House Foreign Affairs chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) has responded to the president's fiscal 2012 international affairs budget request, recommending the elimination of over a dozen State Department and foreign aid programs.
"Those who complain about potentially diminished levels of International Affairs funding need to ask themselves how much less an insolvent United States of America would be able to do," Ros-Lehtinen wrote to House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan in her official response to the administration's 2012 budget request, which was obtained by The Cable. "It is no longer sufficient to ask whether a particular activity is useful. Rather, the correct question is whether a given activity is so important that it justifies borrowing money to pay for it."
She said the administration's separation of State Department funding between regular budget accounts and the war-related account known as "overseas contingency operations," (OCO) obscures what she calls the "dramatic and unsustainable" funding increases for diplomacy and development over recent years. The OCO account includes money to help the State Department assume increased responsibilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, which totaled $5.1 billion in fiscal year 2010.
Ros-Lehtinen said that when all the money requested is totaled, it equals $61.4 billion -- or a 13 percent increase over fiscal 2010 levels.
According to the Office of Management and Budget, the entire State Department and USAID fiscal 2012 budget request, which can be found here, seeks just over $47 billion, 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.
Ros-Lehtinen criticized several items in the administration's budget request. She said the State Department's $12 billion request for operations was too high, and pledged to fight "locality pay" increases for foreign services officers, which were passed in 2008 to account for differences between what diplomats receive abroad as compared to when they live in Washington.
Ros-Lehtinen also recommended cutting off assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces, which would save $225 million, and cutting off economic assistance to the West Bank and Gaza, a savings of $400 million. She also recommended ending funding for the Asia Foundation, the U.S. Institute of Peace, and the East-West Center.
As for foreign aid, Ros-Lehtinen wants to freeze the number of direct hire employees at USAID and take $2.9 billion away from the organization, returning it to fiscal 2008 levels. She also wants to end foreign aid to countries who give out foreign aid of their own, including China, India, Brazil, and South Africa.
Some other targets of Ros-Lehtinen's budget axe include global health programs, global climate change programs, the Peace Corps, the Organization of American States, the United Nations Development Program, and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
In an attached dissenting letter from the committee's ranking Democrat Howard Berman (D-CA), he defended the administration's request as part of an integrated national security spending strategy.
"In a world characterized by great turmoil and uncertainty, the budget request represents the resources needed to protect Americans and American national security interests around the world," Berman wrote.
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John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.