July 3, 2014

International Affairs Budget Update, 7/3/14

As a number of emerging and turbulent crises continue around the world, the Administration has come forward in the past week with two additional spending proposals that includes funding for international affairs programs to address these growing emergencies.

The first is an amendment to the pending FY15 request seeking an additional $1.4 billion focused on the Middle East, Ukraine, and the Central African Republic.  The second, details of which will not come until next week, proposes an emergency supplemental for FY14 to address the growing crisis of unaccompanied minors from Mexico and Central America crossing into the United States in the Rio Grande Valley area.

Both requests are considered “emergency” resource needs and will be considered outside the existing discretionary spending caps for FY14 and FY15.  The FY14 supplemental will require Congressional action prior to September 30 through a stand-alone appropriations vehicle, while the FY15 measure will most likely be addressed when Congress finalizes the State Department-Foreign Operations spending measure later this year.

1. Administration Revises FY15 Request for Crises in Middle East, other Regions

In his speech at West Point in May, President Obama outlined plans for ending U.S. involvement in the war in Afghanistan while continuing to respond to challenges caused by terrorist threats around the globe.  Last week, the White House sent Congress the financial request for putting these plans in operation with a $66 billion FY15 Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) request for both DOD and the State Department.  The International Affairs Budget component of the request totals $1.4 billion, bringing the Administration’s total FY15 International Affairs request for OCO to $7.3 billion.  There are three elements to the amended request:

  1. Counterterrorism Partnership Fund: As framed at West Point, the CTPF is designed to provide flexible funding mechanisms in response to emerging terrorist threats stemming from South Asia to the Sahel region in Africa.  The State Department portion of the CTPF — $1 billion – would be used for two primary purposes: 1) to enhance existing counterterrorism capacity building efforts among American partners in the Middle East, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and South and Central Asia; and 2) to finance the Syria Regional Stabilization Initiative (RSI) aimed at strengthening the Syrian opposition and that of neighboring states, including Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, in an attempt to manage the spillover effect of the Syrian conflict.  Both International Affairs and Defense CTPF funds will be used for these two objectives.

    House and Senate Committees have scheduled hearings in the coming weeks where the CTPF is almost certain to be reviewed.  The July 17 scheduled markup of the Senate Appropriations Defense spending measure will be the first indication of Congressional views on the $5 billion Fund.   Consideration of the State-Foreign Operations portion, however, is likely to wait until later in the year when House and Senate Committee bills are reconciled.
  2. Central African Republic UN Peacekeeping Mission: The Administration seeks an additional $278 million to cover the estimated U.S. cost of supporting a new U.N. peacekeeping operation in the Central African Republic that was authorized in April after the White House submitted its FY15 request.  The increase is part of a new Peacekeeping Response Mechanism (PRM) account proposed by the State Department to provide flexibility in responding to peacekeeping operations created between budget cycles.  Thus, the original PRM request of $150 million would grow to $428 million.  Neither the House nor Senate appropriation measures include the $150 million PRM recommendation, but they do permit the transfer of funds out of the Economic Support Fund and Complex Crisis Fund accounts, respectively, in order to address emerging peacekeeping needs.
  3. European Reassurance Initiative: Following up on the President’s June 3 announcement in Poland, the Administration seeks $925 million for an initiative aimed at providing temporary support to strengthen the security capacity of NATO allies and European partners.  The Initiative will expand the military presence, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, increase training, and bolster partner capacity for newer NATO members and other countries.  Of the total, $75 million is part of the International Affairs Budget and managed by the State Department under the Foreign Military Financing account.  Both House and Senate FY15 State-Foreign Operations bills increase military and other types of assistance for Ukraine and other regional states facing Russian aggression.

2. Administration Readies FY14 Supplemental to Address Border Crossings

For some months, there has been a sharp rise in people from Central America, especially unaccompanied minors, entering the United States across our southwest border with Mexico. The President recently directed the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA to coordinate a government-wide strategy to address this growing crisis that includes a significant humanitarian concern for children who are subjected to violent crime and sexual abuse along their travels.  The President advised Congressional leadership this week that he would request next week an emergency FY14 supplemental appropriation, reportedly in excess of $2 billion, to support a strengthened deterrence strategy to remove and repatriate recent migrants.

Supplemental appropriations requests have been infrequent spending vehicles in recent years, and this would be the first supplemental request to include international affairs funding since 2010. 

While most of these funds are expected to fall under the Department of Homeland Security, it is likely that a portion of the request will include International Affairs resources.  Already, the Administration has announced programs to assist Central American governments to receive and reintegrate repatriated individuals; new USAID activities in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras to address some of the underlying reasons – crime, violence, and lack of economic opportunity — for the surge in child migration; and additional resources for rule of law, human rights, and transparency programs.  These new initiatives total about $250 million, with some or all of the additional resources coming in the supplemental request.  Further details are expected to be released next week.

Congress has already taken preliminary actions to address this growing emergency.  The House State-Foreign Operations measure includes $120 million for Mexico and Central America to strengthen border security, combat human trafficking and smuggling, support the repatriation and reintegration of citizens, and encourage a regional discussion of these issues. The Senate bill requires the State Department and USAID to develop a strategy to address poverty, lack of economic opportunities, criminal gangs, drugs, human trafficking, and other causes of the increased Central American migration and recommends $100 million to carry out the strategy.

Meanwhile, a bill introduced by Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) earlier this week would suspend assistance to Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras until they take action to halt the migration across the border.  The “Illegal Entry Accountability Act” (H.R. 5014) has only 5 cosponsors, but it has received support from Texas Governor Rick Perry.

3.  Senate Foreign Relations Committee Approves Energize Africa Act

Also last week, the Foreign Relations Committee reported favorably the Energize Africa Act of 2014 (S. 2508), legislation that builds on and expands the Administration’s Power Africa initiative announced a year ago.  Sponsored by Senators Menendez (D-NJ) and Corker (R-TN), the bill is also a companion measure to the Electrify Africa Act of 2014 (H.R. 2548) that passed the House in May.

The Senate and House bills have a number of features in common.  Both propose to bring first-time direct access to electricity for at least 50 million people by 2020 and support the installation of an additional 20,000 megawatts of electrical power by 2020.  By comparison, the Administration’s strategy proposes 10,000 megawatts of new electrical power for six focus countries over the next several years.  House and Senate measures require a multiyear strategy for assisting nations in sub-Saharan Africa develop national power plans that utilize a mix of power solutions, including renewable energy.  Both measures also extend the Overseas Private Investment Corporation’s authorization: the House bill to 2017 and the Senate bill to 2019.

The Senate measure adds several other elements compared with the House bill. S. 2508 creates a Presidential African Power Advisory Group to advise on the multiyear strategy and its implementation.  It includes two OPIC pilot programs regarding direct investments and guarantees for regional power projects and for the expansion of investors in power projects.  The Senate bill also gives OPIC authority to hire 20 additional staff to support its Africa energy work and calls for a report on the implications of granting OPIC equity authority.  Lastly, S. 2508 expresses the sense of Congress that OPIC appropriations through 2019 should be adjusted to reflect the Corporation’s additional activities to support the power sector in Africa.

Future action on reconciling both bills remains in doubt, particularly whether it can be done in time for the President to sign into law prior to the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit early next month.