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Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Request for Grant Proposals: Edmund S. Muskie Graduate Fellowship Program

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SUMMARY:

The Office of Academic Exchange Programs of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs announces an open competition for the FY 2005 Edmund S. Muskie Graduate Fellowship Program (Muskie Program). Public and private non-profit organizations meeting the provisions described in IRS regulation 26 CFR 1.501(c) (3) may submit proposals to administer the selection, placement, monitoring, evaluation, follow-on, and alumni activities for the Edmund S. Muskie Graduate Fellowship Program (Muskie Program). Organizations with less than four years experience in conducting international exchange programs are not eligible for this competition.

Overview: The Bureau will consider awarding one or more grants for this program. Should more than one organization be selected to administer the Muskie Program, the Bureau will decide on the distribution of fellows and funding amounts between applicant organizations.

Should an applicant organization wish to work with other organizations in the implementation of this program, the Bureau prefers that a sub-grant agreement be developed. However, the Bureau will entertain separately submitted proposals from two or more organizations for joint program management, as long as the proposals demonstrate a value-added relationship and clearly delineate responsibilities. Program responsibilities should not be duplicated and the arrangement should not produce prohibitive administrative expenses.

The Muskie Program selects outstanding citizens from the Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan (herein referred to as Eurasia) to receive fellowships for Master's level study in the United States in the fields of business administration, economics, education, environmental management, international affairs, law, library and information science, journalism/mass communications, public administration, public health, and public policy. Muskie Program fellows will be enrolled in graduate degree, certificate, and non-degree programs lasting one to two academic years. It is estimated that approximately 170 fellows will receive Master's level fellowships under the FY 2005 program. Additionally, the Muskie Program will sponsor approximately four Ph.D. fellows from Ukraine, Georgia, Russia and Kazakhstan in the fields of public administration, public policy, business administration and economics.

The Muskie Program is designed to promote mutual understanding, build democracy and foster the transition to market economies in Eurasia through intensive academic study and professional training. The academic component of the program begins in the fall semester of the year following the award (academic year 2005-2006). Fellows may participate in a nine, twelve, eighteen, or twenty-four month academic program leading to a Master's degree or may participate in the Ph.D. program. Masters fellows also take part in an eight to twelve week internship during the summer following the first academic year, with an option for a second internship following the second year of study. At the end of their designated academic and/or internship programs, Masters and Ph.D. fellows are required to immediately return to their home countries.

Applicant organizations must demonstrate the ability to administer all aspects of the Muskie Program—recruitment, selection, university placements, orientation, monitoring and support of FY 2005 fellows including all logistics, financial management, evaluation, follow-on, and alumni. Applicant organizations must demonstrate the ability to recruit and select a diverse pool of candidates from various geographic regions in Eurasia. Organizations will serve as the principal liaison with Muskie Program host institutions for the Bureau. Further details on specific program responsibilities can be found in the Project Objectives, Goals, and Implementation (POGI) Statement, which is part of the formal solicitation package available from the Bureau. Interested organizations should read the entire Federal Register announcement for all information prior to preparing proposals.

Guidelines: Pending the availability of funds, the award to the applicant organization will begin on or about October 1, 2005 and will be approximately five years in duration. The level of funding for FY 2005 is uncertain, but is anticipated to be approximately $10,450,000. Based on this figure, applicant organizations should submit a budget to fund approximately 174 fellows, including four Ph.D. fellows. Applicant organizations are encouraged, through cost sharing and other methods, to provide for as many fellowships as possible above and beyond the minimum numbers suggested by the Bureau.

Pending successful implementation of this program and the availability of funds in subsequent fiscal years, it is the Bureau's intent to renew this grant for two additional fiscal years. Programs must comply with J-1 visa regulations. Please refer to the Solicitation Package for further information.

Budget Guidelines: Grants awards to eligible organizations with less than four years of experience in conducting international exchange programs will be limited to $60,000. Therefore, organizations with less than four years experience per above, are not eligible under this competition.

The Bureau encourages applicant organizations to provide maximum levels of cost sharing and funding from private sources in support of its programs. Applicant organizations must submit a comprehensive line item budget to include a summary budget as well as breakdowns reflecting both administrative and program budgets. Applicants may provide separate sub-budgets for each program component, phase, location, or activity to provide clarification. A comprehensive narrative must accompany the budget, clearly explaining all proposed costs (staff salaries and time on task must be supported by appropriate Start Printed Page 39536documentation and certified as true and accurate representations of actual costs and percentage of task).

Allowable costs for the program include the following:

(1) Program Expenses.

(2) Domestic Administration.

(3) Overseas Administration.

