- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 2, 2010

President Obama on Monday proposed a $5 billion increase in the State Department’s 2011 budget, most of which is intended for programs in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq — the only three countries to also benefit from an additional $4.5 billion this year.

Global health and development aid overseas will go up significantly in the fiscal year beginning in October, while the biggest decreases will affect the fight against HIV/AIDS and migration and refugee assistance.

The State Department budget request, including the U.S. Agency for International Development, totals $52.8 billion, Deputy Secretary of State Jacob Lew told reporters. Aid and civilian contributions to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq represents 20 percent of the entire budget, he added.

“Overall, the State Department budget funds over two-thirds of the 3,000 civilian personnel in these three frontline states. These critical civilian deployments are essential to the success of our strategies and to the reduction of U.S. troop levels,” Mr. Lew said.

“Of the $4.9 billion increase [over 2010], $3.6 billion is for programs in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq,” he said, adding that Mr. Obama’s $4.5 billion supplemental request for this year will also go to those three countries.

The State Department budget is the main part of the $58.5 billion international affairs budget, which also includes funds for multilateral bank contributions handled by the Treasury Department, as well as independent agencies, such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Peace Corps.

Mr. Obama’s request for international affairs is consistent with the trend of the last several years and represents about 1.4 percent of his entire national budget and 0.36 percent of the gross domestic product. It is also 6.7 percent of the funding for national security agencies.

If Congress approves the supplemental, the actual 2011 increase for the State Department will be only about $400 million. Still, the president’s request was hailed by both Democrats and Republicans.

“This budget request demonstrates the president’s commitment to funding life-saving development programs in global health, food security, climate change and global poverty,” said Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who is the honorary chairman of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s advisory council, commended Mr. Obama “for his commitment to these urgently needed investments in our nation’s economic and national security.”

“The programs supported by the international affairs budget are as essential to our national security as defense programs. Development and diplomacy protect our nation by addressing the root causes of terrorism and conflict,” said former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.

According to an analysis by the Global Leadership Coalition, “diplomatic and consular programs,” intended to expand the Foreign Service by 25 percent by 2014, will benefit from a significant increase next year. Funds for global health and child-survival programs, climate initiatives, international narcotics and law-enforcement programs will also receive a major boost.

Public diplomacy spending will jump, too, though educational and cultural-exchange programs will see a small decrease.

Contributions to international organizations and peacekeeping will also go down, along with those to the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which was immediately criticized by nongovernmental organizations.

“The administration also missed an opportunity to make greater strides against childhood mortality with only a modest increase in spending for immunizations, at a moment when new vaccines are ready to save lives through the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations,” said global advocacy group ONE.

• Nicholas Kralev can be reached at nkralev@washingtontimes.com.

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