November 11, 2015
The Honorable John F. Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Mr. Secretary:
On behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN), a coalition of international development practitioners and foreign policy experts committed to strengthening development as a key component of U.S. foreign policy, we are writing to urge your active support of the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act, introduced in the Senate (S. 2184) by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) and in the House (H.R. 3766) by Representatives Ted Poe (R-TX) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA). This bicameral, bipartisan legislation recently passed out of both the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and is worthy of the Administration’s strong endorsement. Specifically, the bill seeks to embed transparency and evaluation practices in the work of all agencies that administer U.S. foreign aid – longstanding priorities for both you and President Obama that would deliver greater impact in the developing world and in the lives of those we are trying to reach with our assistance.
The United States has made strides in recent years in improving the quantity and quality of U.S. foreign assistance data available to the public. President Obama’s sweeping Presidential Policy Directive #6 in 2010 declared accountability as a priority of his administration, stating “The United States will…Set in place rigorous procedures to evaluate the impact of policies and programs, report on results and reallocate resources accordingly, incorporate relevant evidence and analysis from other institutions, and inform the policy and budget process” as well as “Undertake a more substantial investment of resources in monitoring and evaluation, including with a focus on rigorous and high-quality impact evaluations.”
The establishment of the Open Government Partnership and the ForeignAssistance.gov website to centralize U.S. foreign assistance information continues to demonstrate this Administration’s commitment to openness and accountability, both to the American public and beneficiaries of U.S. assistance around the world. All three U.S. Open Government National Action Plans have called for agencies administering foreign assistance to publish their aid information in line with the internationally agreed-upon standard, which is consistent with the U.S. commitment to the International Aid Transparency Initiative. Yet to date, only ten of the more than 22 agencies that manage foreign assistance programs have published any data to ForeignAssistance.gov since the launch of the website five years ago.
We know that improved oversight and accountability of U.S. assistance has been a personal priority for you. Under your leadership, the State Department’s recent 2015 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review affirms the importance of data-driven decision-making for diplomacy and development. In addition, the State Department’s recently updated evaluation policy includes publication of full evaluations of unclassified foreign assistance evaluations on a rolling basis beginning this year.
We are grateful for your engagement on the aid effectiveness agenda over the years, including helping to approve similar legislation in both the 112th and 113th Congresses when you served as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Given your commitment to accountability and effectiveness, both as Secretary of State and previously as United States Senator, we ask you to make known your strong support for passage of this sensible but critical legislation in order to sustain the ongoing efforts of this administration for years to come.
Thank you for your consideration, and we look forward to continuing our work together to maximize the effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance.
Save the Children
The Lugar Center
 “As outlined in past OMB guidance to Federal agencies, by December 2015, agencies managing or implementing U.S. foreign assistance will establish an automated and timely process for publishing foreign aid data to ForeignAssistance.gov. Throughout 2014, the United States Agency for International Development, the Department of State, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, Department of Treasury, and other agencies will work to add or expand detailed, timely, and high-quality foreign assistance data to ForeignAssistance.gov.” (2nd Open Government U.S. National Action Plan, 2013)