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Posted at 2:46 PM ET, 02/24/2011

U.S. Institute of Peace loses all federal funds under House spending plan

By Al Kamen

The U.S. Institute of Peace has been taking heavy incoming fire from the House side of the Hill, where a bipartisan coalition last week voted to cut off its funding.

The newest House "odd couple," Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Anthony Weiner
(D-N.Y.), launched the first major public salvo in a Feb. 16 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, just three days before the House vote. The duo called the USIP a "case study in how government waste thrives."

Congress created the institute with $4 million in seed money during the Cold War. Last year it got $34 million from Congress, plus another $17 million in payments from the State Department and the Pentagon and another $15 million for its new building
on the edge of the Mall, the lawmakers wrote.


A view of the new U.S. Institute of Peace building. (Photo courtesy of the institute.)

USIP is looking to get about $54 million from taxpayers next year, the members estimated -- more than a half-billion dollars over 10 years, as we now count things.

Chaffetz and Weiner - the latter writing in his official capacity as a House member, not in his more famous persona as the spouse of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's senior adviser Huma Abedin -- called the USIP a "fine think tank" and said they didn't question the "organization's value," only its need for taxpayer money when it "raises millions from corporations and private interests."

USIP folks were blind-sided when 40 other Democrats - more than 20 percent of the Democratic caucus - joined the GOP majority in voting to cut off the organization's funding.

The Democratic-controlled Senate probably will restore the funding, we're told, but then the issue would go to a House-Senate conference committee, where, as always, all bets are off.

USIP officials have returned fire by pointing out it is not a run-of-the-mill think tank, but a place that actually sends a very talented staff out to resolve conflicts in some of the nastiest places on earth, such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan. They have offices
in beautiful downtown Baghdad and in scenic Kabul and had been major players in the Balkans during the bad years.

None other than Gen. David Petraeus, njow the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, praised USIP for its "reconciliation effort," in 2007 in helping the military stabilize an area in Iraq once called "the Triangle of Death." The battalion commander there at the time credits it with saving U. S. lives.

Former secretaries of state and defense have weighed in to support it.

Perhaps if its 325 staff all toiled overseas or hunkered in some creaky offices downtown, it wouldn't have become so exposed. But, as the two lawmakers noted, there's that curiously shaped, 150,000-square-foot, $183 million new office building near
the Lincoln Memorial that it is soon moving into.

Every morning commuters, including no doubt some who work on the Hill, drive across the bridges from Virginia, and ask: What is that thing? Then they find out they own it. What's more, they shelled out more than $100 million for it --courtesy of
the late Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) -- and likely will pay several million a year towards its maintenance.

That thing on top? The thing that looks like a big tent or maybe a cloud? We're told it's actually a dove. USIP says the idea came from a dove designed by George Washington himself and is in the weathervane atop his Mount Vernon home. (Maybe that's
why he eschewed design for a career in the military and then politics?)

And the institute says it was Washington who proposed to the colonies that a "peace establishment" be built at the site, which was then called "Braddock's Rock."

People early on suggested to USIP that it bag the bird, but apparently it's built into the structure's supports, so it can't be taken down easily.

So if Congress cuts off funding and the institute closes, what happens to the bird? Well, the building can be sold, maybe to Donald Trump or to a close ally for an embassy. Or it can be rented out for weddings, parties, conventions and such. We're
told USIP has already been receiving inquiries from folks - maybe including some Republicans who favor cutting the institute's funding - wanting to use space for speeches and gatherings when the building opens.

By Al Kamen  | February 24, 2011; 2:46 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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Comments

brooklynborn thinks that - now that the Republicans have tanked our economy, destroyed retirements, and lost our jobs, we should get rid of NPR because if we don't the sky will fall if public radio's voices are promoted and heard.

The debt was already up 1.3 trillion when Obama took office, thanks to Republicans.

Who gave us a surplus? Clinton. And he did it DESPITE the Republican Congress then carping about how we needed tax cuts and corporate welfare. His paying our national debt and leaving our country with a huge surplus was in repudiation to the Republicans. Republicans haven't been fiscally prudent or fair since the 1800s. And the current batch are so batchit and venal that Arlen Specter, who served the Republican party for 44 years, left referring to them as "cannibalistic". He was being too kind.

Clinton left us with a surplus which could have gone on for decades with good stewardship. But as soon as he left office, the Bush administration re-instituted "tax cuts uber alles" (especially to the wealthy - you morons didn't even notice that we had no job growth with Bush tax cuts), a hamfisted, unsanctioned nationbuilding misadventure in Iraq, no-bid contracts, and manufacturing of obsolete weaponry over protective gear. Money NOT well spent.

