Military Aid to Egypt Maintained in House Panel’s Measure

The U.S. would continue to send about $1.3 billion a year in military aid to Egypt if the State Department certifies that certain conditions are being met, under a draft spending bill to be considered by the House Appropriations Committee.

The bill, which provides for State Department and Foreign Operations funding for the next fiscal year, would make the military aid contingent on the State Department certifying that Egypt is meeting the obligations of its 1979 treaty with Israel. The State Department also would have to certify that Egypt is planning free and fair elections while protecting human rights and civil society organizations.

President Barack Obama requested $1.55 billion in U.S. aid to Egypt in his fiscal 2014 budget proposal. The White House and most leaders in Congress have so far avoided using the word “coup” in describing the July 3 ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi by the country’s military.

U.S. law prohibits directly providing “any assistance to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by a military coup d’etat or decree,” or a coup “in which the military plays a decisive role.”

Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee today that aid to Egypt’s military should be maintained.

“They are worth the investment,” Dempsey said, urging a resumption of funding as soon as possible if the law required a cutoff.

Administration Questioned

Arizona Republican Senator John McCain has questioned the administration’s reluctance to act more quickly to suspend aid to Egypt.

“It is difficult for me to conclude that what happened was anything other than a coup in which the military played a decisive role,” McCain said in a July 8 statement.

The bill, which is scheduled to be considered tomorrow by an Appropriations subcommittee, includes $1.3 billion in military aid, described as funding for counterterrorism and border security programs in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.

It also would provide $1.37 billion for economic support worldwide to countries, though the breakout by country wasn’t disclosed. Several countries would have to meet specified conditions to receive aid. The White House requested $250 million in economic assistance for Egypt.

Military aid to Egypt funds M1A1 tanks jointly produced with Falls Church, Virginia-based General Dynamics Corp., as well as F-16 fighter jets manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp., based in Bethesda, Maryland.

Embassy Security

The total spending measure would provide $34.1 billion in discretionary funds, $8 billion or 19 percent less than what was enacted for this year for the State Department and foreign operations, according to the committee. The bill would provide about $6 billion less than the current level of spending when accounting for automatic cuts known as sequestration.

“Funding is prioritized for embassy security, critical strategic partners in the Middle East and Latin America, democracy assistance, and life-saving HIV/AIDS and refugee programs,” Representative Kay Granger, a Texas Republican and chairwoman of the State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee, said today in a statement.

The measure would provide $14.6 billion for State Department operations and related agencies, including matching the White House request for $4.8 billion in embassy security. Operations at the U.S. Agency for International Development would receive $1.4 billion, including $250.7 million for operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.

‘Devastating’ Cuts

The proposed funding for the department is $2.4 billion less than the enacted level for the current fiscal year, a reduction that prompted criticism from the administration.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters today in Washington that the proposed cuts “would be devastating if put into effect, would hurt our ability to stand up for American interests and values around the world,”

“The U.S. can’t lead if we retreat in this way,” she said.

Among the State Department’s concerns, she cited a 41 percent cut to economic and development assistance, as well as a reduction in agricultural programs for Africa.

The measure would reinstate the “Mexico City Policy” that prohibits U.S. assistance to organizations overseas that promote or perform abortions. A separate provision would cap funding for family planning and reproductive health programs at the fiscal 2008 level of $461 million, in addition to prohibiting money for the United Nations Population Fund, also known as the UNFPA.

Additionally, no funds under the measure could be spent to implement the UN Arms Trade Treaty.

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