A Moment of Your Time
Dear Family and Friends,
In April, Congress passed a full-year spending bill after much contentious negotiation and many short-term Continuing Resolutions. The bill included a significant reduction for many agencies and programs, including Peace Corps.
As part of an economic stimulus package in 2008, President Obama proposed to double the size of the Peace Corps to 16,000 volunteers by its 50th anniversary in 2011. In the President’s original Fiscal Year 2011 (FY11) Budget Proposal, Peace Corps was to receive $440 million, which would have been a $40 million increase above the FY10 Budget. However, Congress passed the spending appropriation bill in April with a cut of $8.4 billion from President Obama’s funding request for the State Department.
While the State Department (which the Peace Corps program falls under) took an $8.4 billion hit, including much of it in cuts to foreign aid, the Defense Department was allocated $513 billion – a $5 billion increase from 2010.
Unfortunately, as part of the spending bill, Peace Corps received a substantial cut too, translating into a $25 million shortfall in the operating budget compared to the previous year’s appropriation. The total agency budget for the year is now $375 million as compared to $400 million for FY10.
The impact of the budget cut on the agency’s operations includes limiting and/or cutting key functions such as volunteer training, staff development, in-country support staff, headquarters support for the field, and even discourages third-year extensions for successful Volunteers. My specific post’s operational budget was reduced by $250,000 – with only five months remaining in the fiscal year.
As a result, Peace Corps South Africa has had to reduce its total number of new trainees from the 130 planned this year to a revised 99. The decrease in the number of new placements will surely disappoint many of the organizations and communities that have been waiting patiently for volunteers. The decrease in training for new volunteers also means they will be less equipped – in terms of language skills, cultural awareness and integration, and host-organization understanding – than previous volunteers.
Peace Corps Volunteers complement the strategic priorities of American foreign policy through development, fostering good will and building relationships with developing countries around the world. We work in a variety of areas, including HIV/AIDS education, food security, water safety, environmental preservation, climate change, basic education, and women’s empowerment. Peace Corps does all this on a shoestring budget, one that costs Americans roughly $1.23 a year and accounts for XXX of the total federal budget. We are one of the federal government’s lowest costing programs.
On behalf of all volunteers currently serving in South Africa, I appeal to you to take action to help restore the budget funding operations for this year. Please take a few moments to write to your elected officials. Urge them to reconsider the budget reductions as passed in the current federal budget for the remainder of 2011, to restore funding for Peace Corps operations for this year, and to safeguard it in the coming years so that we can continue to perform work that betters our nation’s interests and those of many others around the world.
Please join me in signing and submitting the attached letter to Congress, by either email or post. To find a list of your Senators and Representatives, go to:
1. United States House of Representatives – http://www.house.gov/ and enter your zip code.
2. United States Senate – http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm and choose your state from the drop-down list.
You can also sign the following online petition at: http://signon.org/sign/save-peace-corps-from-2?source=c.url&r_by=220900
Thank you, in advance, for supporting me, my friends and colleagues, and the millions of souls we work with around the world.