The Impact of Sequestration on US Funding for Mine ActionPosted: February 28, 2013
The short answer is nobody knows what the impact of sequestration – the mandated US government spending cuts that go into effect tomorrow, March 1, 2013 – will be on any government programs (Washington Post). The White House has published an estimate of the impacts, but their math follows the “peanut butter” model, in which the 8.2% spending reduction is applied evenly across all programs. A large portion of US support for mine action comes under the Conventional Weapons Destruction (CWD) program, managed by the State Department’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement. The funding for the Convention Weapons Destruction program falls under the broader program, “Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining, and Related Programs.” According to the White House, the Nonproliferation etc. account is currently funded at $711 million and under the Sequester, that budget will be reduced by $58 million to $653 million (White House, pdf). That’s if, and only if, the spending cuts are distributed evenly which they won’t be. Even within the Nonproliferation etc. account, cuts are unlikely to be distributed evenly: no politician or bureaucrat in his right mind in this town would allow any reduction in “Antiterrorism” funding and the Obama Administration has made nuclear nonproliferation a priority (more so with the appointment and confirmation of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense). So, cuts to the Nonproliferation etc. account can be assumed to strike the “Demining” and “Related Programs” parts of the account harder than the Nonproliferation and Antiterrorism parts.
Basically, sequestration is likely to reduce the amount of money for demining in the current and future budget years. A good indicator of the extent of the reduction can be found in the comparison of the FY12 budget approved by Congress and the FY13 budget proposed (but never acted upon, hence the Sequester) by the Obama Administration. In FY12, Congress approved $149.1 million for the CWD program. For FY13, the White House requested $126 million, a 16% reduction in funding (Friends Committee on National Legislation). If the Obama Administration was willing to propose a 16% cut in the CWD program without the pressure of mandatory cuts from the Sequester, we can expect to see that at a minimum, the CWD would be reduced to the $126 million level and possibly more to minimize cuts in the politically sensitive Nonproliferation and Antiterrorism accounts. Not good.
However, it should be said that at least under the Sequester, more funding for mine action would be available than has been under the series of continuing resolutions. According to the State Department, “The continuing resolution allows agencies to continue spending at the same rate as during FY12… Accordingly, we have about $20.5 million available [for the Conventional Weapons Destruction program] during the continuing resolution period” which started on October 1, 2012 and concludes March 27, 2013 (Personal correspondence). So for a period of almost six months, the CWD program has been running on a much reduced budget and unable to make long-term plans in the absence of an approved budget.
On the plus side, the same day that the Sequester will take effect, the European Union (collectively the largest donor to humanitarian mine action) will announce “a new Decision in support of the implementation of the Cartagena Action Plan,” the plan developed and approved by States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty to clear mines and provide victim assistance (European Union). March 1, 2013 will be the 14th anniversary of the entry into force of the Mine Ban Treaty so the EU’s Decision will be hailed as upholding the spirit of the Treaty and allowing countries to continue to work towards a mine-free world, while the Sequester in the US will be a blow. On one side of the Atlantic, the glass will be half full; on the other half empty.
Michael P. Moore
February 28, 2013