U.S. Agency for International Development Acting Administrator Alfonso E. Lenhardt visits Nepal 10 days after the country was hit by a. 7.8-magnitude earthquake. A bill presented by the U.S. House appropriations subcommittee will cut the aid agency’s operations and economic programming. Photo by: Kashish Das Shrestha / CC BY-NC

Security concerns took a hefty bite out of economic programming and U.S. Agency for International Development operations in favor of security programs in the most recent 2016 appropriations bill coming out of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Funding at the country level isn’t included in this version of the the bill, which was debated in a hearing Wednesday, but the $1 billion in aid slated by President Barack Obama for Central America in the administration’s latest budget request looks unlikely to be met. While the $236 million set aside for security-related programming in the region — the administration’s response to the flood of illegal minors from Central America into the U.S. in 2013 — remains intact, it’s unclear how other programs, like those related to civil society, education and economic development will fare.

“[Republican Rep. Kay] Granger and [Democratic Sen. Patrick] Leahy have been pretty engaged in the last few years on governance and education programming in Central America,” said Kate Eltrich, partner at Sixkiller Consulting, “but I bet in total, [the bill] will be nowhere near what the president requested.”

USAID operational funding also sees a significant cut — 7.7 percent over 2015 — in the most recent draft, which the full committee will most likely mark up next week.

“This is a more political bill than last year,” Eltrich said, referring to the House’s proposed 15 percent withholding from State Department operations, which is widely seen as the GOP’s way of protesting the administration’s delayed release of documents related to the 2012 Benghazi attacks.

Despite these cuts, Granger, who recently expressed concerns that USAID is “too big,” praised the bill for restoring funds to health-related programming, originally cut by about 4 percent in the president’s request, and for singling out wildlife programs.

Granger called the bill “first and foremost a national security bill,” in her opening statement at Wednesday’s hearing. Security is one of the only areas where the bill matches the president’s budget request, with a 2 percent increase over 2015, Eltrich said.

Granger added in her statement that when it comes to aid to Central America, “The committee will continue to watch how these countries progress, and we expect aid to stop if we do not see results.”

At the same time, this year’s bill cuts strings attached to aid to Egypt, with language on the treatment of nongovernmental organizations and progress toward democratic society removed from the text.

“[Egypt has] continued their strategic relationship with us, and they are upholding the peace treaty with Israel,” Granger said, pointing out that the U.S. will continue to monitor the situation in Egypt, but in the meantime “must stop sending mixed messages.”

Finally, the House took a firm stance against the U.S. Export-Import Bank in this draft by affirmatively not extending the bank’s authorization, Eltrich told Devex, which would encourage its demise at the end of June, when the bank is up for a separate reauthorization vote.

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About the author

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    Molly Anders

    Molly Anders is a former U.K. correspondent for Devex. Based in London, she reports on development finance trends with a focus on British and European institutions. She is especially interested in evidence-based development and women’s economic empowerment, as well as innovative financing for the protection of migrants and refugees. Molly is a former Fulbright Scholar and studied Arabic in Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.