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Archive for February, 2011

Budget Poetry

Friday, February 25th, 2011
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See below for a smart, witty poem from the Stimson Center’s Rebecca Williams.

Austerity Lite: A Poem

Rebecca Williams

The House CR passed a few days ago,

it cut federal spending and did so with gusto.

House Republicans had promised no out-of-control spending,
and cut State/AID’s budget, leaving Hillary trembling.
Foreign aid supporters say these cuts are Draconian
others argue it’s the will of the people– sooo Jeffersonian.

The White House says diplomacy and foreign aid
should be part of the ‘national security’ spending blockaid.
House Republicans argue no such distinction,
and reduced State/AID’s budget to the point of extinction.

Senate Democrats think such cuts are unrealistic,
arguing humanitarian and foreign aid are not just altruistic.
But who among them will stand up and fight,
or will Lindsay Graham become State/AID’s white knight?

Senator Rand Paul says foreign aid is for jokers,
while Defense Secretary Gates says it’s cheaper than soldiers.
The House promised to push spending back to 2008,
making some NGO’s wonder is reform here too late?

You see, the federal government spends more than it makes,
Americans should worry about the future at stake.
Deficits are high and difficult to fix–
at just one percent, State/AID budget offers few tricks.

Entitlements, taxes, defense spending too,
these must be considered, Hey!  I’m talking to you!
Fiscal reform is tough and cutting isn’t simple
especially when it’s your program, oh isn’t that dismal!

Bipartisanship is tricky, a tight-rope it’s true,
it’s starting to feel like 1985– deja vu.
Both sides must listen, take note, be humble.
Americans expect more than this one-sided jumble.

Moving forward, consider all that’s at stake,
it’s time to be brave and leave nothing to fate.
Congress will conference, and decide what to keep–
let’s hope they look beyond the typical black sheep.

Innovative Financing and the Global Health Funding Gap

Friday, February 25th, 2011
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Amie BatsonOn February 23, MFAN, the United Nations Foundation, the World Bank, the Brookings Institution and Standard Bank hosted a discussion titled “Innovative Financing and the Global Health Funding Gap”. Moderated by MFAN Principal Noam Unger, Policy Director of Brooking’s Foreign Assistance Reform Project, the conversation focused on “how innovative, private sector-led partnerships can create certainty, drive more efficient resource management and fill growing gaps in a challenging funding landscape.”  Amie Batson, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Global Health and USAID’s Deputy of the Global Health Initiative provided a keynote address. Panelists included: Darren Dorkin, Program Manager of the Health Results Innovation Trust Fund program in the World Bank; Maureen Harrington, Director of Corporate and Investment Banking at Standard Bank; Joy Phumaphi, Executive Secretary of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance; and Kevin Starace, Executive Director of Global Health Innovation at the United Nations Foundation.

The event marked the launch of the Pledge Guarantee for Health and its first transaction, in partnership with several actors including the Government of Zambia. Essentially, the PGH model helps streamline the procurement of lifesaving health supplies while reducing costs and eliminating waste. As a result of this innovative, fresh approach, more than 800,000 anti-malaria bed nets have been distributed ahead of the deadly rainy season in Zambia.

PGH panelAccording to UNF’s statement, PGH works like this: “PGH facilitates short-term loans to developing country recipients on the basis of pending aid commitments.  This enables recipients to avoid stock-outs, emergency shipments, and high costs that can arise when they must wait for funding to replenish supplies of critical medicines. The PGH is flexible, and transactions are structured to accommodate needs of both recipients and donors. Thanks to PGH facilitating the process and guaranteeing the bank loan, health supplies are procured up to eight months faster, and commodity premiums are reduced by up to 83 percent.”

A key theme that emerged in the discussion was that of risk-sharing.  The PGH model was able to effectively unlock commercial capital in a unique way that UNF and others hope to build upon. MFAN was thrilled to co-sponsor this event that launched PGH as we continue to look at how to make foreign assistance more effective with limited resources and accountable to the people who need it most.

Former Congressman and Amb Mark Green Joins USGLC

Thursday, February 24th, 2011
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20061031_markgreen_2Today, MFAN Partner the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition announced that former Wisconsin Congressman and Ambassador to Tanzania Mark Green will join the coalition as a Senior Director overseeing public policy and field operations. In a statement, Green said, “I am honored to be joining the USGLC and working to educate Americans about how important our diplomatic and economic development efforts are in the world. From my time in Congress and as a U.S. ambassador, I know personally how critical this small one percent of the federal budget is to achieving our national security and foreign policy goals, as well as demonstrating our core American values at their very best.” Green formerly served as the Managing Director for the Malaria No More Policy Center.