Please refer to the Solicitation Package for complete budget guidelines and formatting instructions.

Announcement Title and Number: All correspondence with the Bureau concerning this RFGP should reference the above title and number ECA/A/E/EUR-05-03.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

The Office of Academic Exchange Programs, ECA/A/E/EUR, Room 246, U.S. Department of State, SA-44, 301 4th Street, SW., Washington, DC 20547, telephone: (202) 205-7494, fax: (202) 260-7985, e-mail: jilkalm@state.gov to request a Solicitation Package. The Solicitation Package contains detailed award criteria, required application forms, specific budget instructions, and standard guidelines for proposal preparation. Please specify Bureau Program Manager Lucy Jilka on all inquiries and correspondence.

Please read the complete Federal Register announcement before sending inquiries or submitting proposals. Once the RFGP deadline has passed, Bureau staff may not discuss this competition with applicants until the proposal review process has been completed.

To Download a Solicitation Package Via Internet: The entire Solicitation Package may be downloaded from the Bureau's Web site at http://exchanges.state.gov/​education/​RFGPs. Please read all information before downloading.

New OMB Requirement

AN OMB policy directive published in the Federal Register on Friday, June 27, 2003, requires that all organizations applying for Federal grants or cooperative agreements must provide a Dun and Bradstreet (D&B) Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number when applying for all Federal grants or cooperative agreements on or after October 1, 2003. The complete OMB policy directive can be referenced at http://www.whitehouse.gov/​omb/​fedreg/​062703_​grant_​identifier.pdf. Please also visit the Bureau's Web site at http://exchanges.state.gov/​education/​rfgps/​menu.htm for additional information on how to comply with this new directive.

Shipment and Deadline for Proposals:

Important Note:

The deadline for this competition is July 30, 2004. In light of recent events and heightened security measures, proposal submissions must be sent via a nationally recognized overnight delivery service (i.e., DHL, Federal Express, UPS, Airborne Express, or U.S. Postal Service Express Overnight Mail, etc.) and be shipped no later than the above deadline. The delivery services used by applicants must have in-place, centralized shipping identification and tracking systems that may be accessed via the Internet and delivery people who are identifiable by commonly recognized uniforms and delivery vehicles. Proposals shipped on or before the above deadline but received at the Bureau more than seven days after the deadline will be ineligible for further consideration under this competition. Proposals shipped after the established deadlines are ineligible for consideration under this competition. It is each applicant's responsibility to ensure that each package is marked with a legible tracking number and to monitor/confirm delivery to the Bureau via the Internet. Delivery of proposal packages may not be made via local courier service or in person for this competition. Faxed documents will not be accepted at any time. Only proposals submitted as stated above will be considered.

Applicants must follow all instructions in the Solicitation Package. The original and eight copies of the application should be sent to: U.S. Department of State, SA-44, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Ref.: ECA/A/E/EUR 05-03, Program Management, ECA/EX/PM, Room 534, 301 4th Street, SW., Washington, DC 20547.

Along with the Project Title, all applicants must also enter the above Reference Number in Box 11 on the SF-424 contained in the mandatory Proposal Submission Instruction (PSI) document.

Applicants must also submit the “Executive Summary” and “Proposal Narrative” sections of the proposal in text (.txt) format on a PC-formatted disk. The Bureau will provide these files electronically to the Public Affairs Sections at the U.S. Embassies for review.

Diversity, Freedom and Democracy Guidelines: Pursuant to the Bureau's authorizing legislation, programs must maintain a non-political character and should be balanced and representative of the diversity of American political, social, and cultural life. “Diversity” should be interpreted in the broadest sense and encompass differences including, but not limited to, ethnicity, race, gender, religion, geographic location, socio-economic status, and disabilities. Applicants are strongly encouraged to adhere to the advancement of this principle both in program administration and in program content. Please refer to the review criteria under the “Support for Diversity” section for specific suggestions on incorporating diversity into the total proposal. Public Law 104-319 provides that “in carrying out programs of educational and cultural exchange in countries whose people do not fully enjoy freedom and democracy,” the Bureau “shall take appropriate steps to provide opportunities for participation in such programs to human rights and democracy leaders of such countries.” Public Law 106-113 requires that the governments of the countries described above do not have inappropriate influence in the selection process. Proposals should reflect advancement of these goals, to the full extent deemed feasible.

Adherence to All Regulations Governing the J Visa

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs is placing renewed emphasis on the secure and proper administration of Exchange Visitor (J visa) Programs and adherence by grantees and sponsors to all regulations governing the J visa.

