Dear Foreign Service Colleagues and AFSA members,
Although much of this is available in the Washington press, here is summary information about developments in Congress that are most relevant for the Foreign Service.
Late last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its Fiscal Year 2012 State/Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. The Senate bill is an improvement on the version moving in the House of Representatives that has proposed a 20 percent reduction from President Obama's Fiscal Year 2012 request for international affairs spending. The Senate bill level is $53.3 billion while the House bill is at $39.6 billion. While significant challenges remain ahead, language to fully fund Overseas Comparability Pay (OCP), including the third tranche of 8%, was included in the Senate's version of an authorization bill. Language to preserve only the current 16% OCP rate was included in the Senate Appropriation Committee's version. The House has not included such language.
We continue to make the case that investing in the Foreign Service and Foreign Service professionals is the most cost-effective way to protect and promote America's interests overseas. Ensuring that the Foreign Service has the resources necessary to carry out effective diplomacy, promote development, and support our national security operations is critical for diplomatic readiness.
It is still not clear if the full Senate will consider the Fiscal Year 2012 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, or whether the House Appropriations Committee will act on their version of the bill so it can be considered by the full House. We will keep you informed.
Continuing Resolution and Avoiding Government Shutdown
Senate leadership brokered an agreement late Monday that will fund the government for six weeks, through November 18. The Senate also approved a one-week stopgap measure that would fund the government through Tuesday, October 4. Without an agreement the government could have shut down on Friday. This stopgap measure is designed to provide time for the House to return next week to review and consider the six-week measure. The budget climate in Congress continues to be highly contentious and unusually divided.
The congressional budget deliberations have not been as transparent as we might wish, but it is our understanding that OCP is likely to be maintained.
The 12-member "super committee" created to reduce the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion over 10 years is in early deliberations. Please see AFSA's previous message on the committee. There continues to be discussion in Congress about the role of the committee. Any recommended budget cuts by the super committee would still require careful consideration by the key standing appropriations, budget, and authorization committees. AFSA will continue to follow this process and engage where we can.
The pressure on Congress and the White House to reduce government spending and make deeper cuts across all agencies and departments is still very high. However, we are pleased that a number of legislators publicly defended the critical need for investments in international affairs spending when Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced an amendment to cut spending at State and USAID by $7 billion. The amendment was defeated (78-20-2) and AFSA is sending a thank you to all those who voted against this measure.
We are encouraging AFSA members who are constituents of representatives who voted for legislation that supports the Foreign Service, such as the Foreign Service Line of Duty Death Gratuity Act of 2011 (S. 1493/H. R. 2881) and the Civilian Service Recognition Act of 2011 (S. 1444/H. R. 2061), or against measures such as the one introduced by Senator Paul, to send a short thank you to supplement the official AFSA thank you that we send from AFSA HQ.
Susan R. Johnson
American Foreign Service Association