Media Examines Foreign Aid Stakeholders’ Reactions To FY11, FY12 Budgets

In the wake of President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2012 budget proposal and the negotiation of the fiscal year 2011 budget bill in the House of Representatives, news outlets looked at stakeholders’ responses to the measures and analyzed different pieces of the bills.  

The Washington Post reports on the reaction to the fiscal year 2011 budget bill, which is currently being debated in the House.

“U.S. officials and nonprofit groups are expressing alarm about the deep reductions in humanitarian assistance in the House budget bill, warning that it could leave millions of poor people hungry and put refugees in jeopardy in places such as Iraq and Pakistan,” the newspaper writes. “The bill, which would mandate cuts in the fiscal 2011 discretionary budget, was drawn up by House Republicans and represents about a 6 percent cut in funding overall from 2010 federal budget levels. But money for international food aid programs would be reduced by up to 50 percent. The State Department’s funding for refugees would shrink by more than 40 percent.”

According to the Washington Post, the bill proposes reducing funding for the U.S. foreign assistance program Food for Peace “by 40 percent from 2010 levels.” U.S. officials say the cuts would restrict or even eliminate food for approximately 15 million people in Ethiopia, Haiti, Sudan and other places. “The budget for another initiative, the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program, which provides meals to about 4.5 million schoolchildren in poor countries, would be halved,” the newspaper writes.

“A lot of these kids would not be in school if there was no meal,” said Rick Leach, president of the World Food Program USA. Rep. Kay Granger (R-Tex.), head of the House Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, “said that, to preserve funding considered critical to national security – such as military assistance for Israel and Egypt – other aspects of foreign assistance must be reduced,” the Washington Post writes. “It represents an American policy retreat of historic proportions, with unprecedented and really devastating effects on our leadership in saving lives and preventing conflict,” Eric Schwartz, the assistant secretary of state for refugees and migration, said of the House proposal.

The newspaper notes that the Senate “is likely to pass a less-stringent version of the bill” (Sheridan, 2/17).

In a press release, World Vision responded to the FY11 budget proposal, saying: “[D]isproportionately large cuts targeting America’s humanitarian assistance budget jeopardize the success of global development initiatives and undermine both U.S. global security and leadership,” according to a post on Laura Rozen’s blog on Politico. Robert Zachritz, the group’s U.S. government relations director, “said that while the organization recognizes the need to make spending adjustments, cuts to the 2011 budget ‘should not fall disproportionately on the poorest of the poor.'”

The advocacy group ONE focused on the proposed cuts to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The group said, “We strongly encourage the House to restore funding to programs designed to save lives, help the poorest, and help stabilize areas of great strategic and national security interest to the United States.”

Some groups offered “scattered praise for President Obama’s 2012 budget,” according to the blog. “Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America … said the 2012 budget proposal reflects the administration’s ‘resolve in fighting global poverty.’ … But Oxfam also provided constructive criticism of the proposal, stating in its press release that the scale of the U.S. response is ‘still outpaced by the scale of the problem,’ with ‘poverty focused aid’ accounting for less than one percent of the budget,” the blog notes. Oxfam recently “released a report on the ‘worrying trend’ of politicized and militarized aid,” the blog adds (Cheney, 2/15).

In a statement on Monday, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition said it “rallied behind the Obama administration’s FY 2012 international affairs budget request for 53.1 billion dollars and urged Congress to fully fund the request,” Inter Press Service reports in a story examining the foreign aid components of the 2012 budget proposal (Muscara, 2/16).

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