State-Foreign Operations Bill Approved by Appropriations Committee

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Fiscal Year 2018 State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bill has been approved by the House Appropriations Committee.  The bill will target funding to U.S. foreign policy priorities, including critical diplomatic and security missions to increase stability and security. It also contains funding to bolster U.S. allies and key partners in strategic and challenging areas of the world, and provides critical humanitarian aid.  In addition, the legislation contains strong oversight measures and reductions to nonessential or lower-priority international programs to protect and save taxpayer dollars.

“In the wake of ever growing international threats and challenges – such as the recent North Korean missile test – it is more important than ever for the U.S. to invest in robust diplomatic and global efforts to ensure stability around the world and the security of our nation and our allies,” Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11) said. “The world is a better place when the United States leads and the funding in this legislation allows us to conduct strong diplomatic and economic development efforts.  This ‘soft power,’ along with the ‘hard power’ provided by our military is essential.” 

Partners and Allies -In addition, the legislation provides security assistance to key allies and partners.  The bill fully funds the $3.1 billion commitment to allow Israel to maintain its qualitative military edge over its neighbors. 

The bill continues strong support for Foreign Military Financing programs for Ukraine, Georgia, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia – at or above current levels. 

The bill maintains robust funding for counter-narcotics and law enforcement efforts in Colombia, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.  The legislation also fully funds the $58 million request to address international organized crime and increases funding to combat cyber-crime.

International Security Assistance– The bill provides a total of $8.8 billion in funding for international security assistance. This is $614 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Funds are included for international narcotics control and law enforcement activities, antiterrorism programs, nonproliferation programs, peacekeeping operations, and other critical international security efforts.  Antiterrorism programs that assist in the fight to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other terrorist groups are funded at $358 million. The bill also provides funding to fight terrorist financing networks and bolster border and airport security.

United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Operations– The bill contains $1.5 billion for USAID and the USAID Office of Inspector General. This funding is targeted to activities to provide stability in volatile regions and enhance U.S. presence in critical and strategic areas.

Cuba – The bill includes a funding limitation with respect to diplomatic facilities in Cuba (with certain exceptions) until the President determines and reports to the Committee that the requirements specified in section 205 of the LIBERTAD Act have been met.  The bill includes an explicit reference to the requirement regarding the extradition of persons sought by the U.S. Department of Justice for crimes committed in the U.S.  Additionally, report language notes that Joanne Chesimard, convicted in the 1973 murder of a New Jersey State Trooper, is among those individuals being sought for extradition.

Increased Oversight, Savings, and Policy Provisions– The bill continues robust requirements to increase program oversight, improve management, and tighten the reins on taxpayer dollars. Some of these provisions include: 

  • Countering Russian Influence and Aggression – The bill maintains the fiscal year 2017 level for Ukraine and Georgia to respond to Russian aggression and provides $105,000,000 for Countering Russian Influence Fund. 
  • Syria – The bill allows funding to be used for non-lethal aid.  Oversight and vetting of recipients is required.
  • Egypt – The bill provides economic and security assistance if Egypt sustains its strategic partnership with the United States and adheres to the peace treaty with Israel.
  • Afghanistan – The recommendation includes conditions on assistance for transparency, accountability, and prohibits funds for new major infrastructure projects. 
  • Palestinian Authority –The bill maintains strong restrictions on the Palestinian Authority (PA), including a requirement to reduce funds to the Palestinians by an amount equivalent to that expended by the PA as payments to prisoners that committed acts of terrorism, prohibiting funding if there is a Palestinian government formed through an agreement with Hamas or if the Palestinians are not acting to counter incitement. The bill also includes a provision restricting Palestinians’ representation in the U.S. if they initiate or actively support an International Criminal Court investigation against Israel.

“Lautenberg Amendment” – The bill extends the so-called “Lautenberg provision”, which lowers the evidentiary standard for certain refugee applicants from the former Soviet Union and Iran, subject to religious persecution, including Iranian Jews and Christians.

Guantanamo Bay –The bill requires a notification to Congress if the State Department commits to providing assistance to foreign governments that accept Guantanamo detainees. Additionally, the bill requires regular reporting to Congress on any negotiations related to detainee transfers.

UN Reform –The bill provides no funding for the Human Rights Council unless the Secretary of State determines that it is in the national security interest and the Council stops its anti-Israel agenda. The bill also prohibits funds for UN organizations headed by countries that support terrorism, and withholds a portion of funds for the UN and international organizations until transparency and accountability measures are taken.

North Africa Strategy Requirement–The bill includes a new provision requiring the Secretary of State to submit a strategy for United States engagement in North Africa, including information on how diplomatic engagement and assistance will be prioritized for the region.

In total, the bill provides $47.4 billion in both regular discretionary and Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding. This total is $10 billion below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level, when counting additional funds provided in the Security Assistance Appropriations Act of 2017. Within this total, OCO funding totals $12 billion, which supports operations and assistance in areas of conflict, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.