Time to back away from United Nations

To the editor:

Most everyone knows the United States is the largest contributor to the United Nations and its affiliated funds, programs and specialized agencies. But nailing down precisely how much we pay into the U.N. system every year is no easy task.

Although most U.S. contributions come from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, hundreds of millions of dollars also flow into the U.N. system from other parts of the federal government. For instance, the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides funding to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the Department of Energy gives money to the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services supports the World Health Organization.

Given the complexity of the funding flow, no definitive tally of total U.S. contributions to the U.N. system was available prior to 2006. Until then, estimates relied on incomplete State Department data.

That changed when Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., asked former OMB director Rob Portman for a comprehensive report on total U.S. contributions to the U.N. system for fiscal years 2001 through 2005. Because OMB is in charge of overseeing the preparation of the president’s budget, it was in a position to require all parts of the U.S. government to report the requested information.

The first report was an eye-opener. The OMB calculated that U.S. contributions totaled $4.115 billion in 2004 and $5.327 billion in 2005. The State Department had estimated 2004 contributions at “well over $3 billion” – only about 75 percent of the actual amount.

For the next two years, Congress required the State Department to compile the report. But state implausibly reported that the U.S. had reduced its U.N. contributions in fiscal year 2006 and, again, in fiscal year 2007.

In response, Congress tasked OMB to compile the report. According to OMB, fiscal year 2010 marked the third consecutive year in which U.S. contributions reached record highs. In fiscal year 2010, they exceeded $7.691 billion – more than $1.3 billion higher than fiscal year 2009’s record of $6.347 billion.

If you’re wondering how much we contributed last year, good luck. Congress neglected to renew the reporting requirement. Congress appears set to address this in the imminent Continuing Resolution on government funding. The Senate report on the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Bill includes a requirement that the administration “post the United States assessed contributions under this heading to the United Nations and its affiliated agencies … in a timely manner, and the first such posting should include funding detail for fiscal years 2011 and 2012.”

Congress should renew this important reporting requirement, but doing so in annual appropriations bills is not enough. Lawmakers should make the OMB reporting requirement permanent.

The United States taxpayers pay billions of dollars to the United Nations only to be used by the U.N. to attack America.

It’s time for the United States to not only defund our payments to the U.N. but also withdraw from membership.

Robert Yost