Therefore, proposals should demonstrate the applicant's capacity to meet all requirements governing the administration of Exchange Visitor Programs as set forth in 22 CFR part 62, including the oversight of Responsible Officers and Alternate Responsible Officers, screening and selection of program participants, provision of pre-arrival information and orientation to participants, monitoring of participants, proper maintenance and security of forms, record-keeping, reporting and other requirements. The Grantee will be responsible for issuing DS-2019 forms to participants in this program.

A copy of the complete regulations governing the administration of Exchange Visitor (J) programs is available at http://exchanges.state.gov or from: United States Department of State, Office of Exchange Coordination and Designation, ECA/EC/ECD—SA-44, Room 734, 301 4th Street, SW., Washington, DC 20547. Telephone: (202) 401-9810. FAX: (202) 401-9809.

Review Process: The Bureau will acknowledge receipt of all proposals and will review them for technical eligibility. Proposals will be deemed ineligible if they do not fully adhere to the guidelines stated herein and in the Solicitation Package. The Program Office, as well as the Public Affairs Sections overseas, where appropriate, will review all eligible proposals. Eligible proposals will be subject to compliance with Federal and Bureau regulations and guidelines and forwarded to Bureau grant panels for Start Printed Page 39537advisory review. Proposals may also be reviewed by the Office of the Legal Adviser or by other Department elements. Final funding decisions are at the discretion of the Department of State's Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs. Final technical authority for cooperative agreements resides with a Bureau Grants Officer.

Review Criteria: Technically eligible applications will be competitively reviewed according to the criteria stated below. These criteria are not rank ordered and all carry equal weight in the proposal evaluation:

1. Quality of the program idea: Proposals should exhibit originality, substance, precision, and relevance to the Bureau's mission.

2. Program planning: Detailed agenda and relevant work plan should demonstrate substantive undertakings and logistical capacity. Agenda and plan should adhere to the program overview and guidelines described above.

3. Ability to achieve program objectives: Objectives should be reasonable, feasible, and flexible. Proposals should clearly demonstrate how the institution will meet the program's objectives and plan.

4. Multiplier effect/impact: Proposed programs should strengthen long-term mutual understanding, including maximum sharing of information and establishment of long-term institutional and individual linkages.

5. Support of diversity: Proposals should demonstrate substantive support of the Bureau's policy on diversity. Achievable and relevant features should be cited in both program administration (selection of participants, program venue and program evaluation) and program content (orientation and wrap-up sessions, program meetings, resource materials and follow-up activities).

6. Institutional capacity: Proposed personnel and institutional resources should be adequate and appropriate to achieve the program or project's goals.

7. Institution's record/ability: Proposals should demonstrate an institutional record of successful exchange programs, including responsible fiscal management and full compliance with all reporting requirements for past Bureau grants as determined by Bureau Grant Staff. The Bureau will consider the past performance of prior recipients and the demonstrated potential of new applicants.

8. Alumni activities: Proposals should provide a plan that integrates alumni activities into the program from start to finish, including tracking of alumni.

9. Project evaluation: Proposals should include a plan to evaluate the activity's success, both as the activities unfold and at the end of the program. A draft survey questionnaire or other technique plus description of a methodology to use to link outcomes to original project objectives is recommended. Successful applicants will be expected to submit intermediate reports after each project component is concluded or quarterly, whichever is less frequent.

10. Cost-effectiveness: The overhead and administrative components of the proposal, including salaries and honoraria, should be kept as low as possible. All other items should be necessary and appropriate.

11. Cost-sharing: Proposals should maximize cost-sharing through other private sector support as well as institutional direct funding contributions.

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Authority: Overall grant making authority for this program is contained in the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, Public Law 87-256, as amended, also known as the Fulbright-Hays Act. The purpose of the Act is “to enable the Government of the United States to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries * * *; to strengthen the ties which unite us with other nations by demonstrating the educational and cultural interests, developments, and achievements of the people of the United States and other nations * * * and thus to assist in the development of friendly, sympathetic and peaceful relations between the United States and the other countries of the world.” The funding authority for the program above is provided through Fulbright-Hays legislation.

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Notice: The terms and conditions published in this RFGP are binding and may not be modified by any Bureau representative. Explanatory information provided by the Bureau that contradicts published language will not be binding. Issuance of the RFGP does not constitute an award commitment on the part of the Government. The Bureau reserves the right to reduce, revise, or increase proposal budgets in accordance with the needs of the program and the availability of funds. Awards made will be subject to periodic reporting and evaluation requirements.

Notification

Final awards cannot be made until funds have been appropriated by Congress, allocated and committed through internal Bureau procedures.

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Dated: June 23, 2004.

C. Miller Crouch,

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs, Department of State.

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[FR Doc. 04-14851 Filed 6-29-04; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4710-05-P