A proposed $30 million cut to the Fulbright Program would “rob the United States of one of its greatest, most lasting, and cheapest diplomacy bargains,” writes Rebecca Schuman in a recent column for Slate:

“Sometimes the soft power of cultural and educational exchange is more effective than official diplomacy, because it involves…a demonstrated interest in the host culture, full cultural immersion, and actual personal connection with localsIt’s for this reason that now is the absolute wrong time to cut the Fulbright program.”

“As tensions escalate with countries that were once touchy allies, what we need are more Fulbright grantees in the world, not fewer.”

While the President’s proposed FY15 budget, released earlier this month, requests a 1.6 per cent increase (to $577.9 million) for all Department of State international exchange programs, it also includes a concerning 13 per cent cut for the Fulbright program, Inside Higher Ed reports.

Testifying on the Obama Administration’s FY15 budget request before Congress this week, Secretary of State John Kerry underlined the immense return on investment the American people are getting for their comparatively small investment in U.S. foreign policy, and specifically mentioned the positive impact of international exchanges.

Said Kerry in his testimony:

Department of State international exchange programs are funded at $577.9 million in the President’s FY 2015 budget request, released today by the Obama administration. This request for exchanges marks an increase of $9.2 million, or 1.6 per cent, over the current FY14 funding level of $568.6 million.

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The Senate on Thursday cleared and sent to the President’s desk the omnibus spending package for the remainder of FY14 unveiled by lawmakers earlier this week and passed by the House on Wednesday, reports.

Department of State exchange programs are funded at $568.628 in the $1.1 trillion omnibus bill [the Alliance reported].

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Lawmakers completed yesterday an omnibus spending package for the remainder of FY14 that funds State Department exchange programs at $568.628 million – $560 million in base funds and $8.628 million in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding. The exchanges allocation is slightly higher than President Obama’s FY14 request of $562.7 million. Here’s how the allocation figures into the full and complicated picture of the past year and a half:

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The Senate passed the FY14 and FY15 budget agreement negotiated by Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) yesterday, following the House’s passage of the bill last week. According to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC), President Obama is expected to sign the budget measure into law today.

Passage of the budget agreement now allows House and Senate appropriators to work on their final FY 14 budget allocations before the Continuing Resolution (CR) currently funding the federal government expires on January 15.

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The recent elimination of the Title VIII program, a federal grants program that supports research on Russia as well as language study, could potentially cause significant harm to Russian studies, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports, citing the concerns of scholars in the field.

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.

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While the government shutdown that went into effect October 1 may not have widespread short-term impact on programs funded through the State Department’s International Affairs Account, “major disruption could occur if the closure continues for a prolonged period of time,” the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC) reports.

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