USAID

The Senate Appropriations Committee report released last week to accompany the State, Foreign Operations appropriations legislation for FY 2009, outlines spending for the foreign operations accounts of the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), including an increase for development assistance programs and a cut in Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) spending.

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The House last week adopted an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2009 that would require the President to develop a comprehensive interagency strategy for strategic communication and public diplomacy by the end of 2009. According to the amendment text, the strategy would “build upon the strategy outlined by the Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy Coordinating Committee in the publication titled ‘U.S. National Strategy for Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communication’ (June, 2007).” The Policy Coordinating Committee (PCC) on Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communication was an interagency effort led by then-Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes.

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Appearing yesterday before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stressed the importance of exchange programs. “There is really no better commercial, if you will, for American democracy and the strength of America than having our people travel abroad and having people travel here,” Rice told Senators. “And we’ve tried, through public-private partnerships, more exchanges, more visitors, to give people access to the United States.”

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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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The omnibus spending package sent today by Congress to the White House includes increased funding for development assistance programs administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and reduces the funding requested by President Bush for the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).

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The House of Representatives Wednesday approved bills to authorize exchanges with the Pacific Islands and to support the goals and ideals of National Passport Month. Authorization bills provide the parameters under which federal funding can be provided for programs. Once authorized, the appropriations committees then determine specific funding levels that may or may not reach the ceiling set by the authorizers.

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The House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday approved legislation that would authorize funds for a South Pacific exchange program. The bill, H.R. 3062, would establish an annual one-year program within the J. William Fulbright Educational Exchange Program to permit Pacific Island students to study in the United States. It would authorize $500,000 each year for fiscal 2008 and 2009 for Fulbright awards to Pacific Island students.

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The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday approved H.R. 176, the Shirley A. Chisholm United States-Caribbean Educational Exchange Act of 2007, by a vote of 371 to 55. The legislation was introduced in January by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) to authorize assistance to the countries of the Caribbean to fund educational development and exchange programs. Its aim is to develop two comprehensive educational initiatives targeted toward the Caribbean: one to establish a system for United States-Caribbean educational exchange programs, and the second to develop a plan to enhance teacher training and community involvement in early education in the region.

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The House Appropriations Committee approved legislation Tuesday that would increase the funding level for the educational and cultural exchanges of the Department of State to $501.4 million for fiscal year (FY) 2008, $55.7 million more the FY 2007 funding level, and $15 million higher than the President’s request. According to a press release issued by the Committee, this amount would “fund the participation of over 42,000 individuals in educational, cultural and professional exchange programs worldwide.” The release notes that funding is included for Fulbright student and scholar exchanges and the International Visitors Program. It further states that, “These exchanges are critical to improving our nation’s security by rebuilding our status oversees through diplomacy.”

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The House of Representatives approved appropriations legislation last night after midnight to fund the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs for fiscal year (FY 2008). The bill, H.R. 2764, which passed by a vote of 241 to 178, includes $501.4 million for the educational and cultural exchange programs of the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The legislation provides total spending for all programs of $34.2 billion, of which $9.977 billion is for the Department of State. The level of funding for the Department of State is $36.604 million below the President’s request, and $272.242 million below the amount appropriated for FY 2007.

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