The Cable

Obama cuts foreign assistance to several countries in new budget request

President Obama's newly released budget request for fiscal 2012 proposes cuts to a wide range of State Department and foreign-operations programs, including the complete elimination of foreign assistance and military training to several countries.

The White House's fiscal 2012 budget seeks just over $47 billion for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, which the Office of Management and Budget notes is a 1 percent increase over fiscal 2010 levels. The president is requesting a grand total of $50.9 billion for U.S. diplomacy and development efforts, after accounting for programs outside State and USAID, such as the Peace Corps, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. That's $3.7 billion -- or 6.7 percent less -- than the $54.6 billion that was requested for the same accounts in fiscal 2011.

The bill that would determine fiscal 2011 funding has not yet been passed because both Democrats and Republicans have failed to pass a budget for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, 2010. The government has been running on a temporary continuing resolution (CR), which has kept spending at fiscal 2010 levels. The extension of the resolution, set to expire on March 4, has been at the center of the debate of how to slash non-security discretionary funding for the rest of fiscal 2011.

Obama is also requesting $8.7 billion in supplemental funding for the State Department and USAID in fiscal 2012, so that they can take on increased roles in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. This represents a $2.3 billion increase over the fiscal 2011 request.

Inside the regular budget, the State Department eliminated foreign aid to several countries and slashed requested 2012 funding for assistance to Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia by $115 million from the fiscal 2011 request.

"Although not subject to a freeze in funding, the department is committed to finding efficiencies, cutting waste, and focusing on key priorities. Accordingly, foreign assistance to several countries has been eliminated," the summary sheet on the State Department's request stated, adding that the cuts were made "in order to focus funding on regions with the greatest assistance needs."

The cuts will not only affect development aid, but also the United States' military-to-military relationships across the globe. If the president's budget is enacted, five countries will no longer receive Foreign Military Financing and nine countries will no longer receive support for joining the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program, which is where foreign military officers receive training in the United States and forge bonds with their American counterparts. The countries for which the State Department will no longer seek funding will be made public when the full State Department budget request is released Monday afternoon.

"Several countries will no longer receive bilateral security assistance funding, as resources are being focused on countries with strategic significance," the document stated. "Requested security assistance funds will become more focused on key priorities including program funding for Israel, Pakistan, and other coalition partners and allies, as well as programs that are critical to containing transnational threats including terrorism and trafficking in narcotics, weapons, and persons."

Requested funding for African Development and Inter-American Foundations was reduced by 20 percent in the new budget. Compared with the president's 2011 budget, many other programs face significant reductions in the State and foreign-ops request.

The president requested $3.54 billion for international organizations and peacekeeping, $239 million less than requested for fiscal 2011. One of the largest proposed cuts came from the economic support fund, a program to support countries moving toward democracy, which would receive $5.97 billion in fiscal 2012 -- $1.84 billion less than last year's request. The International Law Enforcement and Narcotics Bureau (INL) would only receive $1.51 billion in the 2012 request, $624 million less than was requested for 2011.

Although overall USAID funding remained largely flat, some parts of the organization actually received increases in the 2012 request. The president's budget proposal requested $1.5 billion for operating expenses, slightly higher than last year, and $8.7 billion for global health and child survival -- about $200 million more than was requested for fiscal 2011 and about $900 million more than what was allocated in fiscal 2010.

Of course, nobody knows what the fiscal 2011 funding levels will be, because congressional Democrats failed to pass an appropriations bill before the fiscal year began on Oct. 1. The House Republican leadership released its overall allocations for the next CR on Feb. 11, which would provide a total of $44.9 billion for the State Department and foreign operations for fiscal 2011.

A news release by House Appropriations State and Foreign Ops subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-Texas) praised the $44.9 billion number and said it was a reduction of $3.8 billion, or 8 percent from total 2010 appropriations and a reduction of $11.7 billion, or 21 percent, from the president's 2011 budget request. Granger and GOP congressional leaders are promising to cut Obama's 2012 request even further.

"The reductions made to my section of the bill are a good start. As long as I am Chairwoman of the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, I will ensure that our foreign aid is not used as a stimulus bill for foreign countries.  This bill is about our national security and the funding levels reflect that," Granger's statement read.

The new continuing resolution still has a long way to go before it becomes law. But if enacted as the House GOP leadership wants, it would slash U.S. funding for international financial institutions, eliminate U.S. contributions to several international funds, and cut allocations for global health and childhood survival programs by $784 million compared with fiscal 2010. USAID would also face a $121 million cut to its operating budget as compared with fiscal 2010 under the current House GOP plan.

