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Archive for the ‘MFAN Statement’ Category

With Final Budget Request, Obama Administration Gives Nod to Effective Foreign Assistance

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016
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February 10, 2016 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network by Co-Chairs George Ingram, Carolyn Miles, and Connie Veillette:

This week President Obama submitted his $4.1 trillion budget request to Congress for FY17, which includes $54.1 billion for the International Affairs Budget, including $39.3 billion in base funding and $14.9 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). The request is approximately $400 million below FY16 enacted levels, marking a 1% cut. MFAN is encouraged by some elements of the President’s final budget request, as detailed below, but we are disappointed that it does not push the envelope on many of the important reforms that this Administration has heralded.

At a time when we are responding to ever more crises around the globe, it is imperative that the budget request reflects a focus on ensuring that our development and humanitarian assistance dollars are maximized by being spent transparently, efficiently, and sustainably. We applaud President Obama for including the following provisions that would help advance reform and ensure the overall effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance:

  • Support for domestic resource mobilization: The Treasury Department’s Office of Technical Assistance (OTA) request included a $10 million increase from FY16 levels as a “down payment” on Secretary Lew’s commitment to double OTA assistance by 2020 to support DRM and public financial management made at the 2015 Financing for Development conference.
  • USAID Operating Expenses gets a boost: The Administration is requesting $1.4 for USAID Operating Expenses “to sustain ongoing operations and build on recent reforms, including through continued improvements in procurement, local-capacity building, innovation, and accountability.” USAID Operating Expenses are essential to providing adequate personnel and training to ensure the effectiveness, accountability and sustainability of all of USAID’s development and humanitarian programs.
  • Support for emergency food aid flexibility, local and regional purchase of food aid: The request seeks the authority to use up to 25% of Title II resources for cash-based food assistance in emergencies, which was also included in the FY16 request. This flexibility allows USAID to reach up to 2 million more beneficiaries each year. The request also includes $15 million for USDA’s Local and Regional Procurement Program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, plus up to an additional $5 million for LRP from Mc-Govern Dole Funding to be used for LRP.
  • A focus on evaluation and learning at USAID: $195.5 million in central funding is requested for the Policy, Planning, and Learning (PPL) Bureau and the Global Development Lab. The request notes that “funding for PPL will strengthen USAID’s central evaluation capacity and policy development.”
  • Commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: The request highlights its continued commitment to ending extreme poverty and notes that the request will help to “drive progress toward meeting the global development vision and priorities in the 2030 Agenda for sustainable Development.”
  • Authorization for a USAID Working Capital Fund:The establishment of a USAID WCF would help increase procurement flexibility, in line with the USAID Forward agenda.
  • Support for MCC regionally-oriented investments: The MCC request seeks to allow for concurrent compact authority in order to “maximize the economic impact of its work through regional investments.”

While MFAN is pleased to see the above provisions included in the FY17 budget request, we are concerned that there is not a stronger commitment to key reforms that this Administration has pushed for in the past, such as increasing and improving data transparency, specifically the ForeignAssistance.gov website, and bolder progress on food aid reform. We are also disappointed to see that while the Treasury Department has requested resources to fulfill its commitment to supporting domestic resource mobilization, the Administration has not included a baseline or an agency-by-agency presentation of the resources put toward this important goal.

In addition, the request seeks to remove several General Provisions which help to ensure that U.S. assistance dollars are accountable and are supporting the long-term self-sufficiency of our partners. The request removes the provisions related to Local Competition (Sec. 7028) and Financial Management and Budget Transparency (Sec. 7031), with the exception of the subsection on ForeignAssistance.gov, which intend to improve accountability through mechanisms such as monitoring and evaluation. The request also seeks to remove Sec. 7081 related to establishing and implementing transition plans. These plans would help better channel assistance to programs and local institutions to build this long-term self-sufficiency.

It is concerning to see the overall request for the International Affairs Budget go down at a time when we are responding to an increased number of development and humanitarian challenges, and especially concerning to see a continued dependence on OCO, which represents 28% of the overall International Affairs Budget in this request. We will be watching closely for reform elements as the request moves through Congress.

A Win for Aid Effectiveness: House Passes Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015
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December 8, 2015 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs George Ingram, Carolyn Miles, and Connie Veillette

Today the House of Representatives overwhelmingly demonstrated bipartisan commitment to making U.S. foreign assistance more accountable by passing the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2015 (H.R. 3766) by voice vote. MFAN commends the bill sponsors Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) for their continued leadership on aid effectiveness and their effort to see this bill signed into law. We also thank Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) for moving swiftly to pass this important legislation.

