USAID Vets-Hiring Review, Support for Israel, Top Kirk Priorities Included in State-Foreign Ops
Senate Appropriations Committee adopts watershed Kirk amendment requiring basic count of Palestinian refugees served by UNRWA;
Bill mantains funding conditions for Egypt, Lebanon and Palestinian Authority, requires assesment of U.S. counter-piracy strategy
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator will be required to review the agency's veterans-hiring practices under a bill passed yesterday by the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee.
The Senate’s fiscal year (FY) 2013 State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Act, which funds the State Department, USAID and most foreign assistance programs, includes language requested by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) to examine the inadequate hiring of veterans at USAID. In 2010, USAID had the lowest percentage of veterans employed among all Executive Branch agencies, despite USAID’s increased work in conflict zones. The Kirk language will require examination of USAID’s veterans hiring programs and recommendations on ways to improve veteran hiring.
“With service in key conflict areas and unique skill sets, America’s most recent veterans are among the best candidates for international development work,” said Sen. Kirk, who co-chairs theSenate Veterans Jobs Caucus with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.). “It makes absolutely no sense for USAID to be near the bottom of Executive Branch agencies when it comes to hiring veterans.”
The appropriations bill includes other key Kirk-backed priorities, including security assistance for Israel and important conditions on U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Lebanon. During yesterday’s markup, the Appropriations Committee unanimously approved a Kirk amendment offered by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) that would require the State Department to report to Congress with an approximate number of people currently served by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) who actually lived in then-Palestine between 1946 and 1948 and were displaced by the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. With U.S. taxpayers providing more than $4 billion to UNRWA since 1950, the watershed reporting requirement will help taxpayers better understand whether UNRWA truly remains a refugee assistance organization or has become a welfare agency for low-income residents of the Levant.
Other provisions authored or supported by Sen. Kirk included in the bill:
- Directing the State Department and USAID not to provide any funds to non-governmental organizations that promote incitement to violence against America, Israel or Jews.
- Requiring an assessment of the U.S. counter-piracy strategy in the Horn of Africa and USAID efforts in Somalia. After traveling to Somalia and the Gulf of Aden in April 2011, Sen. Kirk issued a detailed report on the deteriorating situation in the Horn of Africa and proposed changes to American policy that would help to mitigate the security threat posed by pirates in the region.
- Reauthorization of the “Lautenberg Amendment,” key language allowing the expeditious processing of religious minority refugees from Iran and the former Soviet Union. Sen. Kirk and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), for whom the original amendment is named, led a bipartisan coalition of 23 Senators to extend the Lautenberg Amendment and demonstrate U.S. commitment to human rights and religious freedom in Iran.
- Support for ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq, including Iraqi Christians in the Nineveh Plains region.