October 17, 2011

International Affairs Budget Update, 10-14-11

1.    Representatives Poe (R-TX) and Berman (D-CA) Introduce Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2012

House Foreign Affairs Committee members Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) and Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-CA) introduced Wednesday the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2012 (H.R. 3159) along with 29 bipartisan cosponsors.  USGLC released a statement commending Representative Poe and this bipartisan effort “for raising the bar to ensure our nation has accountable, transparent foreign assistance programs across all departments and agencies.”

Building upon transparency and accountability programs already in place at USAID and the State Department, the bill directs the President, in consultation with the State Department, USAID, Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), and the Department of Defense, to establish guidelines regarding the establishment of goals, metrics, and monitoring and evaluation plans for all U.S. foreign assistance.  The guidelines must provide direction to all agencies who administer foreign aid on areas such as:

  • Building measurable goals, “including the provision of sufficient program resources to conduct monitoring and evaluation;”
  • The establishment of annual monitoring and evaluation objectives that reflect policy and programmatic priorities;
  • Partnering with the academic community, implementing partners, and other external institutions to ensure the use of best practices in monitoring and evaluation; and
  • The development of a knowledge and lessons learned “clearinghouse” accessible by all U.S. development professionals, implementing partners, the aid community, and recipient governments.

The bill also codifies the Foreign Assistance Dashboard and requires all agencies who administer foreign assistance programs to publish online (within two years of enactment of the bill) data on their programs for the previous five fiscal years.

2.    House Foreign Affairs Committee Marks up U.N. “Reform” Bill

The House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday approved on a party-line vote of 23-15 the United Nations Transparency, Accountability and Reform Act of 2011 (H.R. 2829). The bill, sponsored by Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), places several conditions on U.S. contributions to the UN in order to bring about policy reforms in the body.  The legislation would cut U.S. contributions by 50 percent unless the UN moves within two years to voluntary donations from the current system of assessed dues.  Among other provisions, the bill:

  • Places a moratorium on new or expanded peacekeeping missions;
  • Withholds contributions to the Human Rights Council and prevents the U.S. from holding a seat on the Council;
  • Prohibits funding to UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the UN entity that provides assistance to Palestinian refugees;
  • Places restrictions on funding to the International Atomic Energy Agency; and
  • Suspends funding to UN bodies that do not sign a “transparency certification” pledging additional cooperation with the U.S. Comptroller General to allow congressional oversight of UN activities.

In her opening statement, Representative Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) stated: “We need a game-changer.  We will never achieve lasting, sweeping reforms if the U.S. keeps paying in full what the UN dictates to us, with no consequences for the UN’s failures. It’s time to leverage our funding to achieve lasting UN reform, by passing this UN Reform bill.” Representatives Dan Burton (R-IN), Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY), and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) also provided statements in support of the bill.

Ranking Member Berman rebutted that “all of us are familiar with flaws and shortcomings of the United Nations… But it is also important to recognize that the UN often plays an essential role in supporting American foreign policy and national security interests.” Representatives Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Russ Carnahan (D-MO) and Ted Deutch (D-FL) spoke in opposition. Representative Carnahan, currently serving as the Democratic Congressional Representative to the UN General Assembly, said that “a policy of engagement is far better than one of disengagement… and this bill is not in our national interest.”

Prior to the markup, Secretary Hillary Clinton sent a letter to the Committee expressing strong opposition to the bill and indicating that she would recommend President Obama veto it.  In the letter Secretary Clinton writes, “As challenges to U.S. national security interests become more global in nature, we must use all the tools at our disposal to advance U.S. values and national security interests.  The United Nations, for all its imperfections, is indispensible to advancing these goals.  This bill would effectively cede American leadership, creating a void for our adversaries to fill.”

During the markup, Ranking Member Berman offered a substitute amendment that called for many of the same policy reforms to improve transparency and accountability in the underlying bill without conditioning contributions to the UN.  In offering the amendment, Berman said, “My amendment will not get the U.S. out of the UN, but it would be a far more effective tool for promoting real reform and countering anti-Israel bias in the UN.”  The amendment, which also would codify the State Department’s UN Transparency and Accountability Initiative (UNTAI) to improve monitoring and evaluation reporting on UN reforms, failed by voice vote.

No date for the bill’s consideration by the full House has been scheduled, although action this year is likely.  The bill will not be considered by the Senate.

3.    FY12 Appropriations Enter Final Negotiations

Two weeks into FY12 and with a little over four weeks remaining before the expiration of the FY12 Continuing Resolution, negotiations over final FY12 appropriations levels are heating up.  House and Senate leaders are working to first reconcile the different top-line spending allocations (302b’s) for each of the 12 appropriations measures.   As previously reported, the Senate’s International Affairs Budget funding level is $6 billion higher than the House level.

Secretary Clinton last week sent a letter to all Members of the House and Senate cautioning against deep and disproportionate cuts to the International Affairs Budget, writing: “With just one percent of the budget, State and USAID make an outsized contribution to America’s security, prosperity, and global leadership.”  She urged Members to support the “reasonable” Senate mark for the State Department and USAID, saying, “Maintaining our leadership takes resolve, and it takes resources.”

Rather than using one catch-all omnibus spending package, House and Senate leaders this week indicated they would prefer to move final appropriations bills in “minibuses” that include a few appropriations bills each.  Thus far the Senate has only approved one appropriations bill while the House has approved six.  The FY12 State-Foreign Operations appropriations bill has gotten as far as subcommittee approval (in July) in the House and Committee approval (in September) in the Senate.

While the Senate is expected to take up the Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development bills next week, action on State-Foreign Operations in not expected in either chamber.

As the FY12 negotiations continue, the Super Committee is continuing its deliberations largely behind closed doors as they work toward the November 23 deadline to report on their recommendations for achieving at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.  This week in the House, all committee Ranking Members sent letters  to the Super Committee focusing on  the impact to programs under their jurisdiction if the Super Committee fails to reach an agreement and automatic cuts under sequestration are triggered. House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Berman’s letter emphasized the critical economic benefits the International Affairs Budget provides our nation and Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Norm Dicks’ (D-WA) letter focused on the devastating impact cuts to development and diplomacy programs would have on global health and the Food for Peace program, in particular.