MFAN strongly supports this bipartisan legislation, which would codify important reforms to ensure that U.S. agencies involved in foreign assistance are focused on rigorous and consistent monitoring and evaluation of programs and on making comprehensive, timely, and comparable aid data publicly available. By reinforcing its existing commitments to transparency and evaluation through legislation, the U.S. government can better track, measure, and allocate scarce aid resources. At a time when the U.S. is facing an unprecedented number of humanitarian and development challenges around the globe, efforts to ensure our foreign assistance is being spent effectively, like this legislation, must be prioritized.

We urge the full Senate take up and pass the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act immediately. A companion bill (S. 2184) was introduced by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) and was unanimously approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on November 10. Having now passed with resounding bipartisan endorsement from the full House, this legislation should likewise be supported by the Senate and sent to the President for his signature.

MFAN Applauds Long-Awaited Confirmation of Gayle Smith as USAID Administrator

Monday, November 30th, 2015
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November 30, 2015

WASHINGTON – Seven months since her nomination by President Obama and nearly one year since the announcement that Administrator Rajiv Shah was stepping down, MFAN is pleased to see the Senate take action today to confirm Gayle Smith as USAID Administrator. Having a permanent USAID Administrator in place for the final 14 months of the Obama Administration is vital to sustaining strong U.S. leadership on development programs that are essential to our national interests and an expression of our core values.

“At a time when we are responding to major crises in places like Syria and Yemen, having a confirmed USAID Administrator could not be more urgent. While it has been disappointing that this nomination was held up for this long, putting those in need at risk, we are excited to now be moving ahead with such a strong leader,” said Carolyn Miles, MFAN Co-Chair and President and CEO of Save the Children.

Gayle Smith is a strong and experienced leader and, as a Co-Founder of MFAN, has long been a champion of the aid effectiveness agenda while ensuring development is an equal pillar of U.S. foreign policy.

“We know that Gayle is eager to hit the ground running and we look forward to working closely with her to continue to strengthen the capacity of USAID to deliver results,” said George Ingram MFAN Co-Chair and Senior Fellow at Brookings.

“Gayle Smith understands the importance of effective foreign aid and we fully expect her to speed up the momentum around institutionalizing key reforms, such as those included in the USAID Forward agenda and USAID’s Vision for Ending Extreme Poverty,” said Connie Veillette, MFAN Co-Chair and Senior Fellow at The Lugar Center.

Under former Administrator Shah and Acting Administrator Alfonso Lenhardt, USAID has proven the critical role that foreign assistance plays in these challenging times. Now under the leadership of Gayle Smith, the Agency can move towards fulfilling the “long-term commitment to rebuilding USAID as the U.S. Government’s lead development agency and as the world’s premier development agency,” as articulated by the 2010 policy directive on global development.

U.S.-based NGOs Response to Food Aid Cargo Preference Hearing

Thursday, November 19th, 2015
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November 19, 2015

NGO Response to the Joint Hearing of the Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture of the Committee on Agriculture and the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

As international development organizations addressing global hunger and malnutrition, we are deeply concerned by the misleading information presented in support of agriculture cargo preference (ACP) restrictions on U.S. food aid at the joint hearing entitled International Food Aid Programs: Transportation Perspectives.

As you know, U.S. international food aid supports the food and nutrition needs of 56 million children and families on average each year and, consequently, helps to stabilize situations that can become threats to our national security. We strongly believe that funding for humanitarian food assistance should be used for its intended purpose: to provide lifesaving emergency and development assistance to the most vulnerable.  Evidence shows that ACP restrictions on U.S. food aid are inefficient and costly, and result in considerable reductions in the volume of food aid provided to populations in need.

We therefore support efforts that reduce the burden of cargo preference on humanitarian food aid programs. Current ACP restrictions contribute to significant delays in delivering emergency food aid. The USDA Pilot study on Local and Regional Procurement showed that the combination of U.S. procurement and shipment on U.S. flag vessels increases the average delivery time by two-and-a-half months.[1] The impacts of delays can have severely adverse effects on children and other vulnerable populations.

Moreover, excess costs to U.S. food aid due to ACP restrictions range from $39 million to $50 million annually.[2] These costs divert humanitarian resources away from U.S. food aid that could otherwise assist as many as 1.4 million food insecure children and families. Three recent, detailed analyses of ACP restrictions on food aid demonstrate that the restrictions increase the costs to administer the U.S. international food aid program.[3] A robust econometric analysis found that ACP requirements “increased the total cost of shipping food aid by more than $200 million between January 2012 and May 2015 at an average of more than $50 million a year.”[4] Compounding the impact of these costs is the elimination of reimbursements to USAID to help offset ocean freight costs that was passed in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013.

