Thursday, July 28, 2011

Foreign Affairs Group Urges Expansion of Foreign Service, a Week Later, House Appropriations Committee Slashes State Dept/USAID Funding

The Foreign Affairs Council is a non-partisan umbrella group of eleven organizations concerned about U.S. diplomatic readiness. It recently released its fifth biennial assessment of the stewardship of the Secretary of State as a leader and manager.  The report which was released a week ago includes a notation that says "not all signatories agree with everything contained in this report, although they unanimously concur with all conclusions and recommendations."  Excerpts below:

An increase of 1,069 State positions during the tenure of Secretary of State Colin Powell (2001-2005) was more than absorbed by the civilian surges in Iraq and Afghanistan plus substantial increases in consular officers (more intensive scrutiny of visa applications to protect our frontiers) and in security officers (to protect others being deployed). Inaction on staffing during the tenure of Secretary Condoleezza Rice (2005-2009) left the foreign affairs agencies with huge deficits in the human resources needed to do what was asked of them in the post-9/11 international landscape. Secretary Rice did propose a robust budget for FY 2009 asking for about 1,000 new positions for State and 500 for USAID and obtained OMB approval for these increases. However, given that FY 2009 was a “lame duck" period for the Bush administration, it did not appear at the time that the budget request would prosper in the Congress and, in any case, would not be acted upon until well after Rice’s departure.
The FY 2009 appropriations bill added 992 new Foreign Service positions at State and 300 positions at USAID.
...[S]oon after taking office the Administration submitted a FY 2010 budget request that succeeded in adding 764 Foreign Service positions at State and 350 positions at USAID.
The FY 2009 and FY 2010 staffing increases that achieved a 17 percent expansion of the Foreign Service were a remarkable accomplishment for Secretary Clinton, President Obama and Congress. Yet, with most of the new employees being sent out just to fill existing vacant positions, Foreign Service staffing levels still fell far short of that needed to fully restore America’s diplomatic and development capacity.
[T]he Administration’s FY 2011 budget request (forwarded to Congress in February 2010) sought 410 new Foreign Service positions at State and 200 at USAID. One year later, with the FY 2011 budget still pending before Congress (and opposed by the Republican majority in the House), the Administration submitted its FY 2012 budget request seeking an additional 150 Foreign Service positions at State and 165 at USAID. Thus, as of May 2011, the combined FY 2011 and FY 2012 unmet Foreign Service staffing requests totaled 560 at State and 365 at USAID.
Unfortunately, when Congress belatedly passed the FY 2011 budget in April 2011, it did not include funds to hire additional personnel above attrition. Furthermore, as this FAC report goes to press, Congress appears poised to reject the Administration’s FY 2012 request to strengthen staffing at the State Department and USAID.

Resources for Staffing and Training

1. Secretary Clinton should pursue her budget proposal to strengthen diplomacy and development assistance by securing funding for an additional 1,250 Foreign Service positions at the State Department and 650 at USAID by FY 2014.

2. To achieve the above recommendation the Secretary should make completion of Development 3.0 the first priority. Small reductions in the various assistance program accounts would fund the personnel increases now pending without damaging the development effort.

3. The Secretary should use a portion of the new positions to complete the staffing of a Foreign Service training complement equal to 15 percent of core staffing in order to provide the professional education and training needed to raise the overall level of performance of the State Department and USAID.
The report is available here but seems to have slipped into a dark hole inside the beltway. Too dark to read there.

On Jul 26, the House Appropriations Committee released the fiscal year 2012 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill:
The bill includes a total of $39.6 billion in regular discretionary funding, which is $8.6 billion or 18% below last year’s level. Included in these reductions are cuts back to the fiscal year 2008 levels or below for certain operations and assistance accounts. The bill also includes $7.6 billion designated as Global War on Terror funding, which is $1.1 billion below the President’s request.
State Department Operations and Related Agencies – The bill contains a total of $11.9 billion in discretionary funding for operational costs of the State Department and related agencies – a decrease of $3.9 billion below last year’s level and a $3.1 billion below the President’s request. This includes funding for programs such as diplomatic and consular affairs, embassy security and operations, assessed contributions to international organizations, and international broadcasting. The bill also eliminates temporary pay raises for overseas officers.

United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Operations – The bill contains $1.04 billion for USAID – a reduction of $488 million from last year’s level and $705 million below the President’s request. The bill halts new hiring at USAID and stops expansion of facilities overseas associated with that hiring.

Global War on Terror – The bill includes Global War on Terror (GWOT) funding for efforts and activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq, GWOT funds will support security forces and police previously funded by the Department of Defense. GWOT funds will also support civilian programs in support of the military’s counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan.
For the subcommittee draft text of the FY 2012 State and Foreign Operations Bill, please visit:

This is a Republican-sponsored bill.  GOP members hold seven of the 11 seats on the House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations subcommittee. On July 27, the bill was reported to the Full Committee on voice vote.  The Full Committee markup is scheduled for August 3rd.

There are again talks about the elimination of "locality pay" and even the "F" word. Locality pay and furloughs sounds familiar; didn't we had these talks just months ago? But this will be a much larger drawn-out battle not just on staffing the Foreign Service but funding for diplomacy and foreign aid in 2012. Even if the State bill is "only one and a quarter percent of the overall budget."  Most foreign aid recipients do not vote; but of course, countries receiving US aid have their own lobbyists and presumably they will be working "all hands" and earning their pay in the months ahead.

The Cable's Josh Rogin reports that SFRC's Senator Kerry has also unveiled his bill on July 27 (apparently with no participation from Senator Lugar; not a good sign) that would fully fund the State Department and USAID operations at the level requested by the White House.  Josh notes that "nobody knows if those funds will be set aside for international affairs when the appropriators weigh in. And the ongoing negotiations over the debt ceiling could change the financial picture for State and USAID as well."

The text of Senator Kerry's bill is here, with an expanded summary here, and a fact sheet on the bill here.

So the duel is officially on.

If there is a compromise (oh dat dirty, dirty word), it will presumably be between the 18% mark. Senator Kerry will not get his full funding, and the GOP will not get its full 18% cuts. It is also conceivable that the State/USAID funding could become casualties in the "we're going to be the next banana republic debt ceiling" negotiations.

CNN reports that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already warned members of the House of Representatives that she "will recommend personally" that President Barack Obama veto a bill that would severely restrict State Department operations, international organizations and foreign assistance.

But what good is that warning when the debt ceiling catastrophe and its attendant side effects are heading our way like a Chinese bullet train?

2012! It's sooner than you think. Well now, where is John Cusack when you need him?

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