June 30, 2003
The Honorable Jim Kolbe
Chairman, House Foreign Operations Subcommittee
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Kolbe:
I write to urge you to support increasing our nation’s funding to meet critical development and humanitarian needs in the poorest countries. We are very concerned that the $17.1 billion allocation for foreign assistance -- more than $1.7 billion below the President’s request -- will prevent the U.S. from meeting these objectives.
The subcommittee’s decreased allocation coupled with the need to fund a number of new initiatives and new crises countries may lead to cuts in child survival and other critical development programs. It would be short-sighted to permit this to occur. I urge you to fund at least the $18.8 billion the administration requested for FY04. These programs are not only a wise investment in our national priorities, but matters of moral responsibility that will contribute to a safer, more just and peaceful world.
In addition to the core development accounts, funding for two of the President’s new initiatives – the Global AIDS initiative and the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) – is also critical to reinvigorating America’s role as a partner in building safer, more stable and democratic societies. Congress must appropriate the President’s requested $450 million as well as emergency supplemental funds of $1 billion for HIV/AIDS in order to meet the U.S. commitment to provide $10 billion in new funding over the next five years. Adequate funding for the MCA is also necessary to meet the President’s commitment to ultimately increase U.S. foreign assistance by $5 billion. Appropriating $1.3 billion in FY04 (the President’s request) will reverse a decade of decline in U.S. development aid and of shifts in funding towards strategic interests and military spending.
We urge the Committee to appropriate $927 million for the Department of State's Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) account and $50 million for the Department's Emergency Refugee Migration Assistance (ERMA) account for fiscal year 2004. This funding is urgently necessary in order to meet the needs of an ever increasing global refugee population. This level of funding would help restore the role of the United States in leading the world in refugee protection.
Finally, we would like to reiterate our strong support for retaining the Mexico City policy, which prevents our foreign aid program from being misused to subsidize organizations that perform and promote abortions in developing nations under the guise of family planning. The Kemp-Kasten appropriations rider preventing support for organizations involved in coercive population programs should also be retained.
We hope that your subcommittee can find a way to prevent the foreign operations budget from shrinking at a time when the needs are so great and U.S. involvement and commitment to international development is so crucial to our national security and world stability.
We appreciate your leadership in helping alleviate poverty in developing countries. Thank you for your consideration of our requests.
Most Reverend John H. Ricard
Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee
Chairman, International Policy Committee
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops