Update from Congress: More funds for Internet freedom than ever before

Sun, 2014-01-19 21:30

Last week Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014, commonly known as the Omnibus Act. Included were appropriation decisions for 12 arms of the USG including State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs. This includes the Department of State and the BBG, the two entities primarly responsible for the disbursement of USG Internet freedom funds.

In this 1,500 pages long Act, Congress did something they haven’t done before: they designated $50,500,000 explicitly for Internet freedom specifying that $25,500,000 be spent by the BBG and $25,000,000 by the Department of State. This is an increase of $16,400,000, up from 2012’s total of $34,100,000. Attached below are relevant excerpts of sections from the Act.

Until 2011, the BBG’s Internet freedom fund was $1.6 million. For fiscal year 2011, Congress increased that figure by $10 million for a total of $11.6 million. In 2012, it was decreased to $7.5 million and in 2013 increased to $9.1 million. OTF’s slice in 2012, our first year, was $6.8 million and $4.3 million in 2013. The Department of State’s budget for Internet freedom has been around $25 million for some time mostly being spent by State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) and USAID.

The implications for OTF this fiscal year are currently undecided. A provision in the Act states the BBG, Department of State, and USAID have 90 days after enactment to submit spending plans to the State, Foreign Operations, and Other Programs Appropriations Subcommittee’s within the House of Representatives and Senate. When we know more, we will post a follow-up.