starr, The Wall Street Journal)

If you think that no business would operate this way, then you’re evidently not familiar with the “business” of international aid. International nongovernment organizations get their funding from governments and other donors, not the men, women and children they are supposed to be serving. Without revenue or other quality customer-satisfaction metrics, NGO executives and donors have no way of measuring whether employees on the ground are providing a product of value to their impoverished “customers.”

Politics/Foreign Policy

Budget tricks helped Obama save programs from cuts (Associated Press)

The historic $38 billion in budget cuts resulting from at-times hostile bargaining between Congress and the Obama White House were accomplished in large part by pruning money left over from previous years, using accounting sleight of hand and going after programs President Barack Obama had targeted anyway. And big holes in foreign aid and Environmental Protection Agency accounts were patched in large part. Republicans also gave up politically treacherous cuts to the Agriculture Department’s food inspection program.

Budget Battles: The Price of Ill-Conceived Cuts (New York Times Editorial)

Foreign aid was sharply reduced, including $379 million to a fund that helps countries create democracy and supports Middle East peace negotiations. Lawmakers used the bill to achieve long-sought ideological goals like attacking the paltry sums spent on foreign aid.