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Peace Corps to Pare Ranks of Volunteers

The tight fiscal climate also means an anticipated scaling back in new volunteers next year by 400, wiping out planned growth and leaving the overall number of volunteers at about 8,000, according to Tschetter. Volunteers serve for 27 months and are paid a stipend of about $2,500 annually.

Managers at Peace Corps headquarters in Washington have been asked to cut their budgets by 15.5 percent. The agency even plans to stop providing copies of Newsweek magazine to volunteers in the field, something it has done since the 1980s. (Newsweek is owned by The Washington Post Co., parent company of The Washington Post.)

"It just seemed like an extravagance," Beck said. "Everything is under consideration, including the director's travel."

Kevin Quigley, president of the National Peace Corps Association, a nonprofit group of former volunteers, said, "I worry about what the [budgetary] implications are for the next president, who we anticipate will have plans to expand Peace Corps."

Established in 1961 by President Kennedy, the Peace Corps provides skilled volunteers to other countries while promoting mutual understanding between Americans and people of other nations. About 190,000 volunteers have served in 139 countries since its inception.

The 8,079 volunteers today number the most in 37 years but are far fewer than the goal of 14,000 by fiscal 2007 that Bush set in his 2002 State of the Union speech.

Expanding the program remains a popular idea.

Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has pledged to double the size of the Peace Corps by 2011. Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), his Republican counterpart, has praised national service and said there should have been a stronger national push to encourage people to join the Peace Corps and other volunteer organizations after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

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