And it was Gramm, Leach, and Bliley - all Republicans - who produced the legislation that enabled banks to consolidate with mortgage brokers and investment firms, and allowed them to escalate pricing and make high risk investments without any requirement for them to have the equity to back those investments and protect the investors, i.e., US.

The Republicans are now clamoring and screaming that the sky is falling and it is all a Democratic president's fault. When actually, the first stimulus package that occurred after an economic disaster that had us losing 500,000 jobs was written in part by John Boehner, and so poorly written that Wall Street Execs were able to award themselves bonuses a few months later. 169 Republicans voted for that stimulus bill with only 25 against so during Bush's rein they acknowledged stimulus spending was necessary. To bad the bill was not well written.

At least the stimulus measures Obama put in force had protective provisions, helped the middle class, and enabled us to recoup the expenditures in paid back dividends which are still coming in and helping to pay it back.

Unfortunately for us, the Republicans evidently don't believe in either taxes OR revenues. Hence their demand for Bush tax cuts to be extended 10 years or the unemployed getting their benefits cut. Obama acquiesced and gave a two-year extension. A ten year one would have cost us 40 billion in lost revenue, btw. But, hey, the Republicans would have got their votes, and that's all that matters. Which is why they've done nothing but campaign.

I tell you what brooklynborn1, why don't we get rid of Roger Ailes, since Fox "News" sc&mb&g politics & dittoheads damage our country & NPR doesnt.

Posted by: jKO2010 | February 25, 2011 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Taxpayers will pay more than $4 TRILLION for wars the US waged/entered under the George W. Bush Administration. The first of these was waged on, and mired in, lies and deception, the second was entered in defiance of expert international advisement, and continued with appropriations won by the use of psy-ops on members of Congress and other influential parties. The human carnage, casualties, and obligations from both of these wars is bound to weigh heavily on future US spending. Only fools dismiss the fiscal conservatism of peace making.

Posted by: IAmend | February 25, 2011 10:05 AM | Report abuse

It appears many who have commented here have no knowledge of USIP. They are thus ill-equipped to pass judgment on it. I have followed the USIP since its inception, visited its prior quarters, used its resources, and admired its work. That we would hold the defense budget harmless while stripping the USIP of its budget says a great deal about where we are at as a nation. I have always been proud that the US invested some small part of the federal budget in peace. I am not proud of the proposal to take even this pittance away.

Posted by: pbkritek | February 25, 2011 9:31 AM | Report abuse

How are we going to promote democracy abroad if we eliminate the leading authority on it at home?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgP0Gro52c8

Times like these demand an institute like this.

Posted by: ThinkThink2 | February 25, 2011 9:12 AM | Report abuse

How are we going to promote democracy abroad if we eliminate the leading authority on it at home?

http://www.youtube.com/user/ScarceMedia

Times like these demand an institute like this.

Posted by: ThinkThink2 | February 25, 2011 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Oh stop crying, no one said the organization has no worth!!! However, it should not be supported by taxpayers while we are in the economic position we find ourselves in. Just like NPR, and other organizations that has some basic value, the costs of keeping these are just outside of our means.
Its like any American family going through a difficult economic time, sometimes you have you give up some luxuries in order to survive. It's not pleasant or easdy thing to do. Now is the time for our government to cut anything that is not needed. Get our house back in order.

Posted by: brooklynborn1 | February 25, 2011 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Of course they did. Every good disciple of St. Ronnie knows peace is a Communist plot.

Posted by: areyousaying | February 25, 2011 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Shoot..was this the group that allowed that NY Mullah to go around the world building mosques and spreading American ideas...pfft...there's so many dept's that could be cut, this is just one of many!

Posted by: mjandrews8 | February 25, 2011 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Of course if we discontinued the money that the Army pays for NASCAR sponsorhips (a true waste of money since all services are meeting recruiting goals in a recession) we could easily fund USIP (actually a couple of them).!!!

I find it amusing that despite the factual information provided here that USIP was created during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, posters keep decrying its existence as some kind of liberal invention.

Under the GW Bush, its board included the likes of folks like Daniel Pipes other conservatives, so it's not just a refuge for liberals, etc. As Petraeus and Schultz have testifed it is an important partner in peace-building and post-conflict situations for DOD and State. Should it be part of one of those two depts -- perhaps. Is the building a bit much -- maybe. But let's remember that work on the building was authorized and commenced under a Republican president with _Republican_ Ted Stevens as a major promoter. I'm just tired of all the poster here who want to turn everything into a Democratic or Republican program as an excuse for attacking it. I am so over having to kowtow to all the idiots who post with all their faux (or is it Fox) outrage, who think that just because they feel something very deeply or believe some set of circumstances to be true that is actually is, even if all the facts point elsewhere. And no, I don't work for USIP or even live in the DC metro area. But I'm tired of phoney "heartland" values and the BS that comes with their invocation.

