In a first in five years, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday (April 27) passed an appropriations bill. The proposal, which faces opposition from budget hawks, would increase the foreign affairs budget, boost federal hiring and begin to reform U.S. development assistance.
The Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2010-11 authorizes the Department of State to hire 750 foreign service personnel above attrition during fiscal 2010, which ends in October, and another 750 in fiscal 2011. It also allows the U.S. Agency for International Development to add 350 above attrition this fiscal year, and the same number in fiscal 2011.
Furthermore, the proposal:
- Tweaks staff payment, and training for those serving in conflict areas.
- Strengthens the watchdog role of the DOS and USAID inspectors general.
- Makes the Office for Global Women’s Issues permanent.
- Increases the Millennium Challenge Corp.’s funding flexibility.
The bill, which must still pass the full Senate and be merged with its House companion, passed on voice vote after several amendments were agreed upon, defying last week’s non-binding guideline by the Budget Committee to strip President Barack Obama’s proposed 2011 foreign affairs budget by USD4 million.
Before the vote, eight former U.S. secretaries of state took a united stand defending Obama’s foreign affairs budget request. In a letter to Congress, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, Warren Christopher, Lawrence Eagleburger, James Baker, George Shultz and Henry Kissinger urged lawmakers to fully support Obama’s request.
“Increasing the investment in our civilian international capabilities will keep America safer,” the former U.S. top diplomats said in the letter.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-Ca.) made a similar call on April 26.