WASHINGTON—The Armenian National Committee of America welcomed a renewed Congressional effort – spearheaded by Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Adam Schiff (D-CA), and other Democratic members of the Armenian Caucus – to reverse “harmful cuts” to U.S. foreign aid to Armenia included in the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget.
“Congressional leadership is essential in rolling back the President’s proposed deep cuts in U.S. aid to Armenia,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “Attempts to slash aid to Armenia need to be met with strong bipartisan opposition and a renewed focus on empowering Armenia’s aid-to-trade transition, including the negotiation of a badly needed U.S.-Armenia Double Tax Treaty and establishment of direct Los Angeles to Yerevan commercial and cargo flights.”
In a June 6th letter to Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) and Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY), the leaders of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, over 25 U.S. Representatives raised alarms about President Trump’s call for a 67 percent cut to U.S. foreign aid to Armenia (reducing overall aid from $20.4 million in FY16 to $6.8 million in FY18), urging the restoration of aid levels for both Armenia and Artsakh.
Among the priorities that would suffer from the President’s proposed cuts is American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA), a USAID program that has provided substantial aid to both the American University of Armenia and the Armenian-American Wellness Center.
“At a time of tremendous global uncertainty, the U.S. should continue to foster the progress of its allies, not retreat from its responsibilities as the world’s leading democracy,” stated the Congressional letter. The full text of the letter is provided below.
Joining Representatives Anna Eshoo, Frank Pallone, Jackie Speier, and Adam Schiff in cosigning the letter were: Representatives Michael Capuano (D-MA), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Jim Costa (D-CA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Ruben Kihuen (D-NV), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), James McGovern (D-MA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Thomas Suozzi (D-NY), Niki Tsongas (D-MA), and Tim Walz (D-MN).
In an earlier March 30th letter to Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Lowey, a bipartisan group of more than two dozen U.S. Representatives underscored the importance of “the U.S.-Armenia partnership, a relationship founded upon a shared commitment to faith, freedom, and democratic values.” They stressed that “U.S. assistance has empowered progress in the areas of democracy, rule of law, freedom of expression, and free enterprise.”
Among the specific priorities cited in that Congressional Armenian Caucus-led letter were:
U.S. support for Armenia, as a regional safe haven for Middle East refugees, in the form of a $40 million appropriation to support transitional programs, including short-term housing/rental assistance and social and economic integration initiatives.
A renewed focus on aid to Artsakh, with an appropriation of at least $8 million for de-mining, rehabilitation programs (such as the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Center), and water supply systems.
A focused effort to check Azerbaijani aggression, through the appropriation of at least $20 million to support implementation of the Royce-Engel peace proposals, the suspension of U.S. military aid to Baku, and the strengthening of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act.
An appropriation of at least $40 million in economic aid to Armenia, and no less than $11 million in military aid, with a focus on advancing U.S.-Armenia defense cooperation goals, promoting NATO interoperability, and supporting increased Armenia’s participation in global peacekeeping operations.
Thousands of Armenian American community advocates from across the U.S. have urged lawmakers to include these items in their annual foreign aid budget priorities, using the ANCA’s action alert portal – anca.org/aid.
On March 16th, Representatives Schiff and Pallone delivered powerful testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations, echoing the priorities shared in the Congressional Armenian Caucus letter.
The House and Senate foreign aid subcommittees are currently drafting their versions of the FY18 State-Foreign Operations bill. Once adopted by each chamber, they will aim to reconcile these two versions and send a final appropriation to the President for his signature.
Text of the June 6, 2017, Congressional Letter on Aid to Armenia, Addressed to Chairman Hal Rogers and Ranking Democrat Nita Lowey
Dear Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Lowey,
As Members who care deeply about strengthening the bilateral relationship between the United States and the Republic of Armenia, we urge you to reject the harmful cuts to U.S. foreign aid to Armenia included in the President’s Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget.
The President’s FYI8 budget calls for a 67 percent cut to U.S. foreign aid to Armenia, reducing overall aid from $20.4 million in FY16 to $6.8 million in FY18. These cuts come at a critical time in Armenia’s history as it continues to integrate into the global economy and advance democratic institutions and political freedoms at home and will directly limit the ability of the
U.S. to promote American standards and values within a critical ally in a sensitive region of the world.
Specifically the FYI8 budget eliminates funding for critical programs under the Assistance for Europe, Eurasia and Central Asia account that promote economic growth and civil and democratic institutions within Armenia, a nation that continues to emerge from decades of rule under the former Soviet Union. The budget also eliminates funding for programs that support Armenia’s efforts to aid the U.S. in the global war on terrorism and bring peace and security to the South Caucasus. Finally, the budget would eliminate aid provided under the American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA) program of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which provides assistance to schools, libraries, and medical centers outside the U.S. to demonstrate American health and education practices. ASHA helped to fund Armenia’s first woman’s mammography center, which has since expanded into a nine department hospital that sees over 150 patients a day.
Furthermore, this budget omits language supporting critical humanitarian assistance in Nagorno Karabakh, especially for the demining of civilian areas. We recommend assistance for victims of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in amounts consistent with prior years, and ask for continued funding to ensure sufficient support allowing for the completion of demining efforts by 2020.
These relatively modest investments make it possible for the U.S. to promote democratic institutions and values among critical allies located in strategically important regions of the world. At a time of tremendous global uncertainty, the U.S. should continue to foster the progress of its allies, not retreat from its responsibilities as the world’s leading democracy.
As the U.S. and Armenia commemorate the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations, we urge the committee to reject the harmful cuts to U.S. aid to Armenia proposed by the President’s FYI8 budget.