Washington Awaits State of the Union

January 25, 2011 By Christopher Williams

Today all of Washington awaits the President’s State of the Union speech, which is expected to focus largely on jobs and the domestic economy.  House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) will give the Republican response to the President’s message, as well as lead an effort in the House today to pass a resolution calling for all “non-security” spending to return to 2008 levels, which could mean a 35% cut to the International Affairs Budget relative to the current Continuing Resolution.   Last night on the House floor, Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-CA) argued the International Affairs Budget is part of security spending, saying “The message from our military leadership, this Congress, and even former President Bush is clear:  US civilian agencies must be fully resourced to prosecute the fight against terror effectively.”

Must Reads

Who’s In the News

Berman stands up for foreign aid funding (Josh Rogin – The Cable Blog)

House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Howard Berman (D-CA) is supporting calls from the Obama administration to keep State and foreign aid funding out of the hands of GOP budget slashers in Congress. Berman’s latest remarks come on the heels of a Jan. 20 call for drastic defunding of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) by the 165-member Republican Study Group.

GOP’s Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Wants Oversight of Taxpayer Spending in Afghanistan (Kristina Wong – ABC)

Congress’ new House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is planning to bring greater oversight to aid and reconstruction in Afghanistan — a prospect that could ultimately change the president’s Afghan War strategy by scaling back funding for U.S. civilian efforts there. In the face of a record $14 trillion national debt, Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., plans to examine spending on civilian aid and reconstruction in Afghanistan, which has cost U.S. taxpayers $56 billion since 2002.

Smart Power

New administrator wants to change the way USAID works (Walter Pincus – The Washington Post)

Shah believes “that if we’re not building real incentives into the system to transition to make our projects more sustainable, to work through host-country systems and ministries or local institutions, you know, we’re not going to have viable, long-term sustainability strategies.” The two things that sustain development activities are the local public and private sectors, he said.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Endorsing the No-Exit Strategy in Pakistan, and Patience on the Hill (Nancy Birdsall – CGD)

Vice-President Joe Biden is way ahead of the U.S. foreign policy community on the basics of what the United States can do in Pakistan. Let’s review two things he said during his recent visit to Islamabad, speaking to reporters from the perspective of someone who, during his time in the Senate, helped develop and championed the 5-year, $7.5 billion aid package now called Kerry-Lugar-Berman.

The Global Fund Won’t Stand for Any Corruption (Michel Kazatchkine – The Washington Post)

On a recent visit to the Rwandan capital, Kigali, I was deeply struck by the words of a 15-year-old I met called Olivier who is living with HIV and receiving treatment with the help of the Global Fund. He looked at me intensely, his eyes burning with new-found hope, and said: “Thanks to you we are healthy and we can make our dreams come true. Antiretroviral (ARV) medicines are making us strong.”

The State of the Union and the Military: Balancing Defense With Debt (David Wood – Politics Daily)

When Houston comes to play at San Antonio’s AT&T Center next Friday night, seven people jammed in among the 19,000 Spurs and Rockets  fans would represent roughly the proportion of the U.S. population fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq: 150,000 troops out of a nation of 308.7 million people, 0.00048 percent. Just as stunning as America’s non-participation in its wars is the cost the country is running up in the name of national security: more than $700 billion this year – twice as much as in 2001 and more than the rest of the world combined spends on defense.