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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

|

MARCH 2016

69

AFSA NEWS

AFSA ON THE HILL

The FY 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act

On Dec. 18, the House and

Senate passed a $1.14 tril-

lion omnibus appropriations

package to fund the govern-

ment through September

2016, which President

Barack Obama promptly

signed. There are many

pieces of good news for the

Foreign Service in the fiscal

year 2016 budget.

Best-Value Contract-

ing.

A new provision allows

the Department of State to

use “best-value” contract-

ing when selecting the

local guard contractor at all

overseas diplomatic mis-

sions. Previously, at all but

high-threat posts, State was

required to hire the secu-

rity firm offering the lowest

price, regardless of past

performance or quality of

service.

AFSA’s support was

instrumental to the addi-

tion of this measure to the

omnibus. Our consistent

and measured advocacy

on the Hill led the office of

Representative Lois Fran-

kel (D-Fla.) to seek AFSA’s

assistance to impress on her

colleagues the importance

and urgency of this change.

AFSA responded with a

letter to the Hill in favor

of best-value contracting

signed by six of our most

distinguished career ambas-

sadors, paving the way for

inclusion of the provision.

In a press release, Rep.

Frankel hailed the measure,

“We have a moral obliga-

tion and national security

imperative to safeguard

our diplomats serving this

nation overseas.”

We thank Rep. Frankel for

taking the lead on deliver-

ing this new flexibility in

contracting, which will

improve security at our

embassies for decades to

come. We also owe thanks

to original co-sponsor Rep.

Randy Weber Sr. (R-Texas)

and longtime AFSA friends,

House Committee on For-

eign Affairs Chairman Ed

Royce (R-Calif.) and Ranking

Member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.).

Overseas Comparabil-

ity Pay.

In other good news,

Overseas Comparability Pay

will continue at the cur-

rent two-thirds level, which

AFSA sees as a significant

victory in the current budget

environment. Funding for

full OCP remains one of our

members’ highest priorities,

and AFSA will continue to

work with agency manage-

ment and interlocutors on

the Hill to secure it at the

earliest possible opportu-

nity.

Compensation for Iran

Hostages.

At long last, the

legislation includes a section

approving compensation for

American victims of state-

sponsored terrorism. The

three-decades-long effort—a

cause that AFSA advocated

throughout the years—

was spearheaded by the

Americans taken hostage at

Embassy Tehran in 1979.

The language—promoted

by Senator Johnny Isakson

(R-Ga.) and Rep. Gerry Con-

nolly (D-Va.), among oth-

ers—authorizes payments

of up to $10,000 per day of

captivity and up to $4.4. mil-

lion for each of the 53 hos-

tages or their estates. It also

makes American victims

of other state-sponsored

terrorist attacks eligible for

benefits.

The International

Affairs Budget

The overall international

affairs budget for fiscal year

2016 increased by 7 percent

over the enacted fiscal year

2015 level, and the all-

important Diplomatic and

Consular Affairs Programs

account—which funds State

operations around the

world—was increased by

4.8 percent to $8.2 billion, a

$373 million increase from

current levels.

Despite the progress

on overall funding levels,

the continued erosion of

funding in the base budget

is a significant concern.

According to the U.S. Global

Leadership Coalition, fund-

ing for the fiscal year 2016

international affairs bud-

get—including the overseas

contingency operations

(OCO) account and interna-

tional food aid—totals $54.6

billion: $39.7 billion in base

funds and $14.9 billion in

OCO.

These figures illustrate

that the broader 7-percent

increase in the international

affairs budget is driven by

61-percent growth in the

OCO account ($5.6 billion),

while cutting base funding

by 5 percent ($2 billion).

Base funding has not been

this low since fiscal year

2009.

Still, AFSA sees this as a

good budget for the Foreign

Service. Though the budget

environment remains chal-

lenging, AFSA is pleased

that our strategy to protect

the Foreign Service from any

significant cuts has paid off.

If you have any questions

about the budget or related

topics please email

advocacy@afsa.org.

n

—Javier Cuebas,

Director of Advocacy

Funding for full OCP remains one of

our members’ highest priorities, and

AFSA will continue to work with agency

management and interlocutors on the

Hill to secure it at the earliest possible

opportunity.