Posted by: lab-lady | February 25, 2011 7:42 AM | Report abuse

It is true that we are in a financial crisis, but it is also true that special interests are hard at work to control the USA political arena after 2012.
Isn't it funny that until we put ourselves in this difficult, but still solvable, economic situation, and we elect one of the best presidents our country has ever had, special interests still try to gain advantage of our current fiscal situation?
Why was funding for "wasteful" projects not cut before? Who continued to approve the funding for "wasteful" projects? What were the accountants reviewing the funding for this, and other projects, doing? What were project managers doing? Who was the ultimate person accountable for the funding of this project? I guess the answer is obvious.

Anyhow, special interest should not blindly target projects that are vital to maintaining world peace. Not only that, special interests fail to realize that they are cutting the funding for a project that so far has created good jobs.

I worked designing the electrical system for the USIP building (I worked on it for almost a year in 2007). I am an electrical engineer who graduated from both, a public and a private university (with honors) here in the United States of America. Not only that, I am a United States citizen who originally came from Mexico, and after studying, and holding a job at the same time, I was able to pay my university studies. I did so without ever receiving financial aid (It is true that public institutions are subsidized by taxpayers, but it is also true that people like me who go to college and work at the same time also contribute with our taxes, and continue to contribute once we graduate and obtain a job). And, unlike those who have enjoyed, and abused, the economic safety nets (e.g., social security, medicare, medicaid, unemployment benefits, etc.) of the greatest country ever formed by people, I do not believe in such wasteful spending. I do not believe that people should be "milking the system".

Anyhow, let us stop those politicians who are somehow “accountable” to special interests. Let us stop them from blaming anybody to score political points. Let us fix our financial system, and move on with our lives.

Posted by: ElecEngr2011 | February 25, 2011 7:04 AM | Report abuse

The two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan consume $42.7 million - the entire budget for the United States Institute of Peace - every 142 minutes.

Posted by: ThinkThink2 | February 25, 2011 7:02 AM | Report abuse

It is true that we are in a financial crisis, but it is also true that special interests are hard at work to control the USA political arena after 2012.
Isn't it funny that until we put ourselves in this difficult, but still solvable, economic situation, and we elect one of the best presidents our country has ever had, special interests still try to gain advantage of our current fiscal situation?
Why was funding for "wasteful" projects not cut before? Who continued to approve the funding for "wasteful" projects? What were the accountants reviewing the funding for this, and other projects, doing? What were project managers doing? Who was the ultimate person accountable for the funding of this project? I guess the answer is obvious.

Anyhow, special interest should not blindly target projects that are vital to maintaining world peace. Not only that, special interests fail to realize that they are cutting the funding for a project that so far has created good jobs.

I worked designing the electrical system for the USIP building (I worked on it for almost a year in 2007). I am an electrical engineer who graduated from both, a public and a private university (with honors) here in the United States of America. Not only that, I am a United States citizen who originally came from Mexico, and after studying, and holding a job at the same time, I was able to pay my university studies. I did so without ever receiving financial aid (It is true that public institutions are subsidized by taxpayers, but it is also true that people like me who go to college and work at the same time also contribute with our taxes, and continue to contribute once we graduate and obtain a job). And, unlike those who have enjoyed, and abused, the economic safety nets (e.g., social security, medicare, medicaid, unemployment benefits, etc.) of the greatest country ever formed by people, I do not believe in such wasteful spending. I do not believe that people should be "milking the system".

Anyhow, let us stop those politicians who are somehow “accountable” to special interests. Let us stop them from blaming anybody to score political points. Let us fix our financial system, and move on with our lives.

Posted by: ElecEngr2011 | February 25, 2011 7:02 AM | Report abuse

It's not yet 5 a.m. All across America people like me are already up preparing to go to work. The government will take money from our paychecks and use it so a bunch of so-called intellectuals can sit around and pontificate, travel to exotic places and, of course, hold meetings, all with no tangible benefit. Then people on this discussion board defend it and act like tens of millions of dollars is no big deal. Well it's a big deal to those of us who pay the bills, and we've had enough. This is but one tiny example of the ridiculous things our government spends money on every day.

Posted by: Chippewa | February 25, 2011 4:31 AM | Report abuse


Yeah, I guess Congressmen Chaffetz and Weiner are right.

If there's one thing we don't want to do, it's to fund, it's the ideology of peace.

