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28 April 2005

Bush Foreign Spending Request Meets Resistance in House Panel

State Deputy Secretary Zoellick defends proposed 15.8 percent increase

By Bruce Odessey
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick defended the Bush administration's request to increase U.S. overseas aid and other foreign spending by about $3 billion, but the chairman of a House of Representatives panel said Congress is likely to approve less.

In April 27 testimony before a House Appropriations subcommittee, Zoellick said the total request -- $22.8 billion for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 15.8 percent more than what Congress approved for fiscal year 2005 -- is needed to protect the United States, promote economic opportunity abroad and support populations in dire need.

Spending is crucial to maintaining order and peace in post-conflict countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan, he said.

"This really is an exceptional moment for the United States and the world," Zoellick said.  "We need to win the peace.  The stakes are very high."

Representative Jim Kolbe, the Republican subcommittee chairman, said that Congress was unlikely to increase foreign spending by so much in fiscal year 2006 (FY06) while domestic spending is under such strong restraint.

"For some members it's going to be a little hard to swallow," Kolbe said.  "It's safe to say you're not going to get everything you want."

Zoellick declined to say which parts of the spending request represented the administration's highest priorities.

To become law, the same final version of a spending bill must be passed by the House and Senate and signed by the president.

Zoellick urged Congress to increase Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) spending to $3 billion next year from $1.5 billion in the current year.  When President Bush launched the MCA initiative in 2002 he said he was going to seek even more, $5 billion, in FY06.

The MCA aims to promote economic expansion in developing countries where the government meets criteria for ruling justly, investing in people and promoting economic freedom.

Earlier in April, the United States signed the first MCA compact with an eligible country, committing to spend nearly $110 million in Madagascar over four years.  Zoellick testified that the Bush administration seeks to conclude compacts with as many as 10 more eligible countries in 2005.

"It would be a terrible thing to pull back now," Zoellick said.

The administration also seeks $3.2 billion for fighting AIDS, with $1.8 billion of that going to 15 focus countries; $1.3 billion in food aid and famine relief, and $1.3 billion for nonfood humanitarian assistance such as shelter, health care, water and sanitation.

Following are other components of the $22.8 billion spending request, which does not include additional money for Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan requested in a supplemental appropriation for fiscal year 2005:

-- $956 million for Afghanistan;
-- $457 million for Iraq;
-- $4.9 billion for 30 other front-line countries to fight terrorists;
-- $440 million for other programs aimed at fighting terrorism and weapons proliferation;
-- $735 million for the Andean Counterdrug Initiative;
-- $120 million for the Middle East Partnership Initiative;
-- $114 million for developing global peacekeeping abilities, especially in Africa;
-- $110 million for a Conflict Response Fund;
-- $790 million for Darfur humanitarian needs in Sudan and Chad;
-- $1.34 billion in contributions to multilateral development banks;
-- $100 million for debt reduction for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative;
-- $401 million for basic education, with a particular focus on education for girls; and
-- $160 million for higher education.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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