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Last Updated:4/2/03
Memorandum to House Appropriators from Reps. Ike Skelton (D-Missouri), Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts), and Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut), March 28, 2003

DATE: March 28, 2003

TO: Rep. C. W. Bill Young, Chairman, House Committee on Appropriations
Rep. David Obey, Ranking Member, House Committee on Appropriations
Rep. Jim Kolbe, Chairman, Foreign Operations Subcommittee
Rep. Nita Lowey, Ranking Member, Foreign Operations Subcommittee

FROM: Rep. Ike Skelton
Rep. Jim McGovern
Rep. Rosa DeLauro

SUBJECT: Military Aid for Colombia in FY 2003 Supplemental Appropriations Request

We are writing respectfully to urge you to eliminate the funding for Colombia in the FY 2003 supplemental appropriations request currently under consideration by your Committee. While the war with Iraq justifies emergency supplemental appropriations, there is no such emergency with respect to Colombia that would justify deviating from the regular order of the authorization and appropriation schedule.

The costs of the Iraq conflict are steep and this supplemental request will likely not be the last to pay for war-related expenses. Moreover, many of us in Congress share a deep concern about the costs of rebuilding Iraq and providing for its government transition. At this time, with the nation at war, our priority must remain with these efforts.

President Bush has asked Congress to "refrain from attaching items not directly related to the emergency at hand." In his March 25th request addressed to the Speaker of the House, the President states that the supplemental appropriations request is "to support the Department of Defense operations in Iraq and to strengthen the capabilities of our friends and allies who share the burden of military and stabilization activities." Finally, the request will "enhance the safety and well-being of Americans at home and abroad with investments managed by the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies."

We submit that the military funding for Colombia included in this supplemental does not meet these criteria. The requests for Colombia are unrelated to the needs of our troops and our missions in Iraq and Central and South Asia and the requirements to safeguard our Nation's own homeland security. It would seem wiser and more appropriate to provide funding for Colombia through the regular appropriations process.

Further, Colombia has just received over $500 million for Fiscal Year 2003 - $400 million through the Andean Counterdrug Initiative and $99 million in foreign military financing - in H. J. Res. 2, the FY 2003 Omnibus Appropriations Act, which Congress approved barely six weeks ago, on February 12th. For Fiscal Year 2004, the President has requested over $700 million for Colombia, including $313 million in interdiction funding, $110 million in foreign military financing, $150 million in social aid, and another estimated $120 million in the defense appropriations bill. It is our understanding that those bills will begin to move through the subcommittee appropriations process shortly after Congress returns from the April recess.

The supplemental includes the following funding for Colombia:

  • $34 million for "Drug Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities" under the Department of Defense/Operations and Maintenance to "fund increased operational tempo in Colombia's unified campaign against narcotics trafficking and terrorist activities."
  • $34 million under "Department of State/Other" for the Andean Counterdrug Initiative "to support extension of police authority to areas of the country that currently have little or no law enforcement presence, enhanced presidential security, bomb squad equipment, and for the unified campaign against narcotics and terrorism." (It is unclear whether these are indeed two separate requests for $34 million or an inadvertent duplication.)
  • An unspecified amount under "International Assistance Programs/International Security Assistance" as foreign military financing. A total of $2.059 billion would be provided by 19 countries, including Colombia. While specifics are provided for Israel, Jordan, Pakistan and Afghanistan for these funds, no specifics are provided regarding the other 15 countries, including Colombia. However, in recent briefings, State Department officials have stated that $36 - $37 million of these funds is targeted for Colombia.
  • If these figures are correct, the total supplemental military aid for Colombia in this request could be as high as $104 - $105 million.

In addition, some categories in the supplemental contain generic wording of support for "the global war on terrorism" that could include funding for Colombia and other countries not related to operations in Iraq, South or Central Asia, the Middle East, or against al-Qaeda. These include, for example, the Defense Emergency Response Fund, where $50 million is made available "to support the military operations or activities of foreign nations in furtherance of the global war on terrorism." Under "Department of Defense/General Provisions," there is another $150 million "to support indigenous forces assisting United States military operations or activities relating to the global war on terrorism" that could also permit payments to forces not related to the war on Iraq. The Committee might want to look at modifying and providing greater precision in the language of these provisions so that the use of these funds is narrower and more appropriate to the Persian Gulf/Middle East/South Asia theater of operations.

We thank you for your serious consideration of these matters. Supporting our troops and providing a post-Saddam Iraq the best chance of success are critical priorities. We hope that the supplemental will exclude these extraneous requests and focus on the specific needs of our troops and missions in the Persian Gulf and on our urgent Homeland Security requirements.

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