03.12.09

Statement On The Fiscal Year 2009 State And Foreign Operations Appropriations Conference Report

Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, the Fiscal Year 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act, which President Obama signed yesterday, contains $36.6 billion in discretionary budget authority for the Department of State and Foreign Operations, which is the same amount approved by the Appropriations Committee in July 2008. 

This represents a $1.6 billion decrease from former President Bush’s budget request of $38.2 billion. I repeat - this legislation is $1.6 billion below what former President Bush recommended in his budget. 

It is a $3.8 billion increase from the FY08 enacted level, not counting supplemental funds, and $968 million above the FY08 level including FY 2008 supplemental and FY 2009 bridge funds.    

The State and Foreign Operations portion of the Omnibus does not contain any congressional earmarks. It does, as is customary and appropriate, specify funding levels for authorized programs, certain countries, and international organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank.

I want to thank Chairman Inouye, President Pro Tempore Byrd, and Ranking Member Cochran for their support throughout this protracted process. And I want to thank Senator Gregg, who as Ranking Member of the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee worked with me to produce this bipartisan legislation that was reported by the Appropriations Committee with only one dissenting vote.

It was imperative that we enacted this legislation. The alternative of a year-long continuing resolution would have been devastating for the operations of the State Department and our embassies, consulates and missions around the world, and for programs that support a myriad of United States foreign policy interests and that protect the security of the American people. Many Senators on both sides of the aisle were encouraged that Senator Clinton was nominated for and confirmed to be Secretary of State. If we want her to succeed we must provide the tools to do so. This legislation supports her highest priority of rebuilding the civilian capabilities of our government.

The Omnibus provides $7.8 billion for Department of State operations, a decrease of $274 million below former President’s Bush’s request and $1.2 billion above the FY08 enacted level, not including supplemental funds. Counting emergency funds provided in FY08 for personnel, operations and security costs in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Omnibus provides a 5.6 percent increase. 

These increases are attributed to a major investment in personnel, primarily to replace worldwide positions that were redirected to Iraq and invest particularly in countries of growing importance in South Asia. The Omnibus supports the request of 500 additional positions, much of which will help posts left depleted, some by 25 percent, due to positions shifting to Iraq during the last 5 years. In addition, the Omnibus recommends $75 million for a new initiative to train and deploy personnel in post-conflict stabilization. These critical investments would have been lost under a year-long continuing resolution.

The Omnibus provides $1.7 billion for construction of new secure embassies and to provide security upgrades to existing facilities, which is $178 million below former President Bush’s request. He had proposed a 41 percent increase which we did not have the funds to support. But an increase of $99.5 million, or 13 percent, above the FY08 enacted level is provided considering the significant threats our embassies faced last year alone, from Yemen to Belgrade. Even this lesser increase for embassy construction and security upgrades would be lost under a year-long continuing resolution.

Specifically, the Omnibus provides $4.24 billion for Diplomatic and Consular Programs, which funds State Department personnel. This is an increase of $464 million, or 12 percent, above the FY08 enacted level and $42 million above the President’s request. This funds a major investment in personnel to increase language training and expand the number of personnel in regions of growing importance. Senators on both sides of the aisle have strongly endorsed this investment, but it would not be funded under a continuing resolution. 

In fact, under a year-long continuing resolution the State Department would not have the resources to fund the staff currently serving at 267 posts overseas, due to exchange rate losses and the increased cost of security overseas. That means the United States would have even less representation than we do now, which none of us here would find acceptable.

The Omnibus provides $1.1 billion for Worldwide Security Protection for non-capital security upgrades, an increase of $355 million above the FY08 enacted level and $46 million below the request. This account funds all the Diplomatic Security agents at every post world-wide, armored vehicles, and training – all investments which, again, have bipartisan support. The increases would fund additional personnel for protection at high-threat embassies and oversight of security contractors in Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel-West Bank. This would not be possible under a continuing resolution.

Senators of both parties have expressed strong support for expanding international exchange programs, particularly in predominantly Muslim countries. The Omnibus provides $538 million for Education and Cultural Exchanges, which is $15.5 million above the President’s request and an increase of $36.6 million above the FY08 enacted level.   Those additional funds would be lost under a continuing resolution at the moment when the U.S. has the greatest opportunity to reintroduce our country, our people, and our values to the rest of the world.

The same is true of public diplomacy. The Omnibus provides $394.8 million for the State Department’s public diplomacy activities, including outreach, media and programs in embassies to develop relationships with people in host countries.  This is $33.9 million above the FY08 level, which would not be available under a continuing resolution.

The Omnibus provides $1.7 billion for construction of new secure embassies and maintenance of existing facilities, a $280 million increase above the FY08 enacted level and $83 million below the President’s request. Of this amount, $801 million is for Embassy Maintenance, $40 million less than the request and $46 million above the FY08 enacted level. 

