July 17, 2017
1. House State-Foreign Operations Bill Released: Deep Cut to Topline
This week, the House Appropriations Committee announced $47.4 billion in topline spending for its FY18 State-Foreign Operations (SFOPS) bill, known as the 302(b) allocation. The $47.4 billion is split between $35.3 billion in base and $12 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding. In particular, OCO funding takes a major cut compared to last year.
There are two ways to compare this funding level to FY17. Both are deep and would have a significant impact on programs, if enacted:
State-Foreign Operations Budget Snapshot
|FY17 Enacted||FY18 Request||FY18 House|
|Base||$36.6 billion||$28.1 billion||$35.3 billion|
|OCO||$20.8 billion*||$12.0 billion||$12.0 billion|
|Total||$57.3 billion||$40.1 billion||$47.4 billion|
*Includes $4.3 billion provided in the FY17 Security Assistance Appropriations Act
While an improvement on the Administration’s proposal, compared to the funding allocations for the other 11 appropriations bills, the cut to the State-Foreign Operations 302(b) allocation is disproportionate, with the Financial Services spending bill taking the next highest level cut of about 6%. USGLC President and CEO Liz Schrayer released a statement raising concern that the funding level falls short of current levels and urging the Senate to protect funding for development and diplomacy programs.
It is important to remember that the SFOPS bill funds the lion’s share of the total International Affairs Budget, which was funded at nearly $60 billion in FY17.
Selected Program Highlights
We will share more details when the House Appropriations Committee releases its report to accompany the spending bill (likely next week), but in the interim the bill text and Committee press release provide some detail on specific program funding levels.
The House Appropriations Committee is expected to mark up the FY18 State-Foreign Operations bill on Wednesday, July 19. House Republicans are considering a range of options for moving spending bills before the August recess, including a 12-bill omnibus package.
The Senate is much further behind than the House and is unlikely to release its version of the SFOPS spending bills until after the August recess, although with an additional two weeks of session in early August the Appropriations Committee could decide to move forward if the bill is ready.
USGLC is strongly urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to maintain current level funding in its FY18 State-Foreign Operations bill and reject deep and disproportionate cuts to the International Affairs Budget.
2. House Appropriations Committee Approves Bump Up for McGovern-Dole Program
This week the House Appropriations Committee approved the FY18 Agriculture Appropriations bill, which, as we reported last week, restores much of the funding for international food aid programs, which the Administration had proposed eliminating altogether. Notably, the full committee approved a managers’ amendment that included increasing funding for the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition program by $16.5 million – back to FY17 levels – compared to the subcommittee level to $185 million. The Senate has yet to introduce its version of the FY18 Agriculture spending bill.
FY18 Agriculture Appropriations International Programs Snapshot
|FY17 Enacted||FY18 Request||FY18 House|
|Food for Peace/P.L. 480 Title II||$1.6 billion||$0||$1.4 billion|
|McGovern-Dole||$202 million||$0||$202 million|
|Total||$1.8 billion||$0||$1.6 billion|
3. Nominations and Hearing Update: Green Moves Forward
On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) voted to approve Ambassador Mark Green’s nomination to lead the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The full Senate could vote to confirm him as early as next week, but with the Senate poised to take up health care and other priorities in the coming weeks a vote could be delayed. As conversations on reform at the State Department and USAID continue in earnest, it is more critical than ever for USAID to have a strong leader in place. This week, SFRC also held a nomination hearing for Ray Washburne to lead the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). At the hearing, Washburne lauded OPIC as “shining example for what the government can be” and “a great foreign policy tool.”
The House Foreign Affairs Committee also held two budget hearings, one focused on the Middle East and North Africa and the other on the Western Hemisphere. In both hearings, Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle expressed concern about the Administration’s FY18 budget request. Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)noted, “I believe we have many good programs that should not be cut just for the sake of scaling back.”
4. Reform Update – Listening Report Released, Rumors Abound on Shifts in Bureaucracy
In reform and reorganization news, the “Listening Report” – commissioned by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and based off of interviews with State and USAID employees – has been released to agency staff. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan is now tasked with leading a working group to delve into five areas highlighted in the report as needing reform: foreign assistance programs, overseas operations, technology, staffing, and administration – which will feed into the Department’s submission to OMB. Notably, among other findings, the report noted that USAID employees are deeply concerned about the potential for the agency to lose its current autonomy in the proposed reorganization process.
The Administration is rumored to be considering moving the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA) and Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), possibly in an effort to streamline the vetting of refugees. Secretary Tillerson is reportedly against such a move. He is joined by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-MD), who recently said that “the State Department should remain the face of America to the world and the entry point for foreigners traveling here, for consular activities and refugee resettlement.”
Finally, the Co-Chairs of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) released a discussion paper on a new architecture for U.S. foreign assistance programs. The paper can be found here. This discussion paper is one of nearly a half dozen reform proposals, which range from calling for the creation of an independent cabinet-level director of development programs across the government to consolidating development programs at the State Department to a consensus in the middle with a USAID Administrator as the premier voice on development and a focus on programmatic efficiencies.