In a guest blog series for MFAN, Green laid out 10 reasons why conservatives should support foreign assistance. Click here to read through the list.

House Appropriator Warns Against Cuts in Foreign Assistance

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011
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In today’s The Hill, Representative Steve Rothman (D-NJ), a longtime member of the House Appropriations Subcommittees on Defense and State and Foreign Operations, argues that reducing U.S. foreign assistance will make America less safe.  Rothman writes that “a dramatic reduction in the one percent of the U.S. budget devoted to foreign aid and diplomacy is not wise” and that “our foreign aid and diplomatic budget has a return on investment that is at least a thousand fold.”

He goes on to conclude, “Cutting foreign aid will not right our struggling economy, but will ultimately cost us more in U.S. lives and taxpayer dollars.”

Continue reading for Rep. Rothman’s entire piece.

Foreign aid cuts jeopardize U.S. national steve-rothmansecurity

The Hill

By Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.)


America’s national deficit will burden future generations and hurt the long term well-being of our nation. That is why, as the stewards of our constituents’ hard-earned taxpayer dollars, Congress must always ensure that every cent we spend is absolutely essential. But we can never forget that in meeting Congress’ first priority – keeping America safe – there is no better value than the one percent of the U.S. budget that is spent on foreign aid and diplomacy.

Some of my Republican colleagues have suggested that America would be better off if we drastically cut our foreign aid and State Department funding. This type of thinking is based on the faulty assumption that this level of funding is disproportionately high compared to other spending priorities. With only one percent of the U.S. federal budget allocated for these programs, nothing could be further from the truth.

U.S. spending on foreign aid and diplomacy under President Ronald Reagan was never less than 1.1 percent of the federal budget. Today, in our more interconnected, just as complex, and equally hostile world, our country would be less secure if we removed our diplomatic presence from the globe. It would be a detriment to our national security if the United States didn’t have Americans who know foreign languages, live in countries throughout the world, and understand the cultures, ways of thinking, and history of those nations.

Without knowledgeable American personnel on the ground, how would we be able to make fully-informed decisions on which diplomatic and military alliances to strengthen and which to weaken or break? Without the information we gather from our international efforts, how would we know which countries could be brought over to democracy, become better trading partners with America, or be more cooperative with the West?

Military professionals, from the Secretary of Defense to the American forces on the ground, agree about the importance of foreign aid and State Department programs. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said last September, “Development is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers.” Regarding the perspective of the professional officers who direct our soldiers on the battlefield, a poll commissioned in 2010 by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition concluded, “nearly 90 percent of active duty and retired military officers agree the tools of diplomacy and development are critical to achieving U.S. national security objectives and a strong military alone is not enough to protect America.” And put succinctly by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, in a letter to Congress last year about these programs, “The more significant the cuts, the longer military operations will take, and the more and more lives are at risk.”

With U.S. troops deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq; Iran racing toward nuclear weapons; the volatile situations in Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan, and Tunisia; and terror threats emerging from Somalia, Yemen, and virtually every corner of the world; now is not the time to have less knowledge of foreign languages, fewer embassies, or fewer diplomats working to avert war and nuclear proliferation. The interests of the United States would certainly not be well served if we were to deny military aid to indispensible allies that help us fight terrorism, protect essential sea lanes, provide safe ports for our troops, and deliver world-class intelligence in real time.

Indeed, for these reasons, and many more, our foreign aid and diplomatic budget has a return on investment that is at least a thousand fold. Cutting foreign aid will not right our struggling economy, but will ultimately cost us more in U.S. lives and taxpayer dollars. It will surely cause direct and substantial harm to America’s national security.

That is why, while we need to cut spending, while we need to get rid of waste, while we need to find additional sources of revenue, a dramatic reduction in the one percent of the U.S. budget devoted to foreign aid and diplomacy is not wise. There are other cuts in spending that would reduce our deficit without harming our national security.

For example, we could begin with cutting the approximately $4 billion a year given to the oil and gas industries to encourage them to look for energy. Oil companies do not need taxpayer encouragement for that purpose, especially as they continue to post record-breaking profits. Congress also can cut bloated agriculture subsidies, particularly for food-based biofuels, and roll back non-stimulative tax breaks for individuals with incomes of more than one million dollars per year. These policies amount to billions of wasted taxpayer dollars each year.

I look forward to working with my Republican and Democratic colleagues to address our unacceptable federal deficit, but we must make cuts where they make sense, not where they jeopardize the national security of the United States.

Congressman Steve Rothman (D-NJ) is in his eighth term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He serves on the House Appropriations Subcommittees on Defense; and State and Foreign Operations, which appropriate all spending for the United States military and foreign aid respectively.