June 27, 2012

International Affairs Budget Update, 6-27-12

1.    House Foreign Affairs Committee Approves FY13 State Department Authorization Bill

In sharp contrast to last year’s highly contentious markup, this morning the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the FY13 Foreign Relations Authorization Act (H.R. 6018).  The Committee adopted the legislation on voice vote with strong bipartisan support and no amendments.  The bill authorizes FY13 appropriations for the State Department and a few other International Affairs programs at largely current (FY12) funding levels, a very positive development in the current budget environment.  The measure also updates and adds several new provisions governing State Department operations and arms exports.

In her opening statement, Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) called the measure “a carefully crafted bill” that reflects “bipartisan agreement” among Committee members.  Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-CA) commended the bill, noting the importance of strong funding.  “By ignoring and short-changing our diplomats, we only increase the likelihood of needing to use our military,” he said.  Rep. Berman did note, however, that he would like to have seen even higher funding levels in the bill.

Overall, the Committee’s action endorses the importance of funding for State Department programs in support of core U.S. national security interests.  One of the more significant exceptions, however, is a $1.95 billion cut to Diplomatic and Consular Programs, likely due to cuts for operations in Iraq and other Frontline States.  USGLC issued a press release commending the bipartisan leadership of Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen and Ranking Member Berman.

Authorization Levels

The bill authorizes about $16 billion in FY13 for select International Affairs Budget accounts covering primarily State Department operations, funding for International Organizations and Peacekeeping, International Broadcasting, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the Peace Corps.  Given calls from some in the House to cut International Affairs spending, including Republicans on the House Budget Committee, the authorized amounts in the measure are generally very positive.  The $16 billion total funding level is about $200 million higher than the equivalent program funding levels adopted by the House Appropriations Committee in May.  Highlights of specific State Department and other programs include:

  • Educational and Cultural Exchanges – $598 million, the same as FY12 and slightly above the FY13 House appropriation;
  • Embassy Security $1.57 billion, the same as FY12 and 3% above the FY13 House appropriation;
  • Contributions for International Organizations $1.551 billion, the same as FY12 and 10% higher than the FY13 House appropriation; this holds out prospects for restoring U.S. contributions to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO);
  • Contributions to International Peacekeeping Activities – $1.828 billion, the same as FY12 and the FY13 House appropriation.  It is unclear, however, whether an accommodation has been made for funding Somalia peacekeeping efforts under a different account not authorized in the House measure.  Without this adjustment, the House authorization would fall short of U.S. peacekeeping dues owed in FY13;
  • Broadcasting $752 million, about the same as for FY12 and slightly higher than the FY13 House appropriation;
  • National Endowment for Democracy – $123 million, 4% higher than current funding and the same as the FY13 House appropriation; 
  • Peace Corps – $375 million, the same as current and FY13 House appropriation levels.

For Diplomatic and Consular Programs, the House Committee authorizes $8.98 billion, $1.95 billion below FY12 and $2.4 billion less than the FY13 request.  The House panel’s recommendation, however, is consistent with action taken in May by both Senate and House Appropriations Committees which maintained funding for ongoing State Department operations but cut resources for activities in the Frontline States, especially in Iraq.  The total authorization level remains $35 million higher than the FY13 House appropriation and $121 million above the FY13 Senate appropriation.

Policy and Authorities Provisions

Beyond funding authorizations, the House Foreign Affairs Committee bill contains numerous policy statements, new authorities and reports, and revised reporting requirements.  Many focus on issues related to counterterrorism and arms sales authorities.

  • Counterterrorism:
    • Coordinator for Cyber Issues established.  The legislation authorizes the Secretary of State to create a Coordinator for Cyber Issues who will serve as the primary advisor to the Secretary for international cyberspace and cybersecurity matters and coordinate across the government on these issues.  The provision further requires the Secretary to report to Congress within 90 days with a list of countries of “cybersecurity concern” and for the Coordinator to submit within 6 months a strategy for U.S. engagement on international cyber issues.
    • Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communication created.  This Center is intended to coordinate, orient, and inform U.S. public communications across the government directed at overseas audiences and targeted towards terrorist organizations.
  • Arms Sales and Arms Export Controls:
    • Some authorities and procedures streamlined.  The bill increases dollar thresholds for notifications to Congress regarding foreign military sales, commercial sales, and excess defense article transfers.  It further removes militarily insignificant parts and components from the U.S. Munitions List, authorizes the President to remove satellites from the List, except for sales to certain countries, and calls on the President to improve and streamline licensing under U.S. arms export control programs.
    • Report on arms export controls required.  The legislation requires a report every four years on U.S. diplomatic efforts to strengthen national and international arms export controls.
    • Inspector General (IG) review of misuse of U.S. defense exports required.  The State Department IG must report annually through FY17 on investigations of misuse of U.S.-origin defense items to ensure that the State Department has fully complied with existing requirements for such investigations.

2.    House Floor Consideration of FY13 Agriculture Appropriations Bill Delayed

House floor consideration of the FY13 Agriculture Appropriations Bill has been delayed following a crowded legislative calendar leading up to next week’s July 4th recess.  The House had planned to take up the measure later this week following passage of the Transportation-HUD Appropriations Bill, but sources on Capitol Hill now indicate that the bill will not be considered until after the House Agriculture Committee’s July 11th markup of the Farm Bill.

As we reported last week, the FY13 Agriculture Appropriations bill – approved by the House Appropriations Committee on June 19th – includes deep cuts to international food assistance programs.  The bill provides $1.15 billion for P.L. 480 (also known as the Food for Peace program), which is a 22% cut from current (FY12) levels and represents the lowest funding level for the program in a decade.  The bill also provides $180 million for the McGovern-Dole international school feeding program, 2% below current spending.