After all, if promoting peace around the world was successful, what would we do with over $1 trillion a year that we blow on the Defense Department and all the octopus tentacles dangling around it?

Posted by: helloisanyoneoutthere | February 25, 2011 2:39 AM | Report abuse


Nothing more than a holding tank for leftist Dims who are between jobs. Can it.

Posted by: screwjob25 | February 24, 2011 11:45 PM | Report abuse


Nothing more than a holding tank for leftist Dims who are between jobs. Can it.

Posted by: screwjob25 | February 24, 2011 11:44 PM | Report abuse

Of course, this makes a lot of sense. This is very much in keeping with the GOP mindset. Why have peace when they get all their dole money from warfare.

Posted by: epespinoza43 | February 24, 2011 11:19 PM | Report abuse

Snip, snip. Keep those budget cuts coming.

Posted by: Desertdiva1 | February 24, 2011 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Bravo! More please ...

Posted by: Illini | February 24, 2011 10:30 PM | Report abuse


Before you curse USIP for the new digs bestowed upon them by Rep. Stevens (R) Alaska, consider where they've spent the last 30 years entertaining world leaders and diplomats:
http://tinyurl.com/4b4dn76

The House has been in session for 50 days. Don't let them dismantle 30 years of peace building.

Posted by: ThinkThink2 | February 24, 2011 9:29 PM | Report abuse


Before you curse USIP for the new digs bestowed upon them by Rep. Stevens (R) Alaska, consider where they've spent the last 30 years entertaining world leaders and diplomats:
http://tinyurl.com/4b4dn76

The House has been in session for 50 days. Don't let them dismantle 30 years of peace building.

Posted by: ThinkThink2 | February 24, 2011 9:28 PM | Report abuse

Easy solution. Rebranding.

Change the name to US Institute of War and watch "fiscally conservative" dollars flow in.

Posted by: johnqpublic1 | February 24, 2011 9:01 PM | Report abuse

I’m sure members will be surprised to learn that The United States Institute of Peace is neither private nor a “think tank,” as stated by Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Anthony Weiner
(D-N.Y.)in their ammendment, but a non-partisan governmental agency created by Congress under Ronald Reagan.

Rather than a think tank, the Institute works side-by-side with our military on the ground in every country our nation is seeing combat. The Pentagon considers it a force multiplier. Yet, the Institute’s entire budget is less than the price of a single F-15 fighter plane.

After the amendment to cut the Institute’s funding was introduced, General David Petraeus (United States Central Command, Office of the Commander); Former US Secretary of State George P. Shultz; Admiral G. Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations, US Navy; Lieutenant General, Robert L Caslen Jr, US Army; were among the first to come its defense and requested its funding be maintained.

The Institute has also played crucial roles on the ground in Rwanda, Sudan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Nepal, Columbia, Nicaragua, The Middle East, Thailand and the list goes on.
It’s efforts in Iraq to foster dialogue between Sunni and Shiite factions has saved numerous lives (both American and Iraqi) and helped that country abate the slide into civil war.

The United States Institute of Peace truly is a cost efficient force-multiplier and an indispensable tool of US diplomacy. This is one extremely effective governmental agency that should be funded at all cost. Though that cost be miniscule.

Posted by: ThinkThink2 | February 24, 2011 8:59 PM | Report abuse

In the eyes of a right-winger it had to go.

It was established by liberals, and we can't have that even if it was liberals who built this country.

It also displayed the forbidden word "Peace" in it's title, which discouraged the right-wing dog-given fantasy right to bomb any country they want to back to the stone age, something they are doing to this country simply swinging an meat axe with all the hatred and fearsome deluded beliefs anti-Americans like Limbaugh, O'Reilly and Malkin can instill in a gullible, easily mislead mob.

Posted by: PoliticalPrisoner2012 | February 24, 2011 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Peace is a real job killer.

Posted by: smi2le | February 24, 2011 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, well, if you want a job there, you'd better know *someone.* Another of the gov's patronage organizations.

OT - who the h3ll is proofing/spell checking these columns? There are screw-ups all over - particularly on the formatting. Jeez....

Posted by: mooncusser | February 24, 2011 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Yes, there's trillions of dollars for war, but spend a few bucks on peace - obviously that's a waste! Nice going, idiots!

Posted by: garoth | February 24, 2011 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Come on, the USIP does nothing that other non-profit think tanks do and can sustain itself on private grants like Na.ional Geographic if it comes to that. Sorry, but we need the budget savings. That goes for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, too. The days of log-rolling are gone. I am in favor of more drastic cuts, including elimination of the U.S. Department of Education and the Securities and Exchange Commission, but I'll settle for elimination of institutions that can make it on their own without government subsidies.

