July 21, 2013

House subcommittee bill would cut global health and international development programs

Policy and Advocacy Officer

The House State and Foreign Operations (SFOPS) Appropriations Subcommittee on Friday held a hearing on its fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget legislation. The bill funds programs at the State Department and US Agency for International Development (USAID), including key global health research activities.

Overall, global health programs fared relatively well under the bill, compared with other SFOPS accounts. That said, the Global Health Programs account, which includes activities at the State Department and USAID, was funded at $8.175 billion—a $140 million cut from the FY2014 request from President Obama but an increase of $200 million compared with the final FY2013 funding level. Under the bill:

The House SFOPS bill would reduce funding for global health and research programs at the State Department and USAID. Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/PATH
The House SFOPS bill would reduce funding for global health and research programs at the State Department and USAID. Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/PATH

There’s not much detail offered on funding levels for specific diseases and sectors. There is language in the bill that implies full funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria within the State Department budget. However, no dollar amount is mentioned. One exception to this pattern is family planning. The legislation caps this funding at $461 million (equivalent to the FY2008 level) and contains language that would reinstate the Mexico City Policy.

Accounts for international development banks, United Nations programs, and development assistance were slashed heavily. Development assistance programs would be funded at $2.0 billion under the bill, or a cut of $838 million from Obama’s FY2014 request of $2.837 billion.

As we’ve seen in recent House versions of this legislation, all funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) would be prohibited. Key umbrella funding mechanisms like the International Organizations and Programs (IOP) account were cut by more than 50 percent from FY2013 levels. This is important to note as some widely popular programs, such as the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), are included in the IOP category. Therefore, if programs like UNICEF are cut due to IOP reductions, allies may try to restore their funding by reducing support for other accounts, such as global health.

The subcommittee hearing itself was short. Co-Chair Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) criticized the wide range of cuts included in the bill. The full Appropriations Committee plans to vote on this legislation later this week.

As a result of sequestration, Congress is operating under tight budget caps for nearly every account. Even with these broad requirements, however, the House and Senate approaches to funding SFOPS programs are vastly different. The House version of the SFOPs bill is roughly 22 percent lower than the post-sequestration FY2013 level. It’s also 25 percent lower than the Senate version. The Senate SFOPs subcommittee will vote on its version on Tuesday. These two bills need to be reconciled on a funding and policy basis before any progress can be made. Funding delays and severe, indiscriminate budget cuts have a devastating impact on global health research and development programs, halting the creation of products that will save millions of lives. Congress should move quickly to protect these programs in upcoming Committee discussions and final budget negotiations later this year.

Ashley Bennett is the GHTC’s policy officer.