Wed, Feb 06, 2008 - Page 1 News List

US$67m allocated for new AIT

STRATEGIC CAPITAL The money for the building is partly in response to complaints by AIT personnel over the dilapidated condition of the main building on Xinyi Road

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

The Bush administration has proposed allocating almost US$67 million next year for the construction of a new headquarters for the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) in Neihu, Taipei.

The money is part of the administration's US budget request submitted to Congress for the Fiscal Year 2009. The budget, which will fund the cost of operating the US government for the year beginning on Oct. 1, was unveiled on Monday.

Groundbreaking for the new facility is scheduled to begin this year, the US State Department said in documents accompanying the White House budget submission.

Taiwan and the US signed a 99-year lease agreement on the 2.6 hectare site off Jinhu Road in December 2004.

When added to money previously raised, the funds will provide a total US$171.6 million for the new office complex, the department said. After the lease was signed, the cost estimate for the complex was US$160 million.

The money will come from the State Department's Strategic Capital program, which covers projects needed for "strategic, policy or political considerations," it said.

Also, mirroring persistent complaints by AIT staff about the condition of the dilapidated AIT building on Xinyi Road, the money for the new complex is part of a program "designed to meet the demands of a critical gap in the overseas real property portfolio," the department said.

In the new budget, the Bush administration also proposed an increase of nearly 4 percent in AIT's budget for next year, the second consecutive annual increase.

The administration proposed to spend US$16.84 million next year to operate the institute, which acts as the intermediary between the US governments and Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act.

That compares with this year's AIT budget of US$16.22 million.

While AIT personnel act in many ways as US officials, the organization is technically an independent contractor to the State Department and the budget amounts represent payments by the department to the institute as a private company.

In addition to this money, AIT expects to collect US$32 million from other sources, the State Department said.

This will include US$18 million in visa processing fees and US$14 million in reimbursements from other agency contracts and the department's Chinese Language School.

Fees from other agencies include those from the US departments of commerce, agriculture, defense, energy and homeland security.

The current and proposed appropriations are still well below the US$19.75 million the administration made available to AIT for fiscal 2006, before it slashed the agency's budget by nearly 20 percent to US$15.83 million.

While the exact budget for next year will be determined by the US Congress, lawmakers in the past have traditionally voted the amount requested by the administration, although they did make a small cut to the administration's request this year.

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