Well the administration has released hits budget recommendations for 2019 this week and it makes alarming reading for those supporters of cultural exchange.
In it is a recommendation that the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) by 75%. The Financial Year 2019 request of $159 million is a significant reduction from ECA’s actual budget of $634.1 million in 2017. The Alliance for International and Cultural Exchange who represents us in Washington DC released this statement.
The proposed cuts to ECA’s budget recommended by the Administration, if enacted, would greatly harm our nation’s public diplomacy efforts and, ultimately, our national security and economy. Thanks to all of you, exchange programs have strong, bipartisan support in Congress, which determines funding levels.
Given the cuts to non-defense discretionary Overseas Contingency Operations and the Administration’s repeated proposals to cut ECA dramatically, we cannot take Congressional support for granted. In the near term, the Alliance will be taking the following action steps together with many of your Sponsors:
- Working directly with our allies in Congress to secure the largest possible allocation for exchanges in the FY18 budget, which should be decided by mid-March
- Enabling many of you during Advocacy Day (March 8) to advocate for strong funding over the next two fiscal years
- Launching on March 6 a grassroots letter writing effort to complement Advocacy Day
- Recruiting signatures throughout March for Congressional letters to appropriators regarding FY19
- Engaging one-on-one throughout the spring with Members of appropriations committees to reinforce our position on FY19 funding
- Developing a local engagement strategy to reinforce our work in Washington, D.C
It is very important that all of us make the case for the impact of these programs. Please see our press release for the major messaging points. Additionally, ECA has state specific fact sheets that we encourage all of you to use in addition to any other information you may use.
Although information was distributed in December by overseas agencies that the danger had passed, IENA and the other J-1 Sponsors maintained our position that our programs are under threat and with a 75% reduction to the ECA, it demonstrates the current attitude towards public diplomacy.