March 23, 2016

House Budget Resolution Proposes Steep Cuts to International Affairs Budget

After weeks of negotiations among factions of the Republican conference, last week the House Budget Committee took the first step in the congressional budget and appropriations process.  The Committee approved Chairman Tom Price (R-GA)’s FY17 budget resolution by a vote of 20-16, with Reps. Dave Brat (R-VA) and Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) voting with Democrats in opposition to the proposal.  The controversial blueprint reduces federal spending by $6.5 trillion over ten years but includes $1.07 trillion in discretionary spending for FY17—the same overall level agreed to in the two-year budget deal reached late last year.  While the Committee approved the resolution on March 16th, the report to accompany the resolution—which includes funding and policy recommendations related to International Affairs—was not made public until today.

The budget resolution, which is non-binding and does not have the force of law, proposes a dangerous 10% cut to base International Affairs, recommending only $35.8 billion in base funding.  Adjusted for inflation, the proposed base budget would be 36% below the FY2010 enacted level—a very dangerous trend considering the unprecedented challenges and mounting humanitarian needs facing the world.

International Affairs Budget Snapshot

FY16 Enacted FY17 Request FY17 House Resolution
Base $39.7 billion $39.3 billion $35.8 billion
OCO $14.9 billion $14.9 billion NA
Total $54.6 billion $54.1 billion NA

The proposal also includes a total of $74 billion (defense and non-defense) for the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account.  While this funding level is the same as the Administration’s request, the proposal earmarks $23 billion for programs related to the base Defense Department budget and does not stipulate a funding level for the International Affairs OCO account.  Given the clear need to provide at least current levels for International Affairs OCO (approximately $15 billion) to ensure we can confront numerous and growing challenges, this ambiguity is very concerning.

Additionally, the proposal includes several controversial policy recommendations. For instance, the proposal recommends:

  • Reorganizing the Department of State: The proposal includes a recommendation for a comprehensive reorganization of the State Department, including major reforms in human resources, programming, and the organizational structure of the bureaucracy.  Additionally, the Committee recommends integrating USAID into the State Department.
  • Shifting Development Assistance to MCC: While the proposal recognizes the significant reforms undertaken over the last decade by USAID, it shifts major portions of development assistance to the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) arguing the agency is better equipped to provide more effective foreign assistance.
  • Reducing Contributions to International Organizations: The Committee argues that certain voluntary contributions to international organizations are duplicative and recommends reducing U.S. contributions to several organizations, including UNICEF and UNDP.
  • Eliminating Funding for Several Institutions: The proposal recommends eliminating funding for organizations such as the African Development Foundation, the Inter-American Foundation, and the Asia Foundation.
  • Reducing Education Exchange Programs: The Committee recommends cutting educational exchange programs, arguing that the programs are “non-essential.”

The majority of these policy provisions have been recommended in past House budget proposals but never adopted by the Appropriations or authorizing committees.  Thus far, there has been little indication that the controversial funding and policy recommendations will be taken up by Appropriators.

USGLC released a statement on the House Budget Committee’s recommendation for the International Affairs Budget that calls attention to the dangerous trend in funding over the last six years and urges Appropriators to protect International Affairs as they approve binding funding levels—known as 302(b) allocations.

Next Steps

The path forward for the budget resolution in the House remains unclear. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), his leadership team, and Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) continue to work with the Republican Conference to find a way forward for the budget resolution.  However, that work is not slowing down the Appropriations process.  House Appropriators began their work in earnest this week, passing the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs spending bill through Subcommittee.  The Committee will resume its work after the April recess.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has postponed consideration of a budget resolution until at least April but we expect the Senate Appropriations Committee to move forward with spending bill mark ups in April.