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“Modest reforms to pay and compensation will improve readiness and modernization. It will help keep our all-volunteer force sustainable and strong. Keeping faith also means investing sufficient resources so that we can uphold our sacred obligations to defend the nation and to send our sons and daughters to war with only the best training, leadership and equipment. We can’t shrink from our obligations to one another. The stakes are too high.”

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey

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Monday
May212012

Easing the Pain

The House appropriators’ press release declares its State and Foreign Ops bill is only $2 billion less than last year, but that doesn’t include war funding which hid a lot of funding last year.  Still the basic story is right.  The committee cut the International Affairs budget: $6B from what the President requested and $5B from FY12.  Only two accounts got any significant increase in the base budget, Peacekeeping Operations and Global Health.  Most accounts' base budgets were cut at about the same proportion as the bill overall.  

But though the House matched the President's war funding--the OCO funding, it used that funding to ease some of the pain of the base cuts.  Two accounts ended up receiving increases in total funding over the President's budget: ‘Migration and Refugee Assistance’ and ‘Non-Proliferation, Anti-terrorism, Demining and Related Programs.’  Five other accounts had their cut eased from an average of a 22% cut to just under 6% by getting plus-ups in war funding.  Most significantly, the Economic Support Fund got a $1.2B increase in war funding, restoring it in total funding to 89% of what the President requested.  

To pay for those increases in war funding, the House appropriators cut the State Department's core operating account by $1.6B and refused to provide the contingency funds for Pakistan requested by the President. That is on top of the $800M cut those accounts took in the base budget.

Though only a third of international affairs funding, the State operating accounts took half the cut.  The executive agencies tend to care more about operating accounts, while legislators tend to care more about programmatic accounts.  As budget pressures continue, we're likely to see this fight between executive and legislative branch priorities more often, with the outcome determining what the tools of our foreign policy toolkit will look like.