Bush To Release FY 2005 Budget Proposal With Lower-Than-Expected Contribution to Global Fund
President Bush on Monday is scheduled to release his fiscal year 2005 budget, which will include a lower-than-expected contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Reuters/Yahoo! News reports (Reuters/Yahoo! News, 1/28). Under the proposed budget, the U.S. contribution to the Global Fund would be reduced from $550 million in FY 2004 to $200 million in FY 2005, according to congressional officials who have been briefed on the budget proposal, the New York Times reports (Becker, New York Times, 1/29). Funding for the first installment of Bush's five-year, $15 billion global AIDS initiative is contained in an omnibus spending bill (HR 2673), which the Senate passed late last week. The bill, which combines seven of the 13 FY 2004 spending bills, includes $2.4 billion for international AIDS, TB and malaria initiatives. House-Senate conferees in November 2003 agreed to increase FY 2004 federal spending on international AIDS, TB and malaria initiatives to $2.4 billion, $400 million more than the Bush administration had requested. Although the measure (HR 1298) supporting the global AIDS initiative authorizes $3 billion for the first year of the program, the Bush administration requested only $2 billion for FY 2004. Bush said that his administration requested less than $3 billion in order to give the program time to "ramp up" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/28). Overall, AIDS, TB and malaria funding in the FY 2005 budget proposal would total almost $2.7 billion, including a funding increase for bilateral programs -- from $1.9 billion to $2.5 billion. However, the total amount is less than the $3 billion that AIDS advocates expected after Bush announced the initiative in his 2003 State of the Union address, according to the Times.
Patrick Cronin, former assistant administrator at USAID, said, "I would love to see the administration match the figures outlined in the president's speech. But for all of our quibbling, this is a serious commitment and these figures are still very good." Global Fund Executive Director Richard Feachem said in a telephone interview from Geneva that the United States is the fund's single largest contributor, according to the Times. He added, "The United States is a very generous supporter, and I do not believe it will diminish its contributions and will fully support the excellent work we are doing in 121 countries" (New York Times, 1/29). Jamie Drummond, executive director of the debt, AIDS and trade advocacy group DATA, said that the administration is "robbing Peter to pay Paul," and he cautioned that a reduction in funding could weaken the Global Fund's support of programs "already in place," in addition to new grants, according to Reuters/Yahoo! News. A White House spokesperson said that Bush is not "backing away" from his pledge to support the Global Fund. He said that the fund is "an important part of the president's plan and there will be a steady and sustained commitment" to it (Reuters/Yahoo! News, 1/28).