Republican Jason Chaffetz and Democrat Anthony Weiner make an excellent argument in the Wall Street Journal against taxpayer funding of the United States Institute of Peace:
Another waste of taxpayer money: the United States Institute of Peace. The USIP is a fine think tank that, according to its website, "provides the analysis, training and tools that prevent and end conflicts, promotes stability and professionalizes the field of peacebuilding."
The USIP has a role to play in our modern world, but the level of taxpayer support that this private organization receives is excessive. Since 1985, taxpayers have forked over more than $720 million (inflation adjusted). That has included support for a gleaming new 150,000 square foot office building in the shadow of that other taxpayer-supported institution devoted to peace: the State Department.
President Obama has applauded recent pledges by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to eliminate billions in unnecessary defense spending, but these cuts feel like a tough sell when we're using taxpayer money
to fund a private organization. Our defense and diplomatic establishment has helped promote stability for hundreds of years, and it should be the place we invest taxpayer dollars intended to further peace.
The USIP is a case study in how government waste thrives. The idea began during the Cold War as a modest proposal with $4 million in seed money. But the organization received government funding year after year essentially because it had been funded the year before—and because it had important allies. The late Sen. Ted Stevens air-dropped (via conference committee) $100 million for the USIP in 1985, despite the absence of any allocation in the spending bills already passed by the House and Senate that year.
In 2010, the USIP received $34 million in operating expenses from Congress, $17 million in transfers and reimbursements from the State Department and the Pentagon, and another $15 million from Congress for its new building. According to its own estimate, the institute expects about $54 million from taxpayers in 2011.
That monstrosity, referred to by the congressman in their op-ed, isn't a pretty sight. Seriously, it's hideous: