The House of Representatives began debate this week on the continuing resolution (H.R. 1) to fund the remainder of fiscal year 2011. The bill recommends deep cuts in development accounts, indicating that some in Congress do not agree with the White House that foreign operations should be considered a component of security-related funding.
Upon learning that House Members had introduced some 700 further amendments, I was certain that deeper cuts were on the way. Interestingly, that does not appear to be the case. A review of the amendments tells a different (and surprising!) story – the big cuts are not to the development-related accounts, but to the security ones of Foreign Military Financing and the Economic Support Fund.
What’s the explanation? Perhaps the cuts of the underlying bill are deep enough. By my calculations, the bill cuts USAID’s Operating Expense by nearly 9% from FY2010 levels, and nearly 16% from the FY2011 request. Development Assistance falls by nearly 30% from FY2010 and 40% from the FY2011request. Global Health and Child Survival drops by more than 20% from FY2010 and nearly 40% from the FY2011 request. No doubt that these proposed funding levels will prove problematic for existing programs.
Perhaps the message is getting through that the investments the United States makes in the development of poor countries is important for global stability, national security, and/or humanitarian considerations. It is striking that there are no amendments pending to some of the accounts we highlighted in an earlier blog – that is Global Health and Child Survival, Development Assistance, and USAID’s Operating Expense account. An amendment to zero out the Millennium Challenge Corporation will reportedly not be offered.
Perhaps this is just a curiosity without any real meaning. Or perhaps there is some sentiment percolating that these accounts have been cut enough. As I offered earlier, there is room to be more selective and focused in U.S. assistance programs. But to be more selective requires that the purposes and objectives of assistance be determined, a determination lacking from successive administrations and congresses.