The argument that ACP restrictions on food aid are needed to maintain the U.S. maritime fleet for national security purposes are unsupported. In fact, numerous studies conclude that ACP restrictions on food aid do not contribute to the overall stability of the U.S.-flagged fleet. Data shows that the size of the U.S.-flagged fleet is not correlated to the rise and fall of volumes of U.S. food aid. Nor is there evidence that the ACP restrictions on food aid support military capacity. From 2011 – 2013, only 34 of the 74 vessels that carried U.S. food aid were enrolled in the Military Security Program (MSP). However, those 34 ships carried only 18% of all U.S. international food aid during the same period. The vast majority of food aid – 82% – was transported on ships that are not registered in MSP and may not meet Department of Defense criteria as viable for military purposes.[5] Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports have long substantiated this general critique. In its most recent report on the subject, published in August 2015, GAO emphasized that agriculture cargo preference’s “contribution to sealift capacity is uncertain, and available mariner supply has not been fully assessed.”

Claims of negative impacts on the U.S. economy associated with removing ACP restrictions from U.S. food aid are often based on highly questionable methodology and “gross over estimations.”[6]  Potential impacts on jobs in the shipping and cargo industry are very low given that food aid transport is such a small part of the overall equation. U.S.-flagged preferences (including Jones Act trade) represent more than 1 billion metric tons of cargo annually compared to just 1.4 million metric tons from USAID (only half of which are subject to ACP requirements).[7] ,[8] Over the past decade, major ports that move food aid cargo have steadily increased their overall tonnage even while food aid tonnage has dropped by more than 70 percent.[9]

The U.S. government should no longer allow ACP restrictions to undermine the impact of U.S. food aid. Given the current number of global food security emergencies, it is more important than ever that U.S. food aid use taxpayer money responsibly by reaching as many people as possible. We urge Congress to reduce the burden of ACP on humanitarian food aid, and reject any actions that decrease the reach and effectiveness of international food aid programs.

Action Against Hunger
Action Aid USA
American Hindu World Service
American Jewish World Service
Bread for the World
CARE USA
Church World Service
Concern Worldwide
Faiths for Safe Water
Feed the Children
Global Poverty Project
Hellen Keller International
InterAction
Islamic Relief USA
Mercy Corps
Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN)
Oxfam America
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Save the Children
The Borgen Project
The Hunger Project
World Food Program USA

 

[1] USDA. http://www.fas.usda.gov/sites/default/files/lrp_report_12-03-12_to_print.pdf.

[2] USAID Fact Sheet, “Food Aid Reform: Behind the Numbers” https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1869/FoodAidReform_BehindtheNumbers.pdf; Mercier, Stephanie and Vincent H. Smith, “Military Readiness and Food Aid Cargo Preference: Many Costs and Few Benefits,” American Enterprise Institute. 2015.

[3] Bageant, Barrett and Lentz, 2010; George Mason University, 2015; Mercier, et al. 2015.

[4] Mercier, et al. 2015.

[5] Button, Kenneth, Wayne Ferris and Phillip Thomas, “The political economy of shipping US Food aid under the cargo preference regime,” George Mason University, 2015.

[6] Mercier, et al. 2015.

[7] U.S. Maritime Administration. “U.S.-Flag Waterborne Domestic Trade and Related Programs,” http://www.marad.dot.gov/ships_shipping_landing_page/domestic_shipping/Domestic_Shipping.htm.

[8] USAID. http://www.usaid.gov/foodaidreform/impact-on-ports.

[9] Ibid.

Momentum Grows for Aid Transparency as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Unanimously Passes Foreign Aid Accountability Bill

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015
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November 10, 2015 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs George Ingram, Carolyn Miles, and Connie Veillette

Today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously endorsed the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2015 (S. 2184), marking another victory for the bipartisan, bicameral legislation. This bill, recently introduced by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), would codify important reforms to ensure that U.S. agencies involved in foreign assistance are focused on rigorous and consistent monitoring and evaluation of programs and on making comprehensive, timely, and comparable aid data publicly available.

MFAN thanks Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) and Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-MD) for moving swiftly to take action on this legislation, and the bill sponsors for their continued leadership on efforts to make foreign assistance more transparent and accountable. This bipartisan legislation would help the U.S. government better track, measure, and allocate limited aid resources.

This swift action in the House and Senate underscores the broad bipartisan support for aid effectiveness and the need to act now to ensure our assistance programs have the greatest, most lasting impact. We urge both chambers to maintain the momentum to pass this important legislation by the full House and Senate.