After the bi-partisan effort to defund the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) over the winter failed — at least for the 2011 fiscal year — two Republicans are renewing attacks on the Congressionally-chartered and -funded organization with a new approach.
In late May, Reps. Chip Cravaack (R-MN) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act that would go beyond defunding — it would repeal the 1984 law that established USIP.
So far, the American Enterprise Institute’s resident moderate Norman Ornstein has issued the measure’s harshest denunciation, writing in Roll Call last week that the pair of Congressmen had won the “dubious distinction” of undertaking the “Most Head-in-the-Sand Neanderthal Effort of the Year”:
[T]his is not some collection of pointy-headed peaceniks — USIP has been engaged in serious and risky work, hand in hand with our military, in Iraq, Afghanistan and other trouble spots. It is engaged in mediation, nation building and other efforts to reduce conflict and save lives.
Defenders like Ornstein frame the debate over USIP’s existence in terms of national security. Indeed, as Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) and USIP president Richard Solomon point out, USIP is active in conflict areas where the U.S. is fighting wars — and others where it is not — often doing jobs that direct work for the U.S. government won’t allow.
Chaffetz and Rep. Anthony Wiener (D-NY) led the effort to defund USIP last winter. Both lawmakers wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed in February calling for defunding, but labeled USIP a “fine think tank.” Chaffatz and Wiener went on:
The USIP has a role to play in our modern world, but the level of taxpayer support that this private organization receives is excessive…. Although there have been no oversight hearings on the USIP since 1985, the organization’s value is not in question — only its need for taxpayer funding is.
Since Chaffatz signed this op-ed too, he should explain what changed since the time of its writing. After all, as February’s defunding battle shows, USIP can have its taxpayer funding taken away while allowing it to retain its Congressional charter. This latest episode seems like a mere work-around for defunding after the bid failed through to make it through the final budget for the 2011 fiscal year.