Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

The Obameter

Double the Peace Corps

"Barack Obama will double the Peace Corps to 16,000 by its 50th anniversary in 2011 and push Congress to fully fund this expansion, with a focus on Latin America and the Caribbean."

Updates

President's budget continues lower trendline for Peace Corps funding

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to double the size of the Peace Corps to 16,000 by its 50th anniversary in 2011. But while the president's proposed fiscal year 2011 budget would increase the amount of money devoted to the Peace Corps, the amount envisioned is too low to reach Obama's original goal by 2011.
 
That's not to say that Obama has forsaken the Peace Corps in his proposed budget. His 2011 budget would allocate $446 million for the Peace Corps -- up more than 10 percent from the $400 million the corps had in fiscal year 2010 and up by about one-third from the $340 million it had in fiscal year 2009.
 
The administration said in its budget proposal that the amount allocated for 2011 would put the Peace Corps "on track" to reach 11,000 volunteers by 2016. So, rather than reaching 16,000 volunteers in two years, the Peace Corps would be on pace to reach 5,000 fewer than that in seven years.
 
When we last rated this promise in June 2009, supporters of the Peace Corps said they were lobbying lawmakers to do an end run around the administration and increase the funding on their own. For fiscal year 2010, that effort bore some fruit, as Congress upped the amount from what the president had proposed -- $373 million -- to the $400 million ultimately appropriated.
 
Meanwhile, bills in the House and Senate would increase funding at faster rates than the administration is seeking. The Peace Corps Expansion Act of 2009 (H.R. 1066), sponsored by Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., has 132 co-sponsors. The bill would provide $600 million for fiscal year 2011 and $750 million for fiscal year 2012. The Peace Corps Improvement and Expansion Act of 2009 (S. 1382), sponsored by Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., has 14 co-sponsors. It would provide $575 million for fiscal year 2011 and $700 million for fiscal year 2012.
 
So, it's still conceivable that Congress could act to provide the funding required to meet Obama's original promise. But the amount needed to meet that goal is substantial, and Congress has only one appropriations cycle to meet it. The administration itself is not proposing anywhere near enough to make its promise a reality, so we're shifting our rating from Stalled to Promise Broken.

Sources:

Office of Management and Budget, fiscal 2011 budget proposal for the State Department and international programs, accessed Feb. 17, 2010
 
Peace Corps, "Peace Corps Submits FY 2010 Budget Request of $373.44 Million" (news release), May 7, 2009

THOMAS, text of H.R. 1066
 
THOMAS, text of S. 1382
 
E-mail interview with Rajeev Goyal, national coordinator for PushforPeaceCorps.org, Feb. 8, 2010

Obama's budget doesn't pump up funding for Peace Corps, but Congress might

If President Barack Obama's 2010 budget is any indication, he is backing off his promise to double the Peace Corps to 16,000 volunteers by 2011.

The budget increases funding slightly, but its volunteer goals are notably scaled back. The budget calls for "9,000
Americans enrolled in the Peace Corps by the end of FY 2012 and 11,000 by the end of FY 2016." At that pace, Obama will not meet the terms of his promise.

Peace Corps members live and work in developing countries. The program's stated goals are diplomacy and providing technical expertise to host countries. Typical projects include counseling teenagers in Belize, promoting AIDS awareness in Malawi, or teaching high school chemistry in Ghana. President John F. Kennedy signed the executive order that created the Peace Corps, and it reached its highest volunteer level in 1966, with 15,000 people.

We're not rating this Promise Broken, though: supporters of the Peace Corps are trying to get increased funding passed through Congress, and they're optimistic that if Congress approves the funding, Obama will ultimately support a substantial increase in volunteers.

"We think part of the job is ours, to show there are people out there who believe this is important to our community," said Jonathan Pearson, the advocacy coordinator for the National Peace Corps Association, which is leading the effort. Pearson was a volunteer in Micronesia in 1987.

The association is not part of the official Peace Corps, but rather a nonprofit that advocates for the Peace Corps and connects its former volunteers. It launched a " More Peace Corps " campaign 18 months ago to raise awareness and build support for an expanded Peace Corps.

Obama's budget calls for $376 million in fiscal year 2010. Legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives increases that to $450 million. That amount survived an appropriations subcommittee markup on June 17, 2009. It still needs to be passed out of the House and then approved by the Senate before it would land on Obama's desk.

Pearson said the $450 million would be a "robust step forward." The Peace Corps would need about $750 million to double its size, though costs vary based on expenses.

If Congress ends up approving additional funding and Obama signs the measure, we can envision rating this Promise Kept. But Obama's budget documents flatly contradict his promise of 16,000 volunteers by 2010. Because of that, for now we're rating this promise Stalled.

Sources:

White House, fiscal year 2010 budget document for the State Department , Peace Corps, p. 868

Interview with Jonathan Pearson of the National Peace Corps Association, June 16, 2009

Congresswoman Nita Lowey, U.S. House of Representatives State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee Approves Fiscal Year 2010 Appropriations Bill , June 17, 2009

More Peace Corps, President Obama releases Peace Corps number for FY 2010 , May 7, 2009

Peace Corps, History: Decades of Service

Peace Corps, Congressional Budget Justification, FY 2009