George W. Bush

The Bush Administration’s fiscal year (FY) 2009 budget proposal released this morning includes $522.444 million for the educational and cultural exchange programs of the U.S. Department of State, the fourth year in a row the President has proposed an increase for these programs. The budget provides a $21.097 million increase over the FY 2008 funding level for exchanges of $501.347 million.

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At a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, Mr. James K. Glassman and Ms. Goli Ameri, President Bush’s nominees for Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) respectively, praised the value of exchanges and pending their confirmation, pledged to build on those programs during their terms in office.

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Congress expanded the employment options available to National Security Education Program (NSEP) scholarship and fellowship award recipients in the National Defense Authorization Act of FY 2008 signed into law by President Bush this week. The legislation, H.R. 1585, was initially vetoed by Bush in December over provisions related to the war in Iraq.

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will receive $36.3 billion in funding as part of the omnibus spending package approved by Congress last night. The bill, which funds the US-VISIT program, implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) and other border security programs, has been sent to the President for signature.

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With the current continuing resolution (CR) set to expire at midnight tonight, Congress approved an extension yesterday to keep federal government agencies funded through next Friday December 21, 2008. The President signed the resolution into law this afternoon. Under the CR, the State Department’s educational and cultural exchange programs will continue to be funded at the FY 2007 level of $445.2 million.

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With the current continuing resolution (CR) set to expire at midnight tonight, Congress approved an extension yesterday to keep federal government agencies funded through next Friday December 21, 2008. The President signed the resolution into law this afternoon. Under the CR, the State Department’s educational and cultural exchange programs will continue to be funded at the FY 2007 level of $445.2 million.

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President Bush has nominated Goli Ameri, an Oregon businesswoman who has served as a delegate to the UN Commission on Human Rights, as Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs. Ms. Ameri is the founder and president of eTinium, a consulting and market research firm specializing in telecommunications. She holds bachelors and master’s degrees from Stanford University.

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On Thursday, September 20, President Bush signed into law a bill to establish a United States-Poland parliamentary youth exchange program. Originally introduced in the Senate by Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), the legislation was approved by the Senate in March and by the House in September.

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The U.S. Senate last night approved legislation to fund the State Department’s educational and cultural exchange programs at $509.4 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2008. The State-Foreign Operations Appropriations legislation was approved by a vote of 81 to 12. The funding level for exchanges in $8 million above the $501.4 million approved by the House of Representatives, and $23 million above the $486.4 million requested by the President. Current year exchanges funding stands at $445.2 million.

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The Senate and the House of Representatives last week approved the final conference agreement (H. Report 110-259) on legislation (H.R. 1 and S. 4) to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007. The agreement includes provisions requiring a report on exchanges in predominantly Muslim countries, strengthening basic education activities in those countries, implementing security enhancements to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), establishing a model ports of entry program, and promoting democracy abroad. The agreement has been sent to President Bush who is expected to sign it.

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