The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2020

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JULY-AUGUST 2020 81 AFSA NEWS How Will the Pandemic Affect the International Affairs Budget? After Congress passed several rounds of new coro- navirus relief packages this spring, many were left won- dering what the international affairs budget (IAB) will look like for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2020 and in FY 2021. Last December, Congress passed an IAB totaling $56.6 billion for FY 2020, a small increase of $469 million, or 1 percent, over the FY 2019 budget. Congress rejected the administration’s proposed cut of 24 percent to the IAB and included $8 billion for overseas contingency opera- tions, which faced the threat of being cut completely. AFSA welcomed Congress’ show of support via an appropriation that rejected proposed cuts for the third year in a row. In March, however, as the coronavirus pandemic spread in the United States, Con- gress’ progress on mapping out FY 2021 appropriations came to a halt. It became apparent that emergency funding was nec- essary to address the imme- diate and unexpected needs related to the pandemic, such as evacuating personnel and their dependents, as well as funds to help American citi- zens get home to the United States from countries around the world. AFSA emphasized to Congress the role diplomats have played in the pandemic response and, especially, the Foreign Service’s role in keep- ing Americans safe against an invisible enemy. Congress appropriated an additional $1.25 billion for the State Department and USAID in the first COVID-19 emer- gency package and another $1.12 billion in funding for IAB programs directly related to the global response in the third relief package. This nearly $2.4 billion in unanticipated funds was not considered when Congress finalized its FY 2020 spending back in December. Generally, this style of funding is not subject to the budget caps that dictate topline limits, and more funding could come in additional relief packages prior to Congress finalizing FY 2021 funding. After the relief packages, FY 2020 will provide more money for the IAB than pre- dicted, but questions remain: Do emergency appropriations mean that the final FY 2021 IAB will struggle to receive level (or increased) funding? Will a significant increase in funding for a global health response receive bipartisan support in FY 2021? The answers will become clearer as Congress inches toward the end of FY 2020 and is forced to confront the monetary needs of the coun- try. A continuing resolution for the first months of FY 2021 seems to be growing more and more likely. The final FY 2021 interna- tional affairs appropriation, which could be passed shortly after the November elections or early next year, is likely to be influenced by these fac- tors: • When, or if, the appro- priations committees will conduct proceedings on the FY 2021 bills. • The condition of the United States amid the pandemic as appropriations votes take place. • The proximity to the 2020 elections as appropria- tions votes take place. • The extent to which the pandemic is affecting coun- tries that receive aid from the United States. • The results of the 2020 federal election. Congressional oversight of the emergency funding for the IAB will be at the forefront of conversations over the next few months, even as Con- gress looks to find normalcy and tries to continue its FY 2021 appropriations process. AFSAmust continue to urge congressional leader- ship to uphold and increase funding levels for the IAB in FY 2021, so that our diplo- mats can be better prepared for global crises—such as a pandemic—as the nation’s first line of defense. n AFSA ON THE HILL | BY KIM GREENPLATE AFSA Voter Registration Guide Tuesday, November 3, 2020 is the next federal Election Day. Visit AFSA’s website at guide for a voter registration guide that makes it easier for you and your family to register to vote. The guide includes voter registration deadlines for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories, as well as information on requesting absentee ballots. If you would like to check on your registration status, visit or n