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Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Peace Corps: Current Issues

Curt Tarnoff
Specialist in Foreign Affairs

Founded in 1961, the Peace Corps has sought to meet its legislative mandate of promoting world peace and friendship by sending American volunteers to serve at the grassroots level in villages and towns in all corners of the globe. About 7,671 volunteers currently serve in 77 nations.

In 2010, the 111th Congress is considering the President's annual funding request for the Peace Corps, efforts to reauthorize the Peace Corps, and related issues. On February 1, the Obama Administration issued its FY2011 budget request, proposing $446.2 million for the Peace Corps, a 12% increase over the FY2010-appropriated level of $400 million (H.R. 3288, P.L. 111-117). On June 30, 2010, the House State, Foreign Operations Subcommittee marked up a draft FY2011 State, Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, providing $446.2 million for the Peace Corps, matching the Administration request and $46.2 million above the previous year's level.

The last Peace Corps authorization (P.L. 106-30), approved in 1999, covered the years FY2000 to FY2003. On June 10, 2009, the House approved H.R. 2410, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for 2010 and 2011 (H.Rept. 111-136). Title VI of the act contains several Peace Corps provisions, including authorization of an appropriation level of in FY2011. The Senate has not addressed this legislation. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee reported S. 1382, which would authorize funding for the Peace Corps at "such sums as may be necessary."

A comprehensive assessment of Peace Corps operations was published in June 2010. It makes 64 recommendations supporting a six-point strategy to be implemented in the coming years.

Current issues include the extent to which there is available funding for Peace Corps expansion, whether the Peace Corps has the institutional capacity to expand, and whether volunteers are able to function in a safe and secure environment.

Date of Report: July 21, 2010
Number of Pages: 14
Order Number: RS21168
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

FY2010 Supplemental for Wars, Disaster Assistance, Haiti Relief, and Other Programs

Amy Belasco, Coordinator
Specialist in U.S. Defense Policy and Budget

Daniel H. Else
Specialist in National Defense

Bruce R. Lindsay
Analyst in Emergency Management Policy

Rhoda Margesson
Specialist in International Humanitarian Policy

Kennon H. Nakamura
Analyst in Foreign Affairs

Maureen Taft-Morales
Specialist in Latin American Affairs

Curt Tarnoff
Specialist in Foreign Affairs

The Administration requested $64.0 billion in FY2010 supplemental appropriations: 

• $5.1 billion to replenish the U.S. Disaster Relief Fund administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); 

• $33 billion for the Department of Defense (DOD) primarily for deploying 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and $4.5 billion in war-related foreign aid to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan; $2.8 billion for Haiti earthquake-related reconstruction and foreign aid; 

• $243 million for activities related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill; 

• $13.4 billion to compensate veterans exposed to Agent Orange; 

• $600 million for border security; and 

• $3.4 billion to settle court cases about trust claims of American Indians (Cobell) and $1.2 billion for discrimination claims of black farmers (Pigford II). 

Much of the debate about this year's supplemental focused on the effect on the deficit of additional spending. Under budget rules, Congress does not offset spending that is designated as emergency. So much of the debate has focused on what types of spending are appropriately emergency spending, and offsetting non-emergency spending. Offsets can come from either rescissions, which cancel prior year budget authority (BA), and then apply that BA to new spending, reducing the amount of new budget authority required, or mandatory program savings. 

On March 23, 2010, the House passed H.R. 4899, the Disaster Relief and Summer Jobs Act with $5.1 billion to replenish FEMA's Disaster Assistance Fund, $600 million for a Labor Department summer jobs program, offset by $600 million in rescissions so that the bill required $5.1 billion in new budget authority (BA). On May 26, 2010, the House Appropriations Committee (HAC) scheduled a markup of a draft bill with $84.8 billion in new BA, but that markup was cancelled. 

On May 27, the Senate passed its version of H.R. 4899 by a vote of 67-28, with $59.6 billion in funding for disaster assistance, war funding, Haiti relief, and new VA benefits, no additional domestic spending, but without the $4 billion for the two court cases, which were at that point, included in H.R. 4213, the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010. With rescissions, the Senate version required $59.3 billion in new budget authority. 

On July 1, 2010, the House passed its amended version of the bill with $81.8 billion including funds for disaster assistance, wars, Haiti relief, preventing teacher layoffs, agricultural and energy loans, and Pell Grants in discretionary spending as well as mandatory funding for new VA benefits and the two court cases. With $12.2 billion in rescissions and ten-year savings of $4.5 billion in mandatory savings over ten years from lower government drug prices, that bill would require $65.1 billion in new BA. On July 22, 2010, the a cloture vote in the Senate failed by 46 to 51 and by unanimous consent, the House July amended version was sent back to the House. 

The Defense Department, the State Department, FEMA, and the court plaintiffs have all cited funding deadlines in May and June, but there may be flexibility in these dates. Relying on all available funding, DOD may cover its war costs until sometime in August. The House and Senate passed S. 3473, which provided additional oil spill funds for the Coast Guard. FEMA has $952 million available for disasters because it has only paid claims for urgent needs.

