By: Harry C. Blaney III and Allison Gerns
The State and Foreign Operations Bill as well as the Defense Appropriations Bill have been moving through Congress this summer. Both bills have been heavily debated between the Democrats and Republicans, given the Republicans push to add more money to the military spending despite a mandated (largely by the Republicans) spending decrease the last five years under the sequester. The Republican-controlled House has tried to destroy programs to prevent and end conflicts, provide humanitarian assistance and target climate change. This has included cutting support for the vital work of international organizations, the Peace Corps, and limiting development aid. This year, a big issue is the budget caps, which were established in 2011.
Regarding the DOD appropriations bill the Republicans are now trying to work around those restrictions by allocating billions into the Defense Overseas Contingency Operations fund. The OCO is exempt from budget caps and was established for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but now Republicans are creating a slush fund under the guise that it will be used to help in Ukraine and against ISIL.
The State and Foreign Ops bill, which focuses on diplomacy, Foreign Service Embassy security, humanitarian assistance, public diplomacy, and other programs has made its way through the House and Senate committees. The House proposed a State and Foreign Ops budget totaling 47.9 billion dollars. 7.3 billion dollars of the budget was allocated for its Overseas Contingency Operations fund. This is 1.4 billion dollars below the 2015 budget and 6.1 billion dollars below what the President has requested. 7.3 billion dollars was allocated for the Global War on Terror, which is 1.9 billion dollars less than 2015. You can see just how much “preventive diplomacy” programs and capability has been cut to what are dangerous levels.
The Senate for the State and Foreign Ops bill has proposed a budget totaling 49 billion dollars. The budget is 2.8 billion dollars less than 2015 and 4.9 billion less than the President’s request. 39 billion dollars in base funding, 9.26 billion dollars was allocated for the Overseas Contingency Operations fund, and 759 million dollars was for emergency spending. Highlights from this budget request include new measures to counter violent extremism.
Both the House and the Senate focused on Global Health, humanitarian assistance, diplomatic security, and major cuts from international organization funding. The bills have different approaches to UN peacekeeping, development assistance, family planning, and International Monetary Fund reform.
The Defense Appropriations Bill was also passed through the House and Senate committees. The House bill proposed a budget of 578.6 billion dollars. The budget is 24.4 billion dollars more than the budget in 2015 and 800 million dollars more than the President proposed. 88.4 billion dollars was earmarked for the Global War on Terrorism. The Senate’s budget totals 489.1 billion dollars with 86.8 billion dollars for the Overseas Contingency Operations fund. 36.5 billion dollars was moved from the base budget to the OCO to overcome the budget caps. The Senate budget made cuts to 486 programs but added money for other programs.
While the President and DOD is attempting to limit some budget increases for unneeded military programs which they feel are not directed to real needs, Congress’ budgets ask for more while overall military spending is increasing dramatically compared to the last five years. The biggest spending increases is the OCO fund which is turning into more of a slush fund for expensive and not needed high cost systems not related to OCO itself.
Both bills continue to be up for debate with the Democrats and the Republicans so far unwilling to negotiate a solution. This may lead to a government shutdown in the fall but not likely, as the DOD funding is a “must do” element and it is likely we might end again in a comprehensive budget bill which covers much of government or a “continuing resolution” for an unspecified period.
With the national election coming soon, members of Congress are using military contracts as political fodder to spend more on their districts and states. These contracts don’t respond to real-world threats but rather profit from “the military industrial sector,” as Ike called them. On the other hand the effort on the State Foreign Ops bill is just the opposite, the effort is to cut the capacity of American diplomacy including our payments to international organization that we ask to carry major burdens to deal with global and regional problems and crises in place of often inadequate individual national efforts.
Congress often criticizes international organizations that do not, in their eyes, carry out their mission to their liking, like the World Food Program, UNHCR, World Health Organization, IAEA, UNDP, UNEP, World Bank, IMF, and the other UN Agencies that, for example, carry out peacekeeping, crisis intervention etc. But the hypocrisy is that these Members deliberately eviscerate key institutions that keep the world secure and prosperous, just as they also cut aid to “the least among us” at home. But that does not stop them from saying that under President Obama we are withdrawing from leadership in world affairs, even as the administration has gone from one diplomatic success and bold action after the next, to make us safe and prosperous in a high risk world complex world.
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