Congress Advances International Affairs Budget, Foreign Relations Authorization

Dear AFSA Members:

We want to update you on developments in Congress as they move forward with legislation that will provide appropriations for the international affairs budget. AFSA is continuing to monitor legislation and engage with legislators on your behalf to support diplomatic readiness and a strong Foreign Service.

Overseas Comparability Pay (OCP)

The Senate has passed appropriations legislation that would extend OCP at the current rate of 16.14%, but the House version of the bill does not include this language. As was the case last year, AFSA is working with our allies in Congress to ensure that the Senate language is included in the final bill when it is passed later this year. It is also an encouraging sign that the House version of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act includes a temporary extension of OCP, which has not been the case in previous versions introduced in the House.

OCP remains a top priority for AFSA as we engage with legislators in the House and Senate, and we will work with members of both chambers to ensure that it is included in the final appropriations legislation.

Appropriations

Congress is moving ahead with the appropriations process to fund government agencies and departments for Fiscal Year 2013. At this time, the House and Senate appropriations committees have approved bills that include funding for the State Department, USAID, Foreign Commercial Service, Foreign Agricultural Service, and IBB. Normally, the House and Senate would then each debate the international affairs appropriations bill until they reached a compromise that both chambers approved. However, the current expectation is that Congress will not complete the appropriations process before current government funding expires at the end of September. Instead, Congress is expected to pass a continuing resolution that will extend current funding levels for a few months so that Congress can complete the appropriations process after the contentious politics of November’s election have passed.

Appropriations Highlights

State and Foreign Operations Appropriations
  FY12 Enacted President’s FY13 Request FY13 House FY13 Senate
Core Budget $42.14 $46.47 $40.13 $50
OCO $11.20 $8.24 $8.25 $2.29
Total $53.34 $54.71 $48.38 $52.29
Dollar figures are in billions.
OCO: Overseas Contingency Operations
Please note that there are discrepancies between reports on the House and Senate figures due to differences in how each chamber organizes their appropriations bills and conducts accounting.

State Department Operations

For the administration of foreign affairs (diplomatic & consular programs), the Senate has recommended $7.4 billion plus an addition $1.4 billion from the Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) fund. The House has recommended $6.28 billion. The president’s budget request was $7.1 billion.

USAID Operations

For USAID operating expenses, the Senate has proposed $1.47 billion, an increase of $203.6 million over last year, $23.7 million higher than President Obama’s request, and more than $276 million above the House’s version of the bill.

Broadcasting Board of Governors

The Senate provided $733 million, which is $14 million less than the House proposal, $14 million less than last year’s funding level, and $12.9 million above President Obama’s budget proposal.

Foreign Commercial Service

On May 10, the House passed the FY 2013 Commerce, Science, Justice appropriations bill by a vote of 247-163. The House’s CSJ bill allocates approximately $278 million for the Foreign Commercial Service, an increase of more than $8 million over the prior year, but more than $40 million below the president’s request. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved $299.5 million for the Foreign Commercial Service on April 19, but the Senate as a whole has not yet considered CSJ appropriations.

Foreign Agricultural Service

On April 26, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $183 million for the Foreign Agricultural Service, equal to the president’s budget request and nearly half a million dollars more than the prior year. The House Appropriations Committee approved $172.8 million for FAS’s budget on June 19, a decrease of more than $3.5 million from the prior year.

Foreign Relations Authorization

On July 17, the House of Representatives passed a new foreign relations authorization bill by a vote of 333-61. Congress uses authorizations bills to guide department policy and organization, establish programs and policy initiatives, conduct oversight, and provide a framework for the appropriations process. While Congress passes authorizations bills for other areas of the Federal government annually or every few years, it has been a decade since the last foreign relations authorizations bill.

AFSA is pleased that this bill includes a temporary extension of OCP at the current rate of 16.14%. The inclusion of this language represents progress over legislation in the House in prior years that would have let OCP expire or would have explicitly ended it.

However, AFSA is strongly opposed to other provisions, including language that would allow the Department to suspend without pay employees whose security clearances have been suspended or those suspected of having committed a crime. Recent cases before the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) struck down indefinite suspensions without pay (which were based on security clearance suspensions) at the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of the Navy. The MSPB overturned these suspensions, finding that the employees had not been afforded a reasonable opportunity to reply that satisfied Constitutional due process. Furthermore, AFSA is opposed to regulations that would allow the Department to suspend without pay Foreign Service employees based on rumors or unproven allegations. We are working with our allies in both the House and the Senate to remove this language from the authorization bill.

Unpredictable Paths Forward

There is only limited time in the Congressional schedule to consider a long list of bills, many of which are considered “must-pass” legislation, before members leave town for the August recess. Congress is also not expected to take up controversial bills prior to elections in November. This likely means that they will pass temporary extensions of any expiring legislation, including funding for agencies and departments, until later this year.

We will continue to keep you informed with updates and developments in Congress that are important to the Foreign Service. Please e-mail AFSA’s Director of Advocacy, Javier S. Cuebas, at cuebas@afsa.org if you have any questions or comments.

Susan R. Johnson
AFSA President