WASHINGTON, D.C. – On July 18, the Republican-led Foreign Operations Subcommittee on Appropriations presented their spending bill for fiscal year 2014. The proposed budget for the State Department and foreign assistance programs totals $34.1 billion – a cut of $8 billion, or 19 percent decrease, from 2013. Most notably, the bill cuts foreign aid spending by 26 percent. This prospect has many concerned about the ability for the United States to meet global initiatives in the coming year.
The funding for foreign aid in the House bill totals $17.3 billion- a reduction of $5.8 billion from 2013. The State Department’s budget was cut by $2.4 billion to $14.6 billion, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) faces an 11% drop in funding to only $1.4 billion. Many United Nations-based programs, such as the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO), saw their funding cut off entirely. UN initiatives that have been given even minimal funding will have numerous restrictions tacked on to their appropriations.
The subcommittee in charge of drafting the budget for foreign operations took a hardline on spending for 2014. According to Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY), the current fiscal issues facing the U.S. was a key factor in determining allocations to assistance programs. “[W]e must prioritize our very limited funds on only the most important international activities,” he said. These priorities were ranked in order of present necessities for the United States. Embassy security, partnership initiatives in the Middle East and Latin America, democracy assistance, HIV/AIDs prevention programs and refugee assistance were all given precedence.
The 2014 budget also weighs in on controversial actions taking place in the Middle East. The appropriations bill will limit aid to Egypt if the nation does not start its transition back to democracy. The $1.3 billion set aside for the Egyptian military will be withheld if the State Department does not see marked improvements within the nation. These qualifications include free and fair elections, the protection of free speech, protecting the rights of all societal organizations and taking action to eliminate smuggling operations within the state. Congress hopes to use the threat of withholding aid as a way to assure that the Egyptian military quickly hands the government back over to democratically elected civilians.
There were some areas where the House bill met expectations. As per President Obama’s request, the subcommittee proposed to fully fund the $4.8 billion to improve embassy security around the world. Aid for global health initiatives were also preserved, including funding for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDs Relief (PEPFAR) which will receive $4.02 billion.
However, as has been the case with all GOP-led appropriations bills since President Obama took office, restrictions have been attached to Family Planning and Reproductive Health (FP/RH) allocations. The House’s bill prevents any funding being given to abortion-related programs, and will only fund FP/RH up to $461 million- about $170 million less than what the president asked for in his proposed budget. Specifically, the bill prohibits funding to pay for “the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.” It also prevents funding for sterilization programs.
The Senate’s version of the 2014 foreign operations budget, though also cut from 2013 spending levels, was much kinder to assistance initiatives. Their proposed funding for the State Department and global health programs through USAID amounted to $280 million more than the House’s. The Senate’s version evenly matched the House on funding PEPFAR for anti-HIV/AIDs initiatives, and both bills gave $1.65 billion to the Global Fund. The Senate Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill was accepted by the Senate Committee on Appropriations on July 25 and was presented to the full Senate on the same day.
The House’s Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill was approved by the House Committee on Appropriations on July 24. The bill will now go to the House floor for a vote. Much of it is not expected to be passed into law, however, as it is considered too fiscally conservative to get past the Senate. Both houses will be voting on budgets when they return from their August recess- for now, everyone involved in foreign operations must wait to see how deep the cuts will be in October.
– Allana Welch