Funding for international financial institutions was hit especially hard in the GOP bill, with a cut of $892 million from fiscal year 2010 levels. Funding for global health and childhood survival programs also took a hit, losing $784 million compared with 2010.

"Targeted cuts to the bill were partially made by rescinding funds from appropriations that remain unspent, freezing federal employee pay raises at the State Department, not funding programs that require authorizations, scaling back contributions to the United Nations and other international organizations, and eliminating wasteful, duplicative and ineffective programs," Granger said.

The lawmakers proposed keeping aid to Egypt and Israel intact. However, the continuing resolution would cut off foreign aid to the Lebanese armed forces unless Secretary of State Hillary Clinton certifies such funding is in the United States' national security interest.

Typos corrected, 13:25, Feb. 14, 2011

The Cable

Obama: The people of Egypt have spoken

Here is the full text of President Obama's Friday remarks on the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak:

There are very few moments in our lives where we have the privilege to witness history taking place. The people of Egypt have spoken. Their voices have been heard. And Egypt will never be the same. By stepping down, President Mubarak responded to the Egyptian people's hunger for change. but this is not the end of Egypt's transition. It's a beginning. I'm sure there will be difficult days ahead and many questions remain unanswered. But I am confident that the people of Egypt can find the answers, and do so peacefully, constructively, and in the spirit of unity that has defined these last few weeks, for Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day.

The military has served patriotically and responsibly as a caretaker to the state and will now have to ensure a transition that is credible in the eyes of the Egyptian people. That means protecting the rights of Egypt's citizens, lifting the emergency law, revising the constitution and other laws to make this change irreversible, and laying out a clear path to elections that are fair and free. Above all this transition must bring all of Egypt's voices to the table for the spirit of peaceful protest and perseverence that the Egyptian people have shown can serve as a powerful wind at the back of this change. The United States will continue to be a friend and partner to Egypt. We stand ready to provide whatever assistance is necessary and asked for to pursue a credible transition to a democracy.

I'm also confident that the same ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit that the young people of Egypt have shown in recent days can be harnessed to create new opportunity, jobs and businesses that allow the extraordinary potential of this generation to take flight. I know that a democratic Egypt can advance its role of responsible leadership not only in the region but around the world.

Egypt has played a pivotal role in human history for over 6,000 years. But over the last few weeks the wheel of history turned at a blinding pace as the Egyptian people demanded their universal rights. We saw mothers and fathers carrying their children on their shoulders to show them what true freedom might look like. We saw young Egyptians say, for the first time in my life I really count. My voice is heard. Even though I'm only one person, this is the way real democracy works. We saw protestors chant... 'We are peaceful, again and again.'

We saw a military that would not fire bullets at the people they were sworn to protect. And we saw doctors and nurses rushing into the streets to care for the wound. Volunteers checking protestors to ensure that they were unarmed. We saw people of faith praying together and chanting Muslims, Christians, we are one. And though we know the strains of faith divide too many in this world and no single event will close that chasm immediately, these scenes show us that we need not be defined by our differences. We can be defined by the common humanity that we share.
And, above all, we saw a new generation emerge, a generation that uses their own creativity and talent and technology to call for a government that represented their hopes and not their fears. A government that is responsive to their boundless aspirations. One Egyptian put it simply -- most people have discovered in the last few days that they are worth something, and this cannot be taken away from them anymore. Ever.

This is the power of human dignity, and it can never be denied. Egyptians have inspired us, and they've done so by putting the eye to the idea that justice is best gained through violence. For in Egypt it was the moral force of nonviolence, not terrorism, not mindless killing, but nonviolence, moral force that bent the arc of history toward justice once more. And while the sights and sounds that we heard were entirely Egyptian, we can't help but hear the echoes of history, echoes from Germans tearing down a wall, Indonesian students taking to the streets, Gandhi leading his people down the path justice. As Martin Luther King said in celebrating the birth of a new nation in Ghana while trying to perfect his own, there's something in the soul that cries out for freedom.

Those were the cries that came from Tahrir square and the entire world has taken note. Today belongs to the people of Egypt, and the American people are moved by these scenes in Cairo and across Egypt because of who we are as a people and the kind of world that we want our children to grow up in. The word ‘Tahrir' means liberation. It's a word that speaks to that something in our souls that cries out for freedom. And forever more it will remind us of the Egyptian people, of what they did, of the things that they stood for, and how they changed their country and in doing so changed the world. Thank you.