House passes Department of State authorization bill, cuts State Department exchanges by 5 per cent

The House approved earlier this week its FY14 Department of State Operations and Embassy Security Authorization Act (H.R. 2848), which authorizes expenditures for a total of 15 accounts within the International Affairs Budget. If enacted, this authorization bill would be the first Department of State authorization passed by Congress in more than ten years. To move towards enactment, however, this bill—or a similar bill—would first need to be passed by the Senate. And Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has not signaled a strong interest in moving his own State Department authorization, according to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC).

In a press release on the bill, House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Ed Royce (R-CA) said:

“This legislation is an important means to restore effective oversight of the State Department.”

Authorization bills serve not only to govern existing programs and legislate new activities, but also to authorize the expenditure of funds from the federal budget. Although an authorization bill may specify how much money should be spent on a certain program, it does not actually set aside the money. It is the appropriations committees that ultimately provide the amounts of money that will actually be spent on federal programs.

This House authorization bill does specify funding levels, including a reduced funding level for State Department educational and cultural exchange programs of $535 million – a 5 per cent, or $28 million, cut compared to President Obama’s $563 million FY14 request for exchanges. This level is also a 10.8 per cent cut from the FY13 funding level for exchanges of $600 million.

While the bill’s total authorization level for DOS programs is 5.8 per cent below FY13 sequestered levels, “the amount … is a significant improvement over State Department funding included in the FY14 House-reported State-Foreign Operations appropriations measure and only 2.3 per cent below the FY14 request,” according to USGLC. In its FY14 State Department funding request, the House recommended just under $439 million in base allocation for exchanges, about $160 million less than current levels and $124 million below the President’s request [the Alliance reported].

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