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The Near East: A FMF and Section 1206 Comparison May 14, 2010

Posted by Rebecca Williams in Analysis.
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Each Friday for the next six weeks Budget Insight will be comparing State’s FMF program and DOD’s Section 1206 program within a regional context.  This week features the Near East.

Traditional security assistance to the Near East reflects long-standing strategic interests in the region.[1] Over the past decade, State’s Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program and has significantly increased.  Most of the growth, however, has gone to a few key countries due to multiple long-term FMF commitments made by the previous Administration.  These funding trends have resulted in the FMF account being evermore focused without much flexibility.

From FY2006-2009, the Near East received 87 percent of total FMF funds or $16.4 billion.  Israel, Egypt, and Jordan received 97 percent of this regional total, a testament to strong US relations with these countries.  The remaining 13 percent of total FMF funds (or $2.4 billi
on) was divided among more than 50 countries worldwide.

According to CRS, the Pentagon considers FMF is a political tool, “critical…for executing US foreign policy” and “key to improving bilateral relationships, encouraging behavior in the US interest, increasing access and influence, and building capacity where host-nation and US interest align.”  FMF funding to the Near East appears to reinforce this claim.

Moreover, FMF is viewed as too slow and inflexible to meet urgent and emerging threats.  FMF funds are earmarked by Congress, giving the State Department little room to adjust to changing circumstances on the ground. Multiyear memorandums-of-understanding lock-in future appropriations for top recipients and the FMF budgeting process normally take years to make funds available.  The advantage of FMF is predictability: the FMF process, by design, is slow and deliberate.

Proponents of Section 1206 funds consider the authority vital to US defense efforts, seen as a flexible, strategic tool to meet changing threats on the ground.  From FY2006-FY2010, Section 1206 funds to the Near East totaled $267 million (27 percent of total Section 1206 funds) or 2 percent of the FMF regional total.

Section 1206 authority, it is argued, encourages partner nations to pursue US-defined goals by offsetting these costs. Yemen and Lebanon, the two largest Section 1206 recipients in the region, may exemplify a renewed resilience to fight US-defined terrorist groups, paid for by the US taxpayer.  There are real concerns, however, that Section 1206 funds in Yemen and Lebanon are not being used as appropriately or effectively as the US would like.

Others point out that for Section 1206 counterterrorism programs to be effective they must be sustained over the long-run.  There are concerns that recipient countries will not continue to fund Section 1206 programs when funding ends.   It is unclear if Yemen or Lebanon would have the ability or willingness to sustain ongoing Section 1206 projects without such funds.

It is worth noting that the top three FMF recipients in the Near East (Israel, Egypt, Jordan) do not receive any Section 1206 funds.  Critics argue that if FMF were provided additional funds and personnel, and were to operate more efficiently, it may obviate the need for Section 1206.


[1] Recipient countries in the Near East are: Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Tunisia, and Yemen


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