Posted by: edwardallen54 | February 24, 2011 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Why do you think we have a deficit. Work for the military. Retire. Get pension. Work for quasi govt agency. Get pension. Work for a govt contractor. Make real big bucks. An yes, that includes benefits until you die too. You've got govenment people managing government people. If you talk to any government worker they will tell you first thing how great their pension is. I don't know one government worker who takes pride in the work they do. It's a job and they're doing time. It's know wonder the government could care less and is so incompetent. The SEC is a prefect example of the "working for the pension". Do you think they care about our 401k's? Let's keep an eye on Winsonsin. If private sector companies can kill their pension plans no reason why the government should not be able to kill their pension plans.

Posted by: SaintFrancis | February 24, 2011 5:15 PM | Report abuse

what exactly are the folks at USIP doing now that can't be handled by the State or Defense Departments? USIP folks were blind-sided? Really? What kind of outreach have they done to Congress? How many even knew they existed?

Posted by: DCDan | February 24, 2011 5:09 PM | Report abuse

NPR and The National Foundation For The Arts next. If they serve so many and do so much "good", they won't have any trouble raising all the funds they need.

Posted by: fregameeate | February 24, 2011 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Our BS government at work...

This is typical of the clusterf**k that is our democracy. The GOP thinks it can get some mileage out of "deficit reduction". Now of course neither party will act on any MEANINGFUL reductions, they are just playing politics. So they start sniping at tiny things. Then the democrats roll over and go along, hoping they will pick up some cred by being able to say they cooperated.

By everyone's admission, the USIP is doing a good job and fills a need, but hey, it's got a budget that's not defense or entitlements (the only areas where deficit reduction would do any good, hence the areas that will be utterly exempt from cuts), so out it goes.

Pitiful.

Posted by: info53 | February 24, 2011 5:04 PM | Report abuse

The United States has the Department of Defense and the State Department, and tens of thousands of foreign service personnel employed by the federal government currently overseas, carrying out "diplomatic relations". When those entities need backup, the U.S. government hires consultants and private security personnel to support them.

On the private side, there are countless other non-profits with similar missions.

Why in the world do we need this organization? My guess is so that "retirees" from the State Department can walk across the street and go to work for this "private" organization and thereby triple their salaries.

Posted by: RambleOn | February 24, 2011 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Is the dove supposed to be symbolic of the Holy Spirit descending on all those who enter the building? If so that's pretty awesome.

Posted by: SaintFrancis | February 24, 2011 5:03 PM | Report abuse

The real "U.S. Institute of Peace" is a five-sided building on the Virginia side of the Potomac. THAT keeps the peace...

Posted by: ablasko73 | February 24, 2011 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Saving troops lives and promoting peace. What a waste of money. The business of America is unilateral war.

Posted by: lauther266 | February 24, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

You haven't spent $500 million for that. You've spent about $120 million, most of which was designated 15-20 years ago, and would you rather them have their own shiny impressive building or continue to rent space from the National Restaurant Association, which is the building they're in now? What a prestigious image for the Institute where all those people from Korea, Egypt and Libya come for training and advice on how to manage peaceful change in their countries. Rented office space definitely says something about how serious the US is about peace. Which, by the way, costs a whole lot less than war.

Posted by: win14mee | February 24, 2011 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Ugh! Have they sent anyone to Egypt? Libya? Korea?
Have they done anything to earn their money or is this just a debutante's lavish winery to show to our distingusihed foreign visitors?
Get rid of the money pit.

Posted by: hebe1 | February 24, 2011 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Ugh! Have they sent anyone to Egypt? Libya? Korea?
Have they done anything to earn their money or is this just a debutante's lavish winery to show to our distingusihed foreign visitors?
Get rid of the money pit.

Posted by: hebe1 | February 24, 2011 3:55 PM | Report abuse

ive never heard of USIP before. Cut it and Get rid of it

Posted by: abeisavol2 | February 24, 2011 3:51 PM | Report abuse

ive never heard of USIP before. Cut it and Get rid of it

Posted by: abeisavol2 | February 24, 2011 3:50 PM | Report abuse

I have paid 500 million for that? plus the prime site that used to be a navy hospital? 500 million?? FOR FLIPPIN WHAT!!!

Posted by: wjc1va | February 24, 2011 3:47 PM | Report abuse

I have paid 500 million for that? plus the prime site that used to be a navy hospital? 500 million?? FOR FLIPPIN WHAT!!!

Posted by: wjc1va | February 24, 2011 3:46 PM | Report abuse

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