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Webb asks for increase

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by Lannie Walker

Guam - Senator Jim Webb, member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is asking for $100 million to be funneled into the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Webb submitted an amendment to the Foreign Relations Authorizations Bill, which calls for the funds to be moved from existing programs in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Senator Webb is concerned about the overfunding of the programs in the Middle East at the risk the United States' strategic interests in Asia.  

According to Webb, the Bureau has the smallest Fiscal Year 2011 budget, at a total of $169 million, in all of the regional bureaus in the State Department. Webb says even with the $100 million increase, the East Asia Bureau will still be among the lowest-funded regional bureaus. The boost, he says, would not reduce the funds available for other regional bureaus.

He wrote, "The United States is a Pacific nation and has vital long-term economic and strategic interests throughout Asia...This amendment provides the resources needed to support the administration's stated priorities in Asia and to rebalance our short-term and long-term diplomatic priorities.  This region is the only place in the world where the direct interests of the United States, China, Russia and Japan directly intersect. "

Webb also stated, "Four of our top ten trade partners are in Asia, as well as many of our nation's most serious challenges. 250,000 military personnel support our forward presence in the region, and we have long-standing treaty alliances with Japan, Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand.  It is only fitting that our diplomats be provided with the tools and resources necessary to appropriately engage the region."

The fund request would be offset by moving $50 million out of the Afganistan provincial reconstruction funds for Afghanistan and an equal amount out of Pakistan Counter Counterinsurgency Capability Fund.

Says Webb, "This amendment is timely, appropriate, and crucially needed to ensure that upon completion of our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan we have not sacrificed our position in Asia and the balance it secures."

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