Senate provides 3.9% increase for exchanges in FY15, and full funding for Fulbright and citizen exchanges

The Senate State-Foreign Operations (SFOPS) Appropriations Subcommittee has proposed $590.77 million for Department of State international exchange programs in FY15. This funding number is a $22 million (or 3.9 per cent) increase over both the current FY14 level and the House FY15 proposed level (released on Tuesday), and $12.87 million over the President’s FY15 request.

The Senate SFOPS Subcommittee marked-up its bill on Tuesday evening, and the full Senate Appropriations Committee supported it, and then released it, earlier today. The bill’s report language (included in full below) touches on a variety of specific programs, including:

  • $236 million (flat funding) for the Fulbright Program (“The Committee does not support the proposed $30,466,000 reduction to the Fulbright Program, including the Humphrey Fellowship Program, and the act provides sufficient funds to avoid such reduction”);
  • $90 million (flat funding) for the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP);
  • $100 million (slight increase) for Citizen Exchanges;
  • $15 million (increase over $1 million current funding and compared to $20 million requested in President’s budget) for Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI);
  • $5 million ($10 million requested) for Young SouthEast Asian Leaders Initiative (Y-SEALI); and
  • Recognizing the success of the Muskie Program (zeroed out in the FY15 request), the Committee “requires that a portion of Fulbright awards from this region are designated as Edmund S. Muskie Fellowships.”

In its report language, the subcommittee identified specific policy-related objectives for exchanges, including:  

“To broaden participation of high priority groups that have been traditionally underrepresented, such as youth and other individuals from rural and impoverished areas and minorities”; and

“To give priority to critical language programs, programs providing overseas training in critical languages for American students, and exchange programs from countries with high national security importance, including those with significant Muslim populations.”

 

J-1 Summer Work Travel amendment and SWT/High School language

The bill includes an amendment from Sens. Murkowski and Begich, both of Alaska, to reinstate seafood processing placements for the J-1 Summer Work Travel program.

The SFOPS bill also includes the following language with regard to the J-1 SWT and High School Programs:

Summer Work Travel and High School Exchange Programs.- The Committee directs the Department of State to inform the Committee in a timely manner of any instances of coercion, exploitation, or other abuse associated with the Summer Work Travel and High School exchange programs.”

 

Full text of Senate SFOPS Appropriations bill report language

The Committee recommends $590,770,000 for Educational and Cultural Exchange Programs. 

The Committee recognizes the importance of international exchanges and directs that programs funded under this heading will support U.S. foreign policy objectives. 

The Committee directs the Secretary of State to broaden participation of high priority groups that have been traditionally underrepresented, such as youth and other individuals from rural and impoverished areas and minorities. The Committee also supports the Benjamin Gilman International Scholarship, International Visitor Leadership, Citizen Exchange youth programs, and educator programs. The Committee urges the Secretary to continue to give priority to critical language programs, programs providing overseas training in critical languages for American students, and exchange programs from countries with high national security importance, including those with significant Muslim populations. 

The Committee does not support the proposed $30,466,000 reduction to the Fulbright Program, including the Humphrey Fellowship Program, and the act provides sufficient funds to avoid such reduction. The Committee notes that in recent years the Department of State has justified reductions to one-way exchanges with a specific regional focus on the grounds that the Fulbright Program offers bi-directional exchanges with greater flexibility and strong country and university support. Yet in the fiscal year 2015 budget request the Department proposes to reduce the Fulbright Program to fund region-specific exchanges. This reversal indicates a lack of long-term planning. 

The Committee does not include the funding requested for the Rapid Response Fund under this title or under the D&CP heading. The Committee recognizes that the Muskie Fellowship Program has helped individuals from Eurasia and Central Asia to promote mutual understanding, build democracy, and foster the transition to market economies, and the act requires that a portion of Fulbright awards from this region are designated as Edmund S. Muskie Fellowships. 

The Committee recommends $15,000,000 for the Young African Leaders Initiative [YALI] and $5,000,000 for the President's proposed Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, which shall be made available on a cost-matching basis. The Committee expects that additional funds for YALI will be raised from private sources. The Secretary of State is directed to consult with the Committee on a sustainable funding mechanism for these programs.  

The Committee supports the Secretary of State's efforts to reduce the administrative costs of exchange programs and expects that savings from such efforts will be used to increase the number of participants. 

The Committee continues to recognize the value of virtual exchanges as a means to broaden understanding and engagement between U.S., Middle Eastern, and North African youth in a cost-effective manner, and intends that funds made available for such programs will be matched by sources other than the U.S. Government, including from private foundations, foreign governments, and the private sector, to the maximum extent practicable.

Funds are allocated according to the following table and are subject to the provisions of section 7019 of this act:

Changes to Educational and Cultural Exchange Programs.-The Committee clarifies that the third proviso under this heading in this act shall apply to changes to any exchange program, including the separate programs funded within the Fulbright Program. 

Summer Work Travel and High School Exchange Programs.-

The Committee directs the Department of State to inform the Committee in a timely manner of any instances of coercion, exploitation, or other abuse associated with the Summer Work travel and High School exchange programs.