WASHINGTON–Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) challenged Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice over the Administration’s call for a significant reduction in aid to Armenia in its FY09 budget during her appearance Thursday as a witness before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
"We want to thank Congressman Sherman for personally challenging Secretary Rice regarding the Administration’s proposed cuts in aid to Armenia," said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA. "He is a good friend, and a forceful and effective champion for the full range of public policy issues of concern to
Armenian Americans in his Congressional District and across the United States."
During the hearing, Congressman Sherman informed Secretary Rice that, "For the record, for the fiscal year currently in progress, the Administration requested $35 million for Armenia. The Congress provided $58 million…Now, your current budget request not only is less than what we provided for this year, $58 [million], it’s less than what you requested last year–you’re down to $24 [million], and we see an increase in the funds for Azerbaijan. This seems to add injury on top of the insult where we were asked not to take up the Armenian Genocide resolution."
In response, Secretary Rice stated, "I just would remind, in terms of our support for Armenia, Armenia is, of course, also a recipient of an MCC, which is as very strong statement of our support for Armenia." While Armenia is, in fact, a recipient of Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) funding, the Administration has called for increased economic assistance for other MCC recipients, including neighboring Georgia. The President’s budget recommen’s cutting U.S. economic aid to Armenia from the FY08 estimated level of $58 million to a proposed FY09 level of $24 million–a cut of nearly 60% and $11 million less than his FY08 request. This dramatic reduction to Armenia, a nation economically blockaded by Turkey and Azerbaijan, takes place against the backdrop of assistance proposals to other Independent States of the Former Soviet Union that are either remaining constant or experiencing increases. According to the President’s figures, Georgia, also a recipient of Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) funding, would receive $52 million, while Azerbaijan, which is collecting billions in oil revenues, is set to receive $19.5 million. The President’s budget proposal does not include any specific assistance figures for Nagorno Karabakh.
The President’s budget, in yet another clear breach of the White House’s agreement of military aid parity with Congress in 2001, has called for three times more International Military Education and Training aid for Azerbaijan than Armenia.
The State-Foreign Operations Subcommittees of the House and Senate Appropriation Committees will now review the budget and each draft their own versions of the FY2009 foreign assistance bill.