The Future of the US Institute of Peace

David Price
The future of the US Institute of Peace is under scrutiny following a House of Representatives vote in late February 2011 to withdraw USIP's public funding – in which over 20% of the Democratic Caucus voted with the Republican majority – and disquiet over USIP's move into a high-profile new building in Washington, D.C. 

In the build up to the House vote, Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), set out the reasons in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal why they believe that USIP's funding should be withdrawn

However, based on the analysis using Debategraph so far, the key arguments presented by Reps. Chaffetz and Weiner do not appear to stand up well to detailed scrutiny – and, at the very least, require further clarification and evidential support from the Congressmen.

Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) [Wikipedia]

As with all Debategraph projects the aim here is promote rigorous and transparent political debate on all sides of questions of public interest – and the underlying arguments are open for all to edit, add to, and evaluate.
Poster created by David Price on 9:09 AM 4 April 2011 GMT
Claim: Funding USIP is a waste of taxpayer money

Claim: Funding USIP is a waste of taxpayer money

The Congressmen claim that USIP's Congressional funding should be withdrawn because USIP's funding is a waste of taxpayer money.

However, while the pressure to reduce the US Federal Deficit / National Debt is clear, the Congressmen's argument is not supported by any detailed cost-benefit analysis to establish whether or not the funding provided to USIP offers value-for-money to taxpayers (either in absolute terms or relative to other forms of taxpayer expenditure).

The absence of a detailed cost-benefit analysis is also a weakness for those, on the other side of the argument, who argue that USIP offers the US taxpayer value-for-money.
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Claim: USIP

Claim: USIP's work should be funded privately

The Congressmen's argument  that USIP's work should be funded privately includes several interrelated strands: that USIP is a private organization, that private funding is more appropriate for the type of "think tank" work carried out by USIP, and that private / corporate interests have already demonstrated a willingness to fund USIP.

However, as the map shows, framing USIP as a private organization appears to be fundamentally at odds with the way that USIP has been established by United States Institute of Peace Act, USIP's work extends beyond the normal activities of a think tank and is not easily replicated by other public bodies (such as the State Department), and the bulk of private funding for USIP was for an exceptional project – building USIP's new headquarters on the National Mall – which was itself majority public-funded.
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Claim: The State Department could perform USIP

Claim: The State Department could perform USIP's public role

The Congressmen claim that USIP's public role could and should be carried out by the US defense and diplomatic establishment, and by the State Department in particular.

However, this claim is contested by senior diplomatic and military figures, including the Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and General David Petraeus, and ignores the fact that USIP's Congressional mandated independence allows USIP to act as a neutral convenor of dialogue in a way that the State and Defense Departments cannot.
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