Stimson Center: Diplomacy and Foreign Aid Budget Deal Could Have Been a Lot Worse, FY2012 is Not Promising

On April 15 without much fanfare, President Obama signed into law the budget deal officially called H.R. 1473, the “Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011”.

Dr. Gordon Adams and Rebecca Williams of The Will and the Wallet (Budget Insights for Foreign Affairs and Defense Policy from the Stimson Center) has posted an analysis of the FY2011 CR yesterday. Check out their account-by-account data breakdown of the International Affairs budget here and here (pdf). Quick excerpts below:

“While the President did not get the diplomatic and foreign assistance money he asked for in the FY 2011 budget deal (his request was cut $8.3 billion), it could have been a lot worse. The House version of the FY 2011 budget would have cut nearly $5 billion more.

Moreover, some in the Congress could and do argue that compared to FY 2010, American’s foreign policy institutions and programs survived pretty well.  Compared to the base funding for FY 2010, the new appropriation cut only $781 million or two percent.

The administration sees it differently.  The White House includes in the FY 2010 total the funds that were appropriated in FY 2009, but rolled over into 2010 (so-called “forward funding”) and the supplemental funds voted in 2010 primarily for Iraq and Afghanistan.  The administration therefore starts from a higher level last year and argues that the new budget is a 12% cut from that base.

Click here for an account by account data breakdown of the 2011 CR relative to FY10 (pdf)

The disagreement over where to start counting will probably not be resolved.  But it is important to understand that overall US foreign policy funding has grown significantly over the past decade, essentially doubling from FY 2001 to FY 2010.  The new budget flattens that growth (or cuts it, depending on where you start).  And the process of strengthening our civilian statecraft is going to get harder as Congress and the White House focus in on controlling the deficit and the growth of the nation’s debt, a problem Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen has called our number one national security threat.

Remember the much touted QDDR?

“Congress may be leery of strengthening the State Department’s capacity for more operational engagement in conflict resolution, conflict prevention, and post-conflict reconstruction and governance.  This capacity was a strong focus of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), but it was not well supported in the budget agreement.  Funds for both the Civilian Stabilization Initiative (the conflict prevention and resolution people) and the Complex Crises Fund (their operating funds) were cut significantly from the administration’s request.”

Foreign policy still militarized? Absolutely.

“Congress also took a step backward in rebalancing the national security toolkit, effectively reinforcing the trend of the past decade to shift authority from State to Defense. In particular, the budget agreement reverses the previous congressional decision to ask State to take responsibility for counter-insurgency support in Pakistan, denying the State Department request for $1.2 billion for this program and providing $800 million in unrequested funding to the DOD for the same purpose.”

Their conclusion is not hopeful.  

“The fiscal environment for FY 2012 is not promising for American civilian statecraft.  The House budget resolution passed last week would cut foreign policy funding (the International Affairs Budget function) 35% or $13.1 billion from the CR level provided for FY 2011.  While this level may grow in a Senate resolution, it is going to be increasingly difficult to “power up” the civilian diplomacy and foreign assistance agencies in the emerging budget environment.

Humanitarian and a modicum of development assistance are useful tools, but the challenges of the new century will demand a good deal more from America’s diplomats and assistance providers.  Moreover, as the defense budget shrinks, our civilian capabilities will grow in importance. It is penny-wise and pound-foolish to hammer the civilian foreign policy accounts, particularly where new capabilities need to grow.

Read in full here.

I think the last time State had it this bad was during the 1990’s, when we were supposedly enjoying the peace dividend at the end of the Cold War.  Instead, we had rounds of embassy closures, hiring freezes, reduction in force particularly among locally engaged employees, and USIA was gobbled up into the State Department in 1999. The FY 2012 with the proposed deep cuts in the international affairs budget may be shaping up to be way, way worse.  And USAID could be on the line.