The Omnibus provides $770 million for planning, design and construction of new embassies and office buildings worldwide, $178 million below the request and $99 million above the FY08 enacted level. Any Senator who has traveled abroad has seen the need to replace insecure and old embassies.  There is already a long waiting list, and it would be even longer under a continuing resolution.   

Former President Bush’s budget under-funded the U.S. assessed contribution to UN Peacekeeping in FY09 by assuming a reduction in every mission except Sudan.  That was pie in the sky. The cost of most of these missions is increasing, not decreasing. The Omnibus provides $1.5 billion for UN Peacekeeping, an increase of $295 million above the FY08 enacted level and $20 million above the President’s request. However, compared to the total amount enacted in FY08, the bill is $173 million below the operating level in FY08 including supplemental funds. These are costs we are obligated to pay by treaty. They support the troops of other nations in Darfur, the Congo, Lebanon, Haiti, and a dozen other countries. 

The Omnibus provides $1.5 billion for Contributions to International Organizations, the same as the President’s request and $186 million above the FY08 enacted level. The account funds the U.S. assessed dues to 47 international organizations, including NATO, IAEA, OECD, the UN, and others for which, as a member of the organization, the U.S. is obligated by treaty to contribute. We either pay now or we pay later.

The Omnibus provides $709.5 million for the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an increase of $39.5 million above the FY08 enacted level and $10 million above the former President Bush’s budget request. This includes funding for languages which the former Administration proposed to eliminate in FY09, such as Russian, Georgian, Kazak, Uzbek, Tibetan and the Balkans, where freedom of speech remains restricted and broadcasting programs are still necessary to provide unbiased news. 

For USAID, the Omnibus provides $808.6 million for operating expenses, $41.4 million above former President Bush’s request and $179 million above the FY08 enacted level. This continues efforts begun last year to address the serious staff shortage at USAID, but under a continuing resolution USAID’s staff problems would continue to worsen. It would not be able to hire additional staff for Afghanistan and Pakistan, or for other posts where there is not sufficient oversight of contracting and procurement. It is a crisis situation that I and Senator Gregg are determined to fix. 

For bilateral economic assistance, the Omnibus provides a total of $17.1 billion, $1.3 billion below former President Bush’s request and $623.3 million above the FY08 level.   We received requests from most Senators – Democrats and Republicans – for funding from within this account, totaling far more than we could afford. A continuing resolution would have made it impossible to fund many, if not most, of those requests.

A good example is global health. The Omnibus provides $7.1 billion for Global Health and Child Survival, an increase of $757 million above the request and $737 million above the FY08 enacted level. A continuing resolution would be devastating for these life-saving programs.

A total of $495 million is provided for Child Survival and Maternal Health, an increase of $125 million above former President Bush’s request and $49 million above the FY08 enacted level. These funds are for programs that directly decrease child and maternal mortality from preventable diseases, like malaria, polio and pneumonia. Under a continuing resolution USAID would not be able to expand its malaria control programs to other countries in Africa with a high incidence of malaria, which kills a million people, mostly African children, every year.      

The Omnibus provides $300 million for safe water programs, including increasing access to safe drinking water and sanitation, which is a key factor in improving public health.  

Former President Bush proposed a steep cut in funding for family planning and reproductive health programs, even though they are the most effective means of reducing unwanted pregnancies and abortions. The Omnibus, instead, provides a total of $545 million from all accounts for family planning and reproductive health including $50 million for the UN Population Fund, which is $82 million above the FY08 level. A continuing resolution would eliminate those additional funds, and the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions would increase.

The Omnibus provides a total of $5.5 billion for programs to combat HIV/AIDS, $388 million above former President Bush’s request and $459 million above the FY08 level. Of this amount, $600 million is provided for the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, which is $400 million above the request. Additionally within the total, $350 million is provided for USAID programs to combat HIV/AIDS, which is $8 million above the request. 

These additional funds, which pay for life-sustaining anti-retroviral drugs, prevention and care programs, would be lost under a continuing resolution, to the detriment of 1 million people who would receive life-saving treatment this year. With this funding 2 million additional HIV infections would be prevented this year. Instead of 10 million lives we are saving today, we have the opportunity to save 12 million people. We have the opportunity with this bill to save 1 million more orphans or vulnerable children who are either infected with HIV or have been orphaned because a parent died from HIV/AIDS. Why would we not make this investment this year?

The Development Assistance account funds energy and environment programs, microcredit programs, private enterprise, rule of law, trade capacity, and many other activities that Senators on both sides of the aisle support. The Omnibus provides $1.8 billion for Development Assistance which is $161 million above former President Bush’s request and $176 million above the FY08 enacted level.   