Date of Report: June 23, 2010
Number of Pages: 91
Order Number: R41232
Price: $29.95

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Foreign Aid Reform, National Strategy, and the Quadrennial Review

Susan B. Epstein
Specialist in Foreign Policy

Several development proponents, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and policymakers are pressing the 111th Congress to reform U.S. foreign aid capabilities to better address 21st century development needs and national security challenges. Over the past nearly 50 years, the legislative foundation for U.S. foreign aid has evolved largely by amending the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (P.L. 87-195), the primary statutory basis for U.S. foreign aid programs, and enacting separate freestanding laws to reflect specific U.S. foreign policy interests. Many describe U.S. aid programs as fragmented, cumbersome, and not finely tuned to address overseas needs or U.S. national security interests. Lack of a comprehensive congressional reauthorization of foreign aid for about half of those 50 years further compounds the perceived weakness of U.S. aid programs and statutes.

The current structure of U.S. foreign aid entities, as well as implementation and follow-up monitoring of the effectiveness of aid programs, have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. Criticisms include a lack of focus and coherence overall; too many agencies involved in delivering aid with inadequate coordination or leadership; lack of flexibility, responsiveness, and transparency of aid programs; and a perceived lack of progress in some countries that have been aid recipients for decades. Over the last decade a number of observers have expressed a growing concern about the increasing involvement of the Department of Defense in foreign aid activities. At issue, too, is whether the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) or the Department of State should be designated as the lead agency in delivering, monitoring, and assessing aid, and what the relationship between the two should be.

Representative Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), states on the committee website that foreign assistance reform is a top priority. In 2009, he introduced H.R. 2139, Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act of 2009. Between July 2009 and May 2010, Chairman Berman released a concept paper on foreign aid reform, as well as three discussion papers on key aspects of aid reform. On June 29, 2010, the Chairman made available a discussion draft of the first 55 pages of possible foreign aid reform legislation.

Senator Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), Senator Lugar, ranking minority member, and others introduced a reform bill, S. 1524, the Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act of 2009. The Senate may consider H.R. 2410, the Housepassed Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 2010 and 2011, that includes language requiring a national strategy for development and a quadrennial review of diplomacy and development.

The Obama Administration, with support from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, announced action to seek solutions to the problems associated with foreign aid and begin the process of reform. Secretary Clinton announced in July 2009 that the Department of State would conduct a Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) to address issues involving State Department and USAID capabilities and resources to meet 21st century demands. In August 2009, the President signed a Presidential Study Directive (PSD) on U.S. Global Development Policy to address overarching government department and agency issues regarding foreign aid activities and coordination. Both are scheduled to be concluded in 2010.

This report will follow the activities in both Congress and the executive branch on foreign aid reform, a national strategy for development, the QDDR, and the PSD.

Date of Report: June 13, 2010
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: R41173
Price: $29.95

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Monday, July 19, 2010

International Population Assistance and Family Planning Programs: Issues for Congress

Luisa Blanchfield
Specialist in International Relations

Since 1965, the U.S. government has supported international population planning based on principles of volunteerism and informed choice that gives participants access to information on all methods of birth control. This policy has generated contentious debate for over three decades, resulting in frequent clarification and modification of U.S. international family planning programs. Given the divisive nature of this debate, U.S. funding of these programs will likely remain a point of contention during the second session of the 111th Congress.

In 1984, controversy arose over U.S. population aid policy when the Ronald Reagan Administration introduced restrictions that became known as the "Mexico City policy." The Mexico City policy denied U.S. funds to foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that performed or promoted abortion as a method of family planning—even if the activities were undertaken with non-U.S. funds. Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush also banned grants to the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) due to evidence of coercive family planning practices in China, citing violations of the "Kemp-Kasten" amendment, which bans U.S. assistance to organizations that, as determined by the President, support or participate in the management of coercive family planning programs.

President Bill Clinton resumed UNFPA funding and reversed the Mexico City policy in 1993. In 2001, however, President George W. Bush re-applied the Mexico City restrictions. The Bush Administration also suspended U.S. contributions to UNFPA from FY2002 through FY2008 following a State Department investigation of family planning programs in China. On January 23, 2009, President Obama issued a presidential memorandum revoking the Mexico City policy. The President also stated that the United States would resume U.S. contributions to UNFPA.

For FY2011, the Obama Administration requested a total of $715.74 million for bilateral and multilateral international family planning and reproductive health activities. This included $50 million for U.S. voluntary contributions to UNFPA.

In December 2009, President Obama signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010 (P.L. 111- 117). Division F of that bill, the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2010, directs that not less than $648.457 million should be made available for international family planning and reproductive health activities. Of this amount, $55 million shall be made available for UNFPA under the International Organizations and Programs (IO&P) account.

Date of Report: July 8, 2010
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: RL33250
Price: $29.95

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