UPDATE – Potential Spending Freeze May Affect State Department

11499168_SSWhile many cautiously wait for QEP results, the news of President Obama’s plan to freeze non-security federal discretionary spending over the next three years is cause for concern for many Foreign Service hopefuls.

So what is the president proposing? And who would be affected if Congress adopts his plan?

When the White House talks about non-security discretionary spending, it’s referring to spending on an array of domestic programs — everything from agriculture to energy — that add up to $447 billion of roughly $3.5 trillion in the federal budget.

It does not include Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Obama’s plan to freeze spending would not apply to those or other entitlement programs.

And the federal government does not plan to stop paying interest on the federal debt, a move which would have dire economic consequences. You can remove that from the equation as well.

Law-enforcement initiatives at the Justice Department and programs from the Energy Department could be scaled back. If the budget for the Interior Department is frozen, spending on the nation’s parks could be reduced.

The freeze on spending also would also affect American diplomats. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned State Department employees yesterday the freeze may have an impact on their pay and the way they do their jobs.

Federal education programs might also be affected, though the administration has repeatedly said education is at the top of Obama’s priority list.

Administration officials have stressed that while a specific agency may be affected by the freeze, agency heads would retain significant power to give some programs increases while cutting money elsewhere.

We’re hearing this won’t necessarily affect hiring for the 2010 fiscal year, but may lead to an eventual decline in overall hires.  Stay tuned for more updates.


Harry Kopp, author of Career Diplomacy, a must read for any future FSO, shed some light recently on the impact spending freezes may have on the State Department’s budget:

I have seen some speculation on these boards about the effect on the foreignservice of the budget freeze that the president announced in his State of theUnion address.. Among the many exemptions to the freeze is the international affairs budget,called the Function 150 account. The 150 account includes the operating andprogram budgets for the Department of State and USAID. The account does notinclude the budgets for the Foreign Commercial Service or the ForeignAgricultural Service. The president should release his budget request for Fiscal Year 2011 on Monday,February 1. Details and a summary should be available on the OMB website,  Further detail will become available on agencywebsites as the agencies make their submissions to Congress.

Regards,Harry Kopp, author of Career Diplomacy


  1. Jason says:

    I think this spending freeze is such a mistake…. what happened to a progressive agenda? Why not get rid of the pork???

  2. Brian D. says:

    The spending freeze is not the mistake — the mistake is the overspending by Washington on vote-buying programs such as Cash for Clunkers and wasting money on phantoms such as global warming. Real progress in Washington would be a series of drastic cuts to programs that are outside the purview of the Federal government’s Constitutional mandates. Additionally, cutting corporate taxes, individual income taxes and the capital gains taxes would result in increased economic activity (and therefore higher tax receipts) and would result in less pressure on the federal budget. We shouldn’t be talking about freezes, we should be talking about cuts. After all, the Department of Education is unnecessary — that should be a state function. ATF should be merged into the FBI.. there’s so much waste and redundancy in the government. Of course, the unions and collective bargaining agreements of federal employees don’t help — 19% of all federal employees make over $100K per year. They need to trim the fat and kill the pork!

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