The Omnibus provides $350 million for International Disaster Assistance, $52 million above the request and $30 million above the FY08 enacted level, excluding supplemental funds.   These funds enable the United States to put its best face forward when disaster strikes, as it did with the tsunami, the earthquake in Pakistan, floods in Central America, and famine in Africa. 

The Omnibus provides $875 million for the Millennium Challenge Corporation. This is $1.3 billion below the request and $669 million below the FY08 enacted level. This reflects the view of the House and Senate that the Congress supports the MCC but wants to see a slowdown in new compacts, while $7 billion in previously appropriated funds are disbursed, and while the new Administration decides how it wants to fund the MCC in the future.   The agreement provides sufficient funds to continue current operations and to commence two new compacts of $350 million each.

For the Peace Corps, the Omnibus provides $340 million, which is $9 million above the FY08 level. Those additional funds would have been lost under a continuing resolution.

The Omnibus provides $875 million for International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement, which is $327 million below the request and $321 million above the FY08 enacted level. Those additional funds for programs in Latin America, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and many other countries would be lost under a continuing resolution.

There is a total of $405 million for continued support of the Merida Initiative, including $300 million for Mexico and $105 million for the countries of Central America. The FY08 Supplemental included $400 million and $65 million, respectively.   We are all increasingly alarmed by the spread of drug-related violence and criminal gangs in Mexico, but under a continuing resolution there would be nothing for the Merida Initiative.

Migration and Refugee Assistance is funded at $931 million, which is $167 million above former President Bush’s request and $108 million above the FY08 enacted level. That $108 million would be lost under a continuing resolution. This amount is already $557 million below what was provided in FY08 including supplemental and FY09 bridge funds. These funds are used for basic care and protection of refugees and internally displaced persons, whose numbers are not expected to decrease this year.   

The Omnibus provides $4.9 billion for military assistance and peacekeeping operations, $173 million below former President Bush’s request but $212.6 million above the FY08 enacted level. The Omnibus assumes $170 million provided in the FY08 supplemental as FY09 bridge funds for military assistance to Israel, making the total amount for Israel equal to the President’s request, $2.55 billion. The additional $212.6 million for other important bilateral relationships would be lost under a continuing resolution.

For contributions to the multilateral development institutions, which we owe by treaty, the bill provides $1.8 billion. That is $503 million below the former President’s request and $251 million above the FY08 enacted level. A continuing resolution would have put us another $251 million in arrears, in addition to the arrears we already owe.

The Omnibus provides the amounts requested by the former President for the Export-Import Bank, an increase of $26.5 million above FY08.  By not passing this legislation, these additional resources would not have been available to make U.S. businesses competitive in the global marketplace. At this time of economic downturn at home we should be doing everything we can to support U.S. trade.

Mr. President, these are the highlights of the FY09 State and Foreign Operations portion of the Omnibus that passed by a vote of 62-38. It contains funding to meet critical operational costs and programmatic needs which support U.S. interests and protect U.S. security around the world. 

A handful of our friends in the Minority spent days criticizing the Omnibus because it contains earmarks.  Apparently they would have preferred that unnamed, unelected bureaucrats make all the decisions about the use of taxpayer dollars. In fact, the total amount of the $410 billion Omnibus that Members of Congress – Democrats and Republicans – have earmarked for schools, fire and police departments, roads, bridges, hospitals, scientific research, universities and other organizations and programs in their states and districts which would not otherwise receive funding, is less than 1 percent.  That’s what the aggrieved speeches were about. A whopping 1 percent.

Some Senators complained that the Omnibus – all but a small fraction of which would fund the budget requests of former President Bush – is more than we can afford. Those are the same Senators who, year after year, rubber-stamped billions and billions of borrowed dollars to fund an unnecessary war and reconstruction programs in Iraq that were fraught with waste and abuse. 

Some say that the intervention of the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act is why they opposed the Omnibus.  Regarding the Department of State and Foreign Operations, 99.6 percent of the Omnibus has no correlation whatsoever to what was funded by the Recovery Act. This portion of the Omnibus funds all of the United States’ activities overseas. All of the key new investments I have described would not have been possible under a year-long continuing resolution.

The funding for State and Foreign Operations in the Omnibus amounts to about 1 percent of the total budget of this country. However one views the Economic Recovery Act, the damage that a year-long continuing resolution would have caused to the functions of our embassies, consulates and missions, and to the Foreign Service Officers who serve the American people around the world, would have been devastating. The damage to programs would be measured in lives. 

We have seen the image of our country battered beyond recognition. The values our country was founded on were ignored, ridiculed, and diminished. Democrats and Republicans alike recognize that the United States needs to reinvigorate its engagement in the world, particularly through rebuilding alliances and using diplomacy more effectively. The Omnibus puts our money where our mouths are. The alternative would have been to retract, and to invite others to fill the vacuum.  That might save money in the short term, but it would have cost us dearly in the future. 

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