The Board of Directors of the Middle East Studies Association expresses great concern over reports of a possible $50 million or 40% cut to Title VI and Fulbright Hays funding. These programs are housed within the US Department of Education; the cut was mandated by the 2011 budget passed by Congress last week. Although we understand the need for fiscal austerity, we believe that such a drastic cut to these two programs would jeopardize the United States’ national capacity in language expertise and area studies knowledge. Many of the Title VI programs in Middle East studies are located at state universities that already are under enormous financial pressure. Title VI is a collaborative program; each federal dollar leverages more money from university budgets to support the education of students. Without that incentive vital pipeline programs producing students who serve our country in a wide variety of ways, from public service to education to business, to government agencies to the military, will be lost.
Ultimately, the allocation of cuts within the Department of Education will be decided by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. His will not be an easy task but we hope that he will recognize the important role these programs have played in developing over the long term our national security, our economic competitiveness and our reservoir of leaders (including the current Secretary of Defense) and specialists. As events continue to unfold in our particular area of expertise, we see no future that is without the need of experts in the languages and cultures of the Middle East. To turn off the tap of the pipeline now would inflict incalculable damage to our ability to meet the challenges of the future. Once gone, these programs will not easily be resurrected.