Bush’s FY 2006 Budget Proposal Likely To Freeze, Cut Some International Development Programs, Aid Groups Say
Funding for some international development programs likely will be frozen or cut in President Bush's proposed fiscal year 2006 budget, according to some aid groups and congressional sources, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. The White House is expected to release details of its proposed FY 2006 budget on Monday. The administration has said that foreign aid "will be generous" and that overseas funding levels have "significantly" increased since Bush took office in 2001, according to the AP/Sun. Bush is expected to request funding increases for two "major" initiatives he launched in his first term -- the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Millennium Challenge Account, the AP/Sun reports (Guggenheim, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 2/4). PEPFAR is a five-year, $15 billion program that directs funding for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to 15 focus countries, including Botswana, Ethiopia, Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Haiti, Guyana and Vietnam. Last month, White House officials confirmed that Bush will propose $3.2 billion in funding for PEPFAR in his FY 2006 budget -- up from the FY 2005 omnibus spending package approved by Congress in November 2004 that included $2.9 billion to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/28). Bush also is expected to request $3 billion for MCA -- an increase from the $2.5 billion he requested and the $1.5 billion approved by Congress last year.
Although Bush is expected to request more than $22 billion in overall foreign spending for FY 2006, funding for international development and humanitarian programs is "tight in a time of record deficits," according to the AP/Sun. The increases in funding for PEPFAR and MCA means that "little" will be left for other groups, according to some aid organizations and members of Congress and their staffs, the AP/Sun reports. Mary McClymont, president of InterAction, said that programs providing education, health care and agricultural assistance all are at risk for cuts, even though such initiatives "help prevent the kind of instability that could turn some countries into breeding grounds for terrorists," according to the AP/Sun. "Not only do these core programs help people help themselves, but they also are an incredibly important element of making America safer," McClymont said. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said that while MCA and PEPFAR are important, initiatives such as refugee assistance and basic education are all important. "We shouldn't have to cut one to advance the other. We should be able to do both," Lowey said. In previous years, Congress has had to "restor[e]" funding to aid programs that Bush had proposed cutting, Lowey said, adding that "it looks like we're going to be doing it again this year," the AP/Sun reports (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 2/4). Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Bush is "falling further and further behind" on pledges to increase funding for HIV/AIDS and poverty initiatives worldwide, creating shortfalls that are raising alarm among some health and development advocates (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/28).
White House Reaction
White House Office of Management and Budget spokesperson Chad Kolton said Bush's FY 2006 budget proposal will provide "very generous foreign aid," adding that the "budget will demonstrate a very firm commitment to providing critical assistance through our foreign aid programs, specifically our core development aid programs." Kolton said that development assistance has increased from $11.6 billion in 2002 to $17 billion in 2005, numbers that exclude money for operations in Iraq. "During any time period that's a pretty substantial increase, certainly during a period where there have been very disciplined budgets," Kolton said (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 2/4).