Good morning and welcome to the Subcommittee markup of the fiscal year 2013 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill.
I want to begin by thanking Ranking Member Lowey for her continued dedication to this Subcommittee. Mrs. Lowey and I have a unique relationship. While we do not agree on everything, we do have a strong working relationship and we are both invested in the important work of this Subcommittee. It is a pleasure to work with her and I respect her very much.
I want to thank all the Members of our Subcommittee -- from both sides of the aisle - for their participation and thoughtful contributions to this bill. Members have been passionately engaged in the important work of the Subcommittee.
The bill before us saves taxpayer dollars by spending 9 percent less than last year. We do this by terminating ten programs, rescinding funds, and not providing new appropriations if funds are not being used. At the same time this bill supports critical activities related to our national security, such as assistance for Israel and Mexico.
The bill restores some of the misguided reductions proposed by the President for Global Health, refugee programs, democracy promotion, and international broadcasting.
This Subcommittee believes that our foreign assistance should support our foreign policy objectives and also reflect the values and principles of the American people.
This bill lives up to our commitment to oversight. This year alone, we have held nine hearings and member briefings and asked for three reviews from the Appropriations Committee Surveys and Investigations unit.
Going through each account, we asked how each program impacts our national security and we looked to see if the conditions on aid are flexible enough to respond to changing situations around the world -- some of them for the better and some for the worse.
Since the start of the Arab uprising we have been constantly watching the situation throughout the Middle East and closely examining who exactly we are working with. Conditions included in last year's bill proved to be effective in dealing with the most complicated situations over the last year.
While we are not providing the Administration with a new $770 million account as they requested, we are providing some flexibility to respond to the rapid change we have witnessed, but in ways that keep the Congress directly involved in the oversight of the funds.
One of the situations we have watched over the last year is our relationship with Egypt as they go through a difficult transition. The travel ban placed on NGO workers was unprecedented and it was a very disappointing chapter in the long and productive relationship we have shared with Egypt. We want the charges against these NGOs to be dropped, the groups to be registered, and our relationship to move forward.
We all want Egypt to prosper and our cooperation to remain strong, but because we do not know what stance the new Egyptian government will take toward the United States, we have strengthened congressional oversight on the aid.
This bill keeps aid for the Palestinian Authority under close scrutiny. This Subcommittee understands that our assistance not only keeps the Palestinians safe, it makes Israel safer, but it remains conditional. In this year's bill we reiterate that our economic assistance will stop if the Palestinian Authority achieves statehood at the United Nations, or if they form a unity government -- or even if they have an agreement - with Hamas.
As a result of the events over the last year, this bill does not provide contributions for UNESCO, consistent with U.S. law that prohibits funding for any UN agency that grants statehood to the Palestinian Authority. This entire Subcommittee will continue to watch the situation with the P.A. very closely.
The bill continues to support our key strategic partner Israel by fully funding the Memorandum of Understanding. This Subcommittee understands just how critical it is to support Israel. Whether it is the ongoing threat from Iran trying to pursue a nuclear weapon - or the instability that continues as a result of the Arab uprising -- Israel's security faces serious threats and Congress' unwavering support has never been stronger. This Subcommittee understands the risks, and we understand what is at stake for both Israel and the United States.
We also support the requested $660 million for Jordan's economic and security assistance, and we direct the State Department to provide an additional $50 million to help Jordan as they face ongoing unrest in the region. Jordan is a critical partner in the war on terrorism and time and again, Jordan proves to be a regional leader by bringing the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table. I applaud King Abdullah for his leadership, for making political reforms in Jordan, and his commitment to peace in the Middle East.
This bill also supports the work our troops are doing overseas and includes $8.2 billion in a separate overseas contingency operations section called OCO. This spending is not a permanent part of our budget, but it allows critical programs to be funded, such as security assistance for Iraq and the Special Inspector General for Reconstruction in Afghanistan. We keep this spending separate to give the most accurate reflection of what these temporary costs are.
And we are doing what we pledged to do -- this year, OCO spending is reduced by $3 billion below fiscal year 2012, and these costs will continue to decrease.
This bill supports a smaller, more traditional diplomatic footprint in Iraq. We are taking the lessons learned in Iraq and begin to apply those lessons to how we approach Afghanistan. As our military presence decreases in Afghanistan, we have to ensure that our State Department and USAID staff -- those who are responsible for delivering assistance -- are safe and secure as the Afghan Government takes over security for the country.
We have to be realistic about the risks and the costs. This bill withholds State Department funds for Afghanistan until we get a transition plan and more details on how we are going to keep our people safe on the ground. In addition, this bill keeps the anti-corruption conditions on our Afghan aid that Mrs. Lowey included while she was chair.
The Afghan Government must continue to implement institutional changes to have a sustainable government that is responsive to its people. Corruption must be stopped or U.S. tax dollars will end up wasted.
This bill continues to support our neighbor Mexico. Mexico's security has a direct impact on our national security. We cannot back down on our support and this bill makes it easier for the United States to deploy resources to help the Mexican Government fight the drug cartels. It is almost unthinkable that more than 40,000 people have been murdered as a result of the drug wars over the last several years. We hope that the strong partnership between the United States and Mexico will help end the violence and lead to a lasting security relationship that benefits both of our countries.
We also commend the Government of Colombia on their success against drug trafficking, and include funds to support the great work they are doing to train security forces from other countries in Latin America, Africa, and even in Afghanistan.
Moving to our participation with international organizations, this bill increases accountability for the money we provide to the United Nations and other multilateral groups. Last year we started to change how we do business with the UN, and as a result, our contributions are now contingent on disclosing all internal audits and reviews online for American taxpayers to see.
The UN still has not done this. As the UN's largest donor, we cannot blindly provide resources for any agency that cannot tell us if they are spending their funds in ways our constituents would expect.
We also eliminate funds for the UN population fund -- UNFPA. Mrs. Lowey and I have clear differences on this issue, and we have agreed to disagree.
In closing, this bill is a re-focused way of investing our money around the world. In this difficult climate, our foreign aid must be based on American principles, looks out for American interests, and wisely invests American dollars. This bill assesses our foreign aid based on our national security and only supports programs that work. We will hold accountable those who cannot live up to our constituents' expectations.
I know it is said often but I want to express my most sincere gratitude for the hard work of the staff. They did an outstanding job on this bill. Your dedication to your work has produced a bill that will make America safer and stronger.
The staff's loyalty and dedication is recognized. From the majority staff, I want to thank the clerk Anne Marie Chotvacs, Alice Hogans, Craig Higgins, Susan Adams, Clelia Alverado, and Jamie Guinn. From my personal staff, I want to thank Johnnie Kaberle and Scott Alexander.
From the minority staff I want to recognize Steve Marchese, Erin Kolodjeski and Talia Dubovi in Mrs. Lowey's personal office.
Lastly, today is the last Subcommittee markup for three very valued members. First, I want to recognize and thank Chairman Lewis for his many years of service and for his friendship. Chairman Lewis has always recognized the important national security work of this Subcommittee and, if it were not for Chairman Lewis, I never would have had the opportunity to serve on this subcommittee.
Next I want to recognize and thank Ranking Member Norm Dicks. I have had the honor of working on important national security issues with ranking member Dicks for many years on the Defense Subcommittee. He has been an asset for the Appropriations Committee and he will be sorely missed.
Last but not least I want to recognize Congressman Steve Austria who has been an important and active member of this Subcommittee. We are all very grateful for your service.
Thank you, and I will now turn to Ranking Member Lowey for her opening statement.