WASHINGTON, DC – President Bush signed the fiscal year (FY) 2008 overall appropriations package this week, known as the omnibus bill, which included $58.5 million in economic assistance for Armenia and maintained Armenia and Azerbaijan military aid parity, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA.)
The Armenia economic aid figures are $17.5 million less than the FY 2007 figures but represent a clear increase over the Administration’s request of $35 million. Congress also approved $3 million in foreign military financing (FMF) assistance to Armenia and Azerbaijan, reversing the Administration’s latest bid to retreat from its 2001 pledge to maintain parity in military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan.
“We are troubled by the reductions in aid to Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh, particularly in light on the ongoing economic costs of the Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades, as well as Baku’s increasingly violent rhetoric about restarting its war against the Armenians,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We thank all of our friends in the Congressional appropriations process who, working against significant competing budgetary pressures – were able to deliver figures higher than the President’s request, and also to maintain military aid parity.”
In addition to the Armenia allocation, the omnibus aid bill also includes $50.5 million for Georgia and $19 million for Azerbaijan. Millennium Challenge Account funding is set for $1.5 billion, half of President Bush’s request.
The final compromise aid legislation does not stipulate a specific amount of aid to Karabagh, urging the State Department to be guided instead by the individual Senate and House recommendations adopted earlier this year, one of which did allocate $6 million in aid to Karabagh.
On June 12th, the House Appropriations Committee adopted its version of the FY08 foreign aid bill, allocating $68 million for Armenia, $6 million in direct assistance to Nagorno Karabagh, and maintaining parity in the levels of U.S. military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The Senate version, adopted by the Appropriations Committee on June 28th, called for only $39 million in aid to Armenia, $4 million above the President’s request, but considerably less than the previous year’s appropriation. Although the Senate called for direct assistance to Nagorno Karabagh, it did not set a specific dollar amount. In addition, the Senate did not address the issue of military aid parity.
Other specific measures of interest in the omnibus bill include a recommendation for funding of an Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) exchange program with Armenia; Monmouth University sponsored professional exchanges with Armenia, as well as activities of the University of California, affiliated with the American University of Armenia. Appropriations Committee member, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) announced last week, his efforts in support of an allocation of $47,000 for an after-school tutoring program sponsored by the Glendale “Ararat” Chapter of Homenetmen.
In the days leading up to the omnibus bill vote, thousands of Armenian Americans communicated with their legislators on this issue via an ANCA Congressional Call In Campaign: http://capwiz.com/anca/home
In testimony submitted to the Foreign Operations Subcomittee on March 29th, ANCA Government Affairs Director Kate Nahapetian touched upon a number of key issues, including: 1) Restoring parity in all military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan; 2) Increasing economic assistance to Armenia to at least $75 million; 3) Expanding U.S. assistance to Nagorno Karabagh to at least $10 million in both humanitarian and development aid, and; 4) Preserving Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act. Click here for the full text of the ANCA’s testimony.
In February of this year, in letters to leading appropriators in the House and Senate, the ANCA outlined the Armenian American community’s foreign aid priorities. Click here for the full text of these letters.