Overview of Recent Developments with U.S. Aid to Egypt

September 20, 2017

Recent Trump administration decisions on existing Egypt aid

  • On August 22, citing human rights-related concerns reportedly centered on Egypt’s clampdown on civil society groups, the Trump administration stated that it was cutting $65.7 million of Egypt’s Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and $30 million of FY16 Economic Support Funds (ESF) and would reprogram the funds for use elsewhere
  • The administration also said it would delay Egypt’s ability to make use of $195 million in FY16 FMF until it addresses (unspecified) U.S. concerns on human rights and democracy and Egypt’s ties with North Korea. This amount represents the 15 percent of the $1.3 billion of FMF subject to democracy conditions in the FY16 appropriations law
  • The Associated Press reported on September 19 that in a recent memorandum to Congress on the $195 million in FMF and Egypt’s human rights situation, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated that “the overall human rights climate in Egypt continues to deteriorate”

Recent congressional steps regarding new aid for FY 2018

House bill:

  • On July 19, the House Committee on Appropriations passed the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2018, H.R. 3362
  • As has been typical in recent years, the House bill has more aid for Egypt with fewer conditions than the Senate bill
  • The bill proposes $150 million in economic assistance (an increase from FY17 funding of $112.5 million), $1.3 billion in FMF (the same as current funding), and $5.8 million in other security assistance (this includes IMET training, also the same)
  • The bill conditions all funds on a requirement that the Secretary of State certify that Egypt is sustaining the strategic relationship with the United States and meeting its obligations under the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty
  • The bill places no democracy-related conditions on any of the aid. Instead it requires the Secretary of State to report to Congress on steps taken by the Egyptian government to advance democracy and human rights, including implementing reforms to protect freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, including the ability of civil society organizations and the media to function without interference; and to improve the transparency and accountability of security forces
  • The bill also requires the Secretary to “consult with the Committees on Appropriations on any plan to restructure military assistance for Egypt” within 90 days of the bill’s passage

Senate bill:

  • The Senate Appropriations Committee passed the “Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2018 –  S. 1780” on September 7
  • As has often been the case in recent years, the Senate bill has less aid for Egypt and more conditions than the House version
  • The bill cuts FMF to $1 billion and economic aid to $75 million. It has $5.8 million for additional security assistance  
  • The bill conditions all funds on the Secretary of State’s certification that Egypt is maintaining the strategic relationship with the United States and meeting its obligations under the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty
  • The bill increases the amount of FMF subject to democracy-related conditions to 25 percent (from 15 percent in current law). Release of this $250 million requires the Secretary of State’s certification that Egypt is taking effective steps to advance democracy and human rights, including to govern democratically and protect religious minorities and the rights of women; implement reforms that protect freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, including the ability of civil society organizations, human rights defenders, and the media to function with interference; release political prisoners and provide detainees with due process of law; hold Egyptian security forces accountable; investigate and prosecute cases of extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances, including the 2016 torture and murder of Italian graduate student researcher Giulio Regeni; and provide regular access for U.S. officials to monitor such assistance in areas where the assistance is used
  • Similar to current legislation, the bill allows the Secretary of State to waive the democracy certification on national security grounds, and states that a detailed report to Congress on the democracy-related conditions must accompany the use of the waiver
  • The bill also requires that “not later than 90 days after enactment of the act, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and the Government of Egypt, shall submit a report to the appropriate congressional committees describing U.S. policy regarding cash-flow financing (CFF) for assistance for Egypt made available under the FMF heading.” The Obama administration policy was to phase out CFF completely by FY18

What happens next?

  • US requirements to free up the $195 million in suspended FMF may be discussed in the September 20 meeting between President Trump and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
  • FY18 begins on October 1. Congress has not yet passed any of the 12 regular appropriations bills for FY18
  • On September 6, President Donald Trump signed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government (including foreign assistance) at FY17 levels until December 7
  • Before the CR ends, the House and Senate will need to reconcile their respective State/Foreign Operations appropriations bills to create and pass a single bill that determines final foreign assistance levels for FY18. Congress may decide to pass an omnibus spending bill that combines all the regular appropriations bills into a single large bill that the House and Senate can pass in one vote
  • If this process is not complete before December 7, then Congress could allow itself additional time by passing another CR

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