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One Small Step for Prevention, One Giant Leap for Congress

April 28, 2010

Yesterday, Tuesday, April 27, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed by voice vote S. 2971, The Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 2010 and 2011. The bill authorizes programs and funding for the State Department and USAID, and its companion, HR 2410, passed the House in June of last year. Passage of this bill by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee marks an important legislative victory for enhancing US civilian capacities to prevent deadly conflict and protect civilians. Among its many provisions, the bill:

° Authorizes funding for 1500 new State Department Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) and 700 new USAID FSOs,

° Ensures specific training in prevention, mitigation, and resolution of conflict for FSOs deployed to countries in or at risk of conflict

° Raises the priority of preventing mass atrocities and requires a report on the U.S.’s early warning capacities

° Synchronizes US dues to the UN and raises the cap on UN peacekeeping funds to 27.5%

° Encourages more training and support for multilateral diplomacy within the Foreign Service

° Creates an Office on Global Women’s Issues in the State Department

FCNL and others lobbied for this bill and a number of the specific provisions in it.  With passage by the committee, S. 2971 now awaits a full Senate vote – something that may be hard to come by given all the other major legislation still pending for the year (financial regulation, energy/climate, immigration reform).  And while this bill authorizes certain funding for State and USAID, it is separate from the annual appropriations bill which will actually provide the money for diplomacy, development, and international cooperation, and which is already facing cuts despite broad bipartisan support from military and civilian leaders.

Still, with yesterday’s successful “mark up” of S. 2971, both houses of Congress have now acted on a bill which could make significant improvements in U.S. diplomacy, development, and international cooperation tools to help peacefully prevent deadly conflict. It may be just one small step in the long-term work to prevent war, but it is also a giant leap for Congress from where we were just a few years ago.

If your senator is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, please write to her/him and express your appreciation for passage of S. 2971. Ask your senator to press for floor time and full passage of the bill this year.

One Comment
  1. Carolyn Tyler permalink
    April 29, 2010 12:11 am

    It is wonderful to see this progress. Thanks for your hard work and participation.

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