U.S. Assistance to Eurasia from the Omnibus Bill

Central Eurasia

In mid January the United States Congress passed the FY2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act, an Omnibus bill that appropriates funds for all government departments, including the Departments of State and Defense. The last time Congress passed a comprehensive Omnibus bill was the FY2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act. A close look at both bills can provide useful insights into U.S. policy goals for the upcoming year, and how those goals may have changed from past years. This post highlights the few sections in the bill that address U.S. security and foreign assistance priorities in the Eurasia region:

Department of Defense:

  • The Eurasia region is only mentioned once in the Defense Department’s (DOD) budget, which provides $500 million for the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program, a DOD counterproliferation assistance program mainly active in the former Soviet Union. The CTR section in the bill is largely unchanged from the FY2012 Omnibus bill. However, the FY14 bill’s Explanatory Statement notes that the CTR program is expected to change significantly, as Russia’s participation in the program declines under its new nonproliferation treaty with the U.S. The Explanatory Statement also points out that the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (Section 1302) gives Congress additional tools to oversee the CTR program, because the program has “significant flexibility which impedes oversight.” Specifically, the NDAA prevents the Secretary of Defense from transferring funds between the CTR program’s subaccounts until the Secretary submits a report to Congress justifying this transfer and waits 15 days for Congress to review the request. The NDAA also lists a number of reporting requirements for the CTR’s use in the Middle East and North Africa.


Department of State:

  • The current Omnibus bill makes small, but potentially significant, changes to the FY12 version with regards to assistance to Uzbekistan. The FY12 bill required the Secretary of State to submit a report to Congress on all U.S. assistance to Uzbekistan and “expenditures made in support of the Northern Distribution Network.” The FY14 bill likewise requires this report, and unlike the FY12 version, the current report by the Secretary of State must be unclassified, though it may be accompanied by a classified annex. The FY14 bill also changes the due dates for the report. First, it requires the report be published twelve months after the enactment of the bill while the FY12 Omnibus had a deadline of 180 days, though this change may have more to do with the timing of the FY14 bill than anything else. More significantly, the FY14 bill mandates that subsequent reports are submitted every six months, as opposed to once a year in the previous bill.
  • A completely new section in the FY2014 Omnibus bill is Section 7071 – “Sovereignty of the Post Soviet States.” This new section states that assistance to Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) should facilitate closer cooperation between these countries and the European Union and reduce their vulnerability to external (in other words Russian) pressure not to enter into agreements with the EU. While the bill does not attach an assistance amount with this section, reports from Georgia’s Foreign Ministry indicate Georgia expects to receive $62 million as part of assistance provided to the Eastern Partnership countries.

Section 7071 also lists a number of mandated reports to Congress, including a report on actions by the U.S. government to ensure EaP states maintain sovereignty in their foreign policy decisions; a report on U.S. democracy and rule of law programs in countries of the former Soviet Union; and a report on U.S. efforts to restore Georgia’s territorial integrity.

  • Another new addition to the FY14 Omnibus is the “Afghanistan Regional Transition” subsection, which falls under Section 7044. This subsection appropriates $150 million to programs in South and Central Asia to help with the Afghanistan transition and create linkages between Afghanistan and the wider region. It is unclear from which State Department account this money will come from and whether it will be used for security purposes, economic purposes, or a mixture of both. The FY12 Omnibus bill had a somewhat similar subsection --“Regional Cross Border Programs” -- which permitted an unspecified amount of Economic Support Fund monies appropriated to Afghanistan and Pakistan to be used for border stabilization and development programs with the Central Asian states.  
  • The FY14 Omnibus bill left the section that regulates assistance to the “Independent States of the Former Soviet Union” largely unchanged. The only difference between the current and previous omnibus bills is that the assistance programs regulated by the section now include “Economic Support Fund,” “Global Health Programs,” and “International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement” as opposed to “Assistance for Europe, Eurasia and Central Asia” (AEECA).  Per the administrations FY2013 budget request, the AEECA program was discontinued starting in 2013.


Quick Analysis:

  • The slight change in the Uzbekistan reporting requirements could prove significant to observers of U.S. security spending in the region. Given the endemic corruption in Uzbekistan and the misuse of U.S. government money to fuel fraud elsewhere in the region, analysts have pushed the U.S. government to make its contracts with suppliers along the Northern Distribution Network more transparent. The upcoming, unclassified report could provide analysts with information as to how U.S. government funding was used in Uzbekistan and whom did it benefit. Unfortunately, if it were the case that the unclassified report only comes out a year from now, the U.S. use of the Northern Distribution Network at that point would likely be insignificant.
  • The inclusion of the “Sovereignty of the Post Soviet States” section in the bill follows the recent decisions by two countries (Armenia and Ukraine) to pull out of Association Agreements with the EU, as well as continued disagreements between Russia and Georgia. This section’s newly required reports should give observers additional insights into U.S. activities in the region, though it remains to be seen whether this increased interest from Congress will be accompanied by additional security or ecomomic assistance to these countries.
  • The new “Afghanistan Regional Transition” funding seems to align with the State Department’s intention of promoting stability and prosperity in Afghanistan by integrating it more closely with its neighbors, though regional observers often view this goal skeptically. A reading of the South and Central Asia section of the 2014 Congressional Budget Justification reemphasizes the importance of regional integration for Afghanistan’s transition in the eyes of the State Department. However, the source of the $150 million remains unclear. The FY14 request for “State South and Central Asia Regional” funding is far less than $150 million (it’s about $43.1 million).

It is unfortunate that we do not currently know the accounts through which the $150 million will be allocated, since this represents a significant amount of assistance to certain countries in South and Central Asia. The Central Asia states combined, for instance, have barely received $150 million annually through the State Department’s security and economic assistance